Expert Advice: Do you need an architect for your new build, with Minh Le

  • 6 minutes
  • 30 October 2019

Minh Le is the Director of Archimetrics Architects, a Melbourne-based architectural practice. With 18 years of experience in the construction industry, Minh’s approach to service is that of assistance, helping clients understand what they need. Today, he helps us answer the question; do I need an architect for my new build project?

Q. Do I need an architect for my new build?

As architects, we have to be delicate in responding to the common enquiry asking us to “just draw it up”; it’s possible that the client just doesn’t know exactly what an architect might be able to do for them, as opposed to a drafting service. To enquiries such as these, I would assess the project and sometimes even have to truthfully advise the client, “you don’t actually need an architect”.

At this point it’s worth clarifying; there are some very good drafting professionals in our industry, who produce very good designs. However, a draftsperson’s core role remains; which is to draw up a design into technical drawings for the approval of relevant authorities. Similarly, there are some architects who don’t have enough technical knowledge to deal with certain projects that require it; rather, their focus is on design.

But it’s the ability to break a design down to the ‘nuts and bolts’ that makes all the difference. Understanding how everything goes to together, and the sequence in which they go together, is vital to a successful outcome.

This is the ability that makes the difference when you engage an architect for your new build.

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Q. What’s the difference in service between a draftsperson and an architect?

To answer this question, I’m reminded of a client who was referred to us by a plumber associate of ours, for a restaurant fit out project.

Walking onto site, he asked to see the plans, to which the project manager produced a computerised drawing which they had drawn up using Microsoft Excel; the plumber took one look and gave me a call immediately.

The general arrangement of the restaurant could be seen, but it lacked any technical dimensions to know what went where, what materials were to be used, or any detailed or technical drawings. There was also a lack of information in addressing the requirements from the Health and Building departments at council and any attempt of building any elements would end in disaster, as no one would know how big things needed to be.

But the point is, simply ‘just drawing something up’ lacks any consideration and respect to what is actually required for the project; energy efficiency, compliance of regulations, aesthetics, sustainability, budget, modular measurements, materials, effectiveness of orientation.

All of these considerations are applicable to every single project, large or small. There is a constant focus of exploration and interrogation to avoid costly mistakes further down the line. In the past, there have been countless projects where a client has opted for the cheaper alternative of a draftsperson, only to come to us in a state of urgency to remedy the documentation work, so that the builder can actually build from them.

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Q. In regards to the building process, what an architect can offer and when?

For the new build of a house, the following process would apply:

 1. Schematic design

During this stage, if the client has an idea of what they like but doesn’t know if it works (or even if a client doesn’t know what they want), then the architect needs to be able to piece it all together. This will include taking into consideration things like compliance with laws and regulations and the client’s brief and requirements.

 2. Design development

An architect is then able to interpret any feedback from the client and relevant authorities to work out how it’s going to be built, in terms of structure, materials, etc.

 3. Contract documentation

During this phase, clear and concise working drawings are produced to create a ‘manual’ for the builder to build from, including all the minute details required. The architect also incorporates and co-ordinates all the work of other relevant consultants, such as the geo-technical engineer, structural engineer, civil engineer, energy raters, town planners and building surveyors.

 4. Tendering and negotiation

We produce a set of documentation which has all the necessary information for a prospective builder to quote from. They then submit their quotations (tenders) in order to win the project.

We analyse and dissect the tenders and negotiate on the client’s behalf for the best price, as well as clarifying what is included and what isn’t, before the building contract is signed.

 5. During construction

Once the building contract is signed and construction commences, we administer the contract between the client and the builder. As the contract is a combination of the written contract, as well as our drawings, we visit site at certain intervals to make sure the construction process is doing everything that is stipulated by the contract.

If anything isn’t right, we inform the client and attain approval from them to get it rectified.

 6. Post-construction services

Post-build, we carry a defects inspection to analyse any mistakes during construction and produce a list for the builder to fix, before final payments are made by the client. Throughout the entire process, the architect is able to support and guide the client in navigating the laws and regulations around their project, as well as coordinating with all other consultants to make sure the project has everything that it needs to be successfully built and functional.

In essence, architects are the bridge between the client, authorities, and every other consultant required for the project! We hope this finally answers the question: do I need an architect?

Who is Minh Le?

Minh Le is the Director of Archimetrics Architects, a Melbourne-based architectural practice providing a thorough and considered approach to architecture. With 18 years of experience in the construction industry, Minh’s approach to service is that of assistance, helping clients understand what they need for their project.

Guided by principles of integrity, clarity and consistency, Minh instils within the professional team at Archimetrics Architects the drive to leave no stone unturned in achieving their client’s objectives. The company realises that there is great potential in every project, as well as great potential in every idea; through a collaborative process, they piece it all together. They allow the clients to visually assess the project through the 3D BIM model, providing them insight and knowledge to make informed decisions.

If you’d like to find out more about Minh Le, or how Archimetrics can assist your project, you can explore their website here.