An easy step by step guide to building in New South Wales

1. Gather your thoughts.

This is a vital part of the process because this project is all about your ideas. Our suggestion is to start a scrapbook, or you can use our Pinterest Dreamboards to get inspiration and start collecting ideas.

Everything you see that fits your thoughts or builds the dream should be put in here.

It will give your architect a head start on what you like.

At the same time, start a list of the must-haves (e.g. number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc.), your present and future needs and how much you realistically have to spend.

2. Choose your architect.

Your architect will be your first point of call and can organise everything required for the approval including Surveyors and Engineering Consultants.

3. Refine the brief.

This is the final stage of the nitty-gritty.

This is the time to work with your architect to ensure they have all your needs and wants to start creating.

He or she will have probably done some preliminary work on the peculiarities of the site, zoning and planning guidelines, drainage, views, sun and wind directions and changes and any other factors that need to be taken into account.

Together you tighten the brief, set some timelines and the design process begins.

4. Concept design.

Now it’s getting exciting.

The architect comes back with the initial ideas. Typically this would be a floor plan, maybe some elevations or perspective drawings, references to the materials proposed and the like.

The idea is to give you a clear notion of what is being proposed, leaving you room to make comment and changes, without going to final drawings.

5. Your Feedback.

This may be the most critical part of the process and remember, it’s a partnership. It’s your chance to give your thoughts on the concept design and any changes you would like to see and the reasons why.

We recommend the best way to approach this is to write down all your thoughts and why they work or how they could be improved.

Chances are the solution the architect finds will be something that hadn’t occurred to you.

It’s important to cover all the questions (no matter how silly you think they sound) and thoughts you have before things get serious and the builders start building.

It helps to be positive too. Point out the features you like. This helps the architect in modifying the design or redesigning from scratch.

6. Developed design.

Now we’re into the serious part of the journey.

The final concept should be agreed at this stage. All the re-designs and rethinking should be done to your complete satisfaction and you should know exactly what’s going to happen and what you will be building.

Final budgets will be discussed, fittings and finished suggested or modified and priorities set. For instance, the fancy taps may have to go in favour of the Italian oven.

Don’t feel rushed or pressured. Take your time and when you’re happy, give your architect the green light.

7. Permits, approvals etc.

This is where an architectural firm really makes life easier for you.

They know how to navigate through the sea of red tape and regulatory approvals to ensure everything that needs to be approved and signed off is looked after.

8. Working drawings.

Suddenly your plan has blossomed into a whole raft of drawings covering every aspect of the construction.

These drawings are part of the process to explain to the builder and their team how to convert your dreams into reality. The concreters, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and everyone else in a typical construction crew are looking at the plans for their area of specialty. These working drawings are the final plans and will undoubtedly look highly technical and a little confusing.

Ask your architect questions. They will explain what is happening.

9.Choosing your builder.

You architect can be of assistance here as well unless you had already engaged or decided upon a builder.

The architect knows your budget, style of building, any challenges the site may present and can work with you to shortlist some builders and help in the final selection process.


This is the legally binding commitment between you and your builder to deliver your project. Your architect can administer this contract on your behalf.

It is not uncommon for building projects to contain hidden surprises– structural difficulties such as unexpected ground conditions, for example – that can have an impact on the design and the building cost.

The best way of preparing yourself is an adequate written contract, designed to manage such events fairly from each party’s point of view.

Your architect can advise you on the contract type, as well as be the contract administrator. They have the skill and expertise to do so and they can minimise your risks and stress.

It’s genuine peace of mind for everyone.


This can be the scary bit, especially if you’re trying to manage it yourself.

An endless army of people with problems and questions.

We recommend you keep your architect in the picture during this critical stage. He is your site representative and knows better than anyone how it should look, how it should be finished and the quality demanded.

Do I need to contract my architect to deliver all the services necessary to complete my home?

Not necessarily. You may have project-planning, design or construction expertise yourself, and feel confident to undertaking some tasks yourself. But don’t be misled by DIY forums and home improvement TV. Building construction is a complicated process and requires expert input.

Discuss this with your architect so that you fully understand how the building process will unfold.

Then you can establish who will do what and how to coordinate it.

This article was originally created by the Australian Institute of Architects providing advice and information about architecture and working with architects to those interested in buying, building, renovating or maintaining a home and a range of news, information and events related to architecture. You can view the article here.