Engaging an architect

Let’s suppose you have the need to expand your house. The family is growing, the kids need a separate rumpus area or separate bedrooms, bring in some morning sun, hide the neighbour’s backyard or you just want to improve your home’s day to day functionality. What are the steps to realizing your dream?

Some people head straight to a builder but the first thing he is going to say is that he needs drawings before he can provide any indication of cost. He could recommend a draftsman who could whip up a layout and your builder could then complete your project in quick time. You might have spent $300,000 but who in that process has given serious consideration to your current and future needs as well as providing a sustainable, climatically-responsive dwelling with enduring aesthetic longevity that you will enjoy living in every day into your older age. Have you spent your hard-earned dollars effectively?

Many builders are not so interested in design – apart from where it can make construction simpler (and their building designers / draftsmen often do a part-time, compliance-oriented course over a couple of years). There is no design focus in starting with a builder as first contact.

Another consideration is that most people only carry out one major building project in their lives – so there is little to compare their major spend with. So to avoid any lingering doubts over the rest of your time in your house, I am suggesting you take a leap of faith and engage an architect as your first contact.

Architects are registered professionals who have undertaken a full time, 3-year undergraduate degree and then a 2-year masters degree, with the focus on ‘design’. This is followed by a further minimum 2 years working as a graduate architect before they do further study to become registered as an architect.

Good design adds value to your investment – and to your life. Architects pride themselves on being 3-dimensional problem solvers who can work with you to assess your family home limitations; discuss your short, medium and long term needs; interpret your dreams and desires and transform these into a workable design; and can be responsive to considered staged transformation – saving you serious money and avoiding re-work in the future.

Living in a well-designed, thoughtful, climatically- responsive home environment will lift your spirits every day!

If you look at the different home magazines, you may see the difference between builders’ project homes and architect-designed projects. But I understand that some people are nervous about engaging with an architect. Let me assure you, that first and foremost we want to look after you as our client. Even though you may know very little of the building process, you will be treated with respect and carefully guided through the long process from first meeting to handing over the keys of the finished project.

All you need for a first contact with an architect is to present the ‘problem’. The architect will soon work through your needs and after a while create the ‘brief’ – the goals of the project – that you will both agree on to move forward.

It is helpful to know your genuine financial limitations, but many people approach it by wanting to see what a ‘full and final’ solution might cost and work towards that – even if it means ‘staging’ the project. If you can see a benefit in a design that will allow you to stay longer in your home and enjoy it more, you may wish to go the extra mile. In any case, if there is a finite budget, your architect will work to that.

In the next blog I will cover how the progression of the project to the design phase occurs and then onward to documentation and delivering the finished product.

Give me a call anytime on 38466800 or 0407374261.

Integrating a home extension seamlessly

When you have a special home, with special features but space is tight and an extension needs to be considered, it is important to consider using an architect to ensure the extension is integrated within the original design rather than looking ‘tacked on’. Good architecture can only be created with a supportive client. And every now and again a client walks in with a project that you know can’t help but be successful.

An example of clients with the desire to use good design to achieve this result are those who own a rare 1930s Art Deco era featured house. They had worked with a well-known Brisbane architect for previous renovations, but approached me to finish the final phase of renovations. Their very special property – on elevated Hamilton Hill site- has sweeping views to the east overlooking the Brisbane River out to the Moreton Bay islands.

My clients wanted a new sunroom specifically to take advantage of the view. I designed a semicircular, steel-framed, fully glazed sunroom which offers 180-degree uninterrupted views. Exterior columns beyond the glass wall support a new overhanging open roof deck which provides a deep shading soffit to the new sunroom below.

The new steel framed windows (sourced from Sydney) match original windows of the house and offer very little visual interruption to the view. The result is a light, bright, airy sunroom, with breath-taking views, day or night, to city, river and bay. The design is timeless and the extension contributes to the continuity of the house.

So if you are thinking of additions to your home, consider the added value that a well-designed, fully integrated extension will ultimately add to the major investment that a home is these days.

