Category Archives: Design

Most Common Mistake

Ask and Expert

Expert Advice

This week’s article to help save  money when designing your new home or renovation comes off the back of a client meeting in Mount Isa.

During our discussion and  taking the Design Brief my client  asked a very interesting question. “Whats the biggest mistake people make when designing a home.” ……….hmmm my initial response was that  they just don’t listen……..but went on to expand a bit.

IN our industry we call it  “iknowitis”.  They’ve watched all the TV shows, visited all the Display Homes, researched on the internet and  found  what they like.  And then must have it all !!  “I know what I want” is the common catch phrase. So many times I’ve had clients bring in a floor plan that they like and want to  put on their  block of land. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit, the land  sloes away, and the  soil conditions make the particular design  prohibitive to build.

But with some expert input and a detailed design brief, your building designer can  convert your ideas into a design that satisfies all your criteria. And in the most cost effective way possible.

Know Everything 1

Modern cars now have  a myriad of electronics. Gone are the days when Uncle George could service our car or  fix it when something goes wrong. ………Today’s modern  housing construction is similar in many ways.  Many new materials and construction methods, not to mention the REGULATIONS which are changing constantly.


As we say  “drawing the plan” is the easy bit. Anyone can  put some lines on paper, or arrange some rooms but to get the  best out of any new design concept all of the constraints must be considered.

There are two types of constraints:

  1.  Non – Negotiable  – These cannot be changed and may include
    • Budget (maximum)
    • Building Setbacks
    • Covenant regulations
    • Location of local infrastructure – sewer, storm-water and power
  2. Negotiable – These may be changed or modified to accommodate the design
    • The site – earthworks can change the profile to suite the design
    • Landscape
    • Non essential services
    • Material selections
    • Building Structure – slab on ground Vs Highset
    • Orientation

For some  new home buyers  they  want the convenience of an  “off the shelf” home that most Project Builders and some of the product is excellent, but if you want to get the  best out of your design that suites your lifestyle, site and  budget then a custom home design is for you.


Call us between now and the  end of December for a FREE 2 hour site evaluation and Desktop Analysis of your  potential Dream Home Site

Simply call  me on  0410 488 165 or email

and  mention  our Facebook Page or Web Page to qualify:  (valued at $265.00)




RENOVATIONS (cont) – The Design Factor

An Asset or Money Wasted??

An Asset or Money Wasted??

This week  in the series about renovations I want to touch on the  “design stage”.

A renovation or extension can breathe fresh air into a dated and tired  home. After the kids have moved on a coat of paint, new doors and kitchen can do wonders for  a home over 20 years old. Significant value can be added to the property especially in established suburbs close to transport and  the inner city.

As  Sustainable Designers we  believe it  important to consider the  three aspects of  design

1. Economical – Needs to be affordable and  in the case of renovating does not overcapitalize the property.

2. Social – The renovation  suits the purpose for which it was  proposed.

3. Ecological – Designed for climate. Passive Solar Design principals and as energy efficient as possible.

Once we have all the information regarding  the existing dwelling we can then assess  what can be done while complying to local regulations.

Renovations can often be more time consuming from a drafting point of view as  we have to work with an existing structure and are often changing  the “use” of a certain part of a home. These changes usually have a knock on affect  which can affect other aspects of the home. During this stage the  design will evolve and often require some compromise and careful considerations.

An extension or renovation can:

  1.  Blend in with an existing dwelling.
  2. Enhance and  even change the  look of an existing  building
  3. Change the use of a building

Our experienced  and very talented Designers  will ensure that  your renovation is  pleasing to the eye and a valuable addition to your  most valuable. Not  a “thing” that looks like it has been stuck on to the top.

If your considering renovating for additional space, increasing the value of your old home  or the kids have left and  you want to ad that music room call us today for a  free site inspection and  site analysts valued at $225.00

Thommo Before

Our Award Winning Palmwoods Renovation



Before and After



Thommo After

Choosing a Builder

With today’s modern technology and slick marketing campaigns choosing a builder for your project should be easier, right?….. Hmmm let’s look at some of the plusses and minuses. The McDonald’s culture and the need for instant gratification or “taking the hassle out” has changed the way we build homes today.  The building of your new home is an expensive and complex process. Mistakes, oversights and cutting corners can lea to budget blowouts and disputes.

