Understanding a project from a client’s perspective

Get your new build or home improvement off the ground with the help of a registered architect, who will also balance expectations with costs

A modern and sustainable family home
Expectations vs reality An architect can help manage the balance between what a client wants, and what they can afford (StudioPARK Architects)

Anyone reading this would probably like to make some improvements to their home. It could be a simple DIY job like stripping wallpaper or painting walls. It could be a plan to reconfigure a layout and/or add an extension. Or it could be a desire to build a new home.

Many homeowners delay or put off a project for several reasons. Concerns about potential cost, timeframe, disruption, and a lack of knowledge of the process (planning, building control and appointing a contractor) are all major factors. Readers will be aware of media reports over the last few years about the cost of materials, skilled labour shortages, rising interest rates and increases in energy costs. We have been told directly by several clients that even the thought of undertaking a project caused them anxiety. These emotions are understandable. Building a new home or extension can therefore feel more like an aspiration than a realistic option, these days.

The good news is that despite this, with the help of a registered architect, any project can be made viable in some way. Architects bring expertise, a wealth of knowledge and, very importantly, creative thinking to the table. One of the key skills of an architect is managing the intricate balance between what a client wants and what they can afford.

Quite often we must ask the question, can it be smaller? Reducing the size of your extension or new home design is the easiest way to lower the costs. Speaking from personal experience, young families certainly need space. But do you really need that third living room? It’s all about managing expectations and it can be a challenge. We must also think of the long term. What happens when the children grow up and move out? Older people are downsizing.

Sliding doors
Paint it black An architect can suggest novel space savers and ways to maximise light at lower costs (GarethAndrews.Photography)

Maximum impact can be achieved in various creative ways that may not significantly add to the cost. For example, a vaulted ceiling in a living area, a carefully placed rooflight in a key space or a generously sized full height window to bring in light or focus on a view.

Perhaps we need to go further and reassess how homes are designed and built in the first place. Homes built off-site can be more cost effective due to how quickly they are assembled. We live in an Amazon culture of buying something online and the product being delivered to your doorstep the next day. Obviously, this is not possible for a home, but we can perhaps rethink how we build to speed the process up.

Modern kitchen
Aesthetic appeal Open and airy spaces help maximise light (GarethAndrews.Photography)

The weather in this part of the world is often wet, meaning site conditions are unpredictable. Building a house with traditional masonry construction can take 12 months or more on site, when we factor-in wet trades and drying-out times.

Off-site construction eliminates a large portion of these issues. It is more precise and generates less waste. Crucially, this method is also more sustainable. We have an increasing number of clients who want to build quickly and are happy to challenge the idea that a home needs to be built with bricks and mortar.

There is a perception that a home designed by an architect is for the wealthy. However, if we embrace new technologies and use some creative thinking, there is an opportunity to build well-designed homes for the many, not just the few.