The History of 194 Gladstone Rd

194 Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill – she started life as as a Butcher’s Shop in 1956

My wife Sue and I bought a small (seemingly) commercial building on busy Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill, in 2002. We had been looking to move up from my home-based architecture practice and from the casual rooms that Sue rented in different suburbs for a while. One day Sue came home and said to me that she just noticed a small building on Gladstone Road for sale. We enquired and found it had been on the market for quite a while. We must have driven past this place a hundred times before we noticed that it was for sale. Suddenly in a traffic jam, Sue looked sideways, saw it, fell in love with it and demanded it.

We bought it without hesitation ($182,000 in 2002), fitted it out for both our practices and moved in our shared work accommodation. It felt great to be (thinking we were) investing in our financial future (real estate) and developing our practices to the next levels. It was a great move. Gladstone Road has high exposure, and even though Sue’s practice relies more on referrals than walk-ins, it gave her a credible foundation for her practice. My practice did benefit from the exposure. We did OK…..put three children through private schools and kept them in ‘clubbing’ money through university (but thankfully they all paid for their own tuition).

We both worked there in our practices for 13 years. Yes, we did (and still do) spend 24/7 in each other’s company – many marvel at that. We would still be there perhaps at our stand-alone building if our eldest daughter hadn’t married and delivered their first baby boy……. roughly 2000 km away in Melbourne in 2015. We naturally wanted lots of contact with our new grandson. For me it was not hard to take time to visit Melbourne, but Sue’s practice relies on reliability for the patients and for the doctors to refer on patients. So for the first time in her over 20 years as a physio she needed to arrange locums to help cover while she was visiting Melbourne. This went very well and Sue really enjoyed the experience of others working with her – so much that she decided to expand.

This couldn’t happen in our Gladstone Road property, so we looked for another building in the locality. At this same time, the house next door went on the market. I could see it’s potential as an expanded physio practice for Sue and had design ideas for the building to preserve its Queenslander style, while modernising it and certainly soundproofing it. We arranged to have a pre-lodgement meeting with the Brisbane City Council as the house was zoned residential, but the Council were adamant that they wanted the house to remain a house and so our plans were dashed for that site. Sue was disappointed and went for a drive through West End and Highgate Hill looking at other properties for sale and on the way back came across a shop for sale in Hampstead Road – which again she fell in love with.

47 Hampstead Road, Highgate Hill – this too was the local Butchers Shop!

We bought in Hampstead Road again without hesitation, fitted it out and both moved in – again sharing the accommodation for both our practices. Gladstone Road was retained, re-fitted and continued in its new role as part of Sue’s practice for fitness classes, yoga and dance sessions. From being a sole practitioner, Sue went to employing 12 people in a matter of months. Fortunately, she had the patient supply to manage this and her practice continues to grow. Sue’s classes continued for three years, but the workload for Sue became unmanageable and we decided to close the classes and sell Gladstone Road.

We placed the Gladstone Road property on the market in October 2018 and had visions of a quick sale. We did have several offers (which weren’t all suitable) and three contracts which did not go through for lack of finance (following the Banking Royal Commission, lending was tricky to get). The property attracted significant interest (we did have around 50 enquiries in its 5 months on the market) but its biggest detraction, for commercial buyers, is its ‘character residential’ zoning. While Sue and I moved straight in following the purchase in 2002 and used it commercially, based on ‘continued commercial use’ (since 1956), we couldn’t find anyone with enough insight to do the same. We had ‘commercial’ buyer interest, but the ‘residential’ zone worried those and we had ‘residential’ buyer interest (it is in the Brisbane State High catchment) but its ‘butcher’s shop’ appearance worried those lacking ‘vision’.

It had been a very frustrating few months………

Firing up the blog for a new project

sue old shop purchase

194 Gladstone Road on the day we decided we had to have it Circa June 2002 with Katie Martel (nee Croft) now with her own business @croftpr

It’s been a busy few years since I first commenced my blog 5 years ago. So much so that after the first couple of posts, it languished on the back burner. But now I feel energised to recommence writing it again in order to document a new project that my wife, Sue and I have decided to undertake.

Our saga started October 2018, with our failed intention to quickly sell off this small commercial property, for which we had no further use. But subtle changes to the City Plan over decades, have forced our hand to re-develop the site from a tired, old, small commercial building into a rare form of inner-city accommodation. It is a challenging, dream project that appeals to architects and daring clients, but it doesn’t come without hard work, frustration and potentially financial risk.