 Builders today tend to fall into three main categories?      

  1. Project Builder
  2. Kit Homes
  3. Traditional  or “Contract” Builder

Project Builders:

These tend to be larger organizations relying on high volumes and an army of subcontracted trades and labour. Ironically one does not necessarily need to be a  “carpenter” or tradesman to form a building company.

The design process in project homes tends to be limited and claims of “proven” designs should be taken with a grain of salt as each site has its own challenges and solutions.  Repetition benefits the builder not the home owner.

Things to consider when looking at Project Builders:

  • All materials may not be included in the price and “extras” may be required
  • The price advertised is often a  “Base Price” and does not reflect the true cost of construction.
  • Requests for changes often come with high charges.
  • Due to copyright restrictions you are unable to get comparative quotes for the same design.
  • Hidden “fees” such as  commissions paid to sales people, design fees and drafting. These all need to be paid and are a normal cost of a building project. Just like concrete.
  • Construction is carried out by a team of sub-contractors overseen by a supervisor.

A large project home builder who is flexible and willing to build from a design supplied by you should not be discounted.

 2. Kit Home Suppliers:

Having all the materials and PC items supplied and you organize the actual construction can be beneficial if you have the time and a certain degree of knowledge and experience in the construction industry.

While the prices may appear to be great there are many components of the construction that may not be included. Such as slab and footings, plumbing, retaining walls and finishing such as floor coverings and painting.

The price to supply materials tends to be around 50% of the price of a finished home and in the end this usually reflects the “true cost” of building a home.

Some kit home suppliers are nothing more than marketing companies with no experience in the Building Industry. In Queensland it is a requirement that suppliers of Kit Homes be licensed with the QBCC.

If it seems too good to be true then it probably is…………

3.  Contract Builder

The role of the “traditional” builder has changed over the years with the majority of new homes being built by the big project builders and in fact many consumers contact a builder first before they even have a plan and ask “how much does it cost?”.

The best way to source builders is to have the project designed, documented with complete engineering and material specifications, and have various builders Tender for the project. Probably three or four maximum. In today’s competitive market this will undoubtedly give the best indication of the “True Cost” of construction.

Builders are trained to build and a builder claiming that he can save money by designing himself can reduce the design quality of the home.

 The Safest way to engage in a building  contract is to have a third-party involved to supervise construction. This can be an Architect, Building Designer or a Project Manager. This way there is always total transparency at every stage and neither the client nor the builder can be seen to make false claims for payments and there is less chance of disputes.


So How Much Does it Cost??    

Money in YOUR Pocket


I recently had a client about to purchase a sloping block of land and they were trying to work out how much the house would cost to build on such a site before even starting the design process…”How much is your budget for the home?” I asked.  “$400 000” was the client’s  response. “Well your new home will cost “$400 000”.  Now we just need to design the home to suit  the budget.

 Many consumers relate divide the size of the house by the “stated” price being advertised in the paper or real estate brochure and believe that this is the True Cost.  When nothing can be farther from the truth.

The cost of building a home can vary immensely due to factors such as:

  • Location.
  • Site conditions ie sloping or flat
  • Soil type
  • Materials
  • Complexity of the design.  ie Non standard sized windows can increase cost.
  • Size.  A smaller home is more expensive per square meter than a large home.
  • Unforseen site conditions, such as rock or underground streams.
  • Upgrading PC items such as floor coverings and appliances.

Working with a skilled designer with complete and thorough documentation, sourcing a reputable builder through a Tender process and ensuring that your project is well-managed from start to finish will always ensure you get the best VALUE for money.

Disasters, disputes and extra costs always result from consumers who attempt to cut corners in an attempt to save a few dollars. For the biggest and most complex investment you will ever make why would you hire the cheapest and least qualified people in your team?………..


The average home now costs around the s.ame as a Ferrari or Lamborghini.Would you engage a motor mower  mechanic to service it and tune it??