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New Home Designs – Should You Use An Architect?

New Home Designs – Using an experienced architect will save you time and money

For us the design of our new house was clearly the most important phase in the construction project.

This is the stage where you want to reflect on how you want your house to be built based on your living style now and in the future.

This process mainly comprises of:

  • Deciding on an architectural style for the building
  • Refining your house floor plans
  • Make sure your design is compliant with the Lease and Development requirements for your block
  • Heating, cooling,
  • Other considerations such as solar passive design, impact on environment, etc.

As we wanted our house design and floor plans to take all these aspects into account we decided to use consultancy services of an architect.

New home design with elevation
Elevation and Sections plan, part of approved working drawings of our new home design

On top of the above considerations our six main criteria were:

  1. A family with two young kids that enjoys entertaining
  2. Kitchen, dining and family lounge in an open space
  3. As much natural light inside the main living area as possible
  4. A home office for two
  5. Energy Efficiency Rating of at least 5 stars, cool in summer and warm in winter
  6. Contemporary lines. Looks aesthetically pleasant from outside and inside and easy to build

The architect we selected had extensive experience in construction projects that are environmentally friendly in the Canberra region.  Canberra’s climate is known as one of the most extreme in Australia. It can be very cold in winter (down to -10 degrees Celsius) and quite hot in summer (above 40 degrees Celsius).

After four sessions of consultancy, two hours each over a period of a few weeks our architect was able to help us in finalizing our house design and floor plans:

  • The house is organised in three main areas: the parent area is situated at the front (towards street side of the block). It includes the master bedroom/ensuite and the home office next to it. The kids area towards the back of the block with two bedrooms and a play room. The common area is where the family gets together and comprises of: a kitchen with a long island bench centrally situated; a family lounge and a dining space forming an L shape. As a result the kids have plenty of room to play and we can accommodate large parties in the house
  • Windows are oriented and placed in such a way that we get plenty of natural light inside the kitchen, family, dining area and home office
  • A generous sized home office that easily accommodates two office desks and large cupboards
  • The house looks modern and contemporary and yet very easy to build based on standard dimensions
  • The floor plan achieved an EER of 5.5 stars without even taking into consideration curtains and blinds!

This is how our final floor plan looks like:

House floor plan with three logical areas
Our new home is designed with the idea of three logical areas

Now that we live in the house we can really see the benefits of consulting an architect to assist with the critical design phase.

I won’t tell you that our floor plan is perfect from a design standpoint as you know it’s impossible to check all your design ideas before the house is built. However we think that the couple of things we would like to change are really minor and cosmetic. We are still not sure if making these changes would not have led to other less desirable implications.

Because we could extensively discuss our living style, habits and requirements with the architect he was able to advise on size of each room, location of traffic zones, passive solar design, natural ventilation and more.

One of the things we appreciated the most was that we did not have to make changes during the construction of our house. Most of our friends who built off a modified version of a builder’s plan told us they had to make modifications after the frames were up as they realised some issues around circulation, etc. Inevitably it ended up impacting on the budget and schedule of their house construction.

When we look back, we see other benefits of using this architect:

  • Avoided costly and annoying design mistakes
  • Working drawings were quickly done because everything was clearly laid out on the architect’s sketch
  • Approval of working drawing was smooth and lightning fast. No back and forth changes requested from the approval body
  • Builder was very happy to build!

Based on this experience we would definitely recommend the use of an architect to design your new house. It may cost you a bit more in the design phase but will save you more money and time down the track. You won’t need to make modifications during the construction (costly) or live in a house where you have to put up with things such as the dining room is too small or the bathroom is too big, or bump into each other everyday because the kitchen island bench is in the way of a main traffic zone.

The outcome of the design phase with an architect was a detailed sketch of the floor plan to scale with the roof lines. Working drawing documents could then be produced based off this document.

Between consultation sessions with our architect we used a free floor plan software to draw up different versions of our new home designs taking into accounts feedback from him.

You can check out the excellent software we used to draw house floor plans quickly and to scale.

What was your experience with the design phase? What would you like to share? Feel free to share your experience and knowledge by commenting below.

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  1. I found your site when starting to investigate doing a knockdown-rebuild in Canberra and wow, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Reading your accounts has made the whole process seem a bit less scary! I was just wondering who your architect and builder were? It seems from your articles that you would be happy to recommend them to others?
    Thanks again for your useful and informative site.

    • Hi Anna,

      Thank you for stopping by and your kind words. I’m glad you found the articles helpful.
      We were happy with our architect and builder. I will send you their contact details via email so you can check them out if you wish.

      All the best for your construction project.

  2. Hi Vince
    I used a drafty rather than an architect for my custom house but I had a fair bit of experience on different houses. As a result I knew what I wanted in the way of space and appearance.

    The draft was then able to convert my rough sketches into something that would meet the regulations

    • Hi Brian,

      That’s fair enough. For those who are building for the first time though I would strongly recommend considering using the services of an experienced architect. I’m glad we did.


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