The new focus over the next eighteen months for my blog will be on this property that we own at 194 Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill. The blog will plot the property’s connection to us commencing in 2002 when we took it on, through to a redevelopment planned today.

You will learn about the decision making to turn a 1956 classic ‘butcher’s shop’, complete with giant west facing picture window, into a boutique multi-functional residential development.

This blog will form a permanent diary of the process of this project and provide you with an opportunity to learn about design, real estate, finance, town planning codes and processes, architects’ processes, building application processes, construction processes, materials, value management, risk and punting and hopefully the joys of contributing to the built environment of a community in a positive, sustainable and useful way.

And I assure you this project is certainly not about developing the site to make money but rather to give yet another life to a small building which has been dear to both Sue and I now for 17 years. Be sure to follow my blog and join us on our ride – it has already been quite a saga and I am sure there is plenty to come.

initial rough sketch gladstone rd

First preliminary sketches 

The ‘Queenslander’ House

Corinda Renovation
Corinda Renovation

“The Queenslander house is a classic piece of Australian architectural design. With its distinctive timber and corrugated iron appearance, it breaks the monotony of the bland, master-planned display villages on the peripheries of our cities.

It’s also a great example of “vernacular architecture”, a term first coined by American writer/ architect Bernard Rudofsky in his 1964 book Architecture Without Architects. Vernacular architecture is best described as a traditional or indigenous type of architecture, one that has evolved over time in response to local climatic, environmental, building resources and cultural human needs. It is reflective of a very specific local context and is a functional and practical design response.

In Queensland, timber and iron vernacular houses emerged in the mid-19th century as a response by European migrants to the new subtropical climate. Wide verandas provided relief from the lengthy, hot summer days, punctuated by heavy afternoon downpours of rain. John Freeland, a former professor of architecture at UNSW describes the Queenslander as the closest Australia ever came to producing an indigenous style.”

I thought that those of you who live in our own special ‘Queenslander’ houses might like to see this. If you want to read more on what makes the ‘Queenslander’ house so unique, read this link….by Lindy Osborne, Lecturer in Architecture at Queensland University of Technology.

What does ‘building sustainably’ mean?


‘Sustainability’ is a contemporary phrase used with the best intentions to engender feelings of care for the limited resources of our tiny planet and to provide a decent life style for our future generations. The earth’s population continues to increase placing demand on food, energy and building supplies.

Experts tell us the earth is already in trouble from global warming – which will lead to rapid changes in extreme weather events, rising sea levels and production of food. Extrapolate out, say a couple of hundred years, and it is difficult to imagine an earth that is habitable without sustainable food production.

We all need to play our part in putting on the brakes. Every little saving in energy production will contribute to making life for our future generations no worse than how it was given to us. That is the essence of the meaning of ‘sustainability’.

It is only in the last fifty years that we have had an idea that unimpeded energy consumption can damage our environment and only in the last twenty that we have had the science to back it up – yet we are still only tinkering at the edges to make real changes and politicians are not yet brave enough to lead the way as we need them to. At the moment it is left to the individual to do what they can to avoid looming global disaster.

In the next blog I will discuss how we can build sustainably to contribute to saving energy in the houses we build and live in.

The value of an architect and adding value with an architect

Alderley Residence

While the ‘Great Australian Dream’ is owning a property, building or personalizing your home is the next level of endeavour. With the help of an architect, the complex processes involved from inception to completion can be made so much easier. When it comes time to sell your home, all the hard work and expertise poured into your project by your architect will add value to your biggest investment. It will stand out from your competitors and be in demand. Most importantly though, the uplifting emotional value of living within a well designed, creative and elegant space is priceless.

Architects consult with various stakeholders involved in the building process. We coordinate the various other consultants that are needed such as structural engineers, building certifiers and sometimes, town planners and surveyors.

Architects have 5 years intensive university design training. In the design process, we respond to the chosen site and setting, orientation, climate (light, breezes, humidity and temperature range), views, topography and neighbourhood. We can also help secure building and town planning approvals, find reputable builders, choose an equitable building contract and administer that contract to better protect our client from cost overrun, quality control and time control. We ensure that the design is being built in the most thorough and proper way, keeping the clients’ best interest in mind.

Always, foremost are our clients who are building their dream. The benefits of having an architect involved with your project are significant and will provide a brilliant and beautiful outcome.

Good design adds value

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