How hiring an architect can save you money

Wesley Spencer

As an architect, the thing I spend most of my time explaining to potential clients is how much value they can get from hiring an architect.

Let’s face it, the reason most people can afford to renovate in the first place is the bank valuation. You attend a meeting with the banker, who tells you your home’s current and projected values after renovation.

You want to get the most bang for your buck, and certainly not waste money where you don’t need to, or in areas where no one will notice.

Having an architect on board is something people attribute value, but don’t want to pay for.

We’re a bunch of WHITE ELEPHANTS.

So, whether you like it or not, your actions are governed by how and what society, and subsequently, the bank, attribute value in your home.

Would you consider where the plumbing goes from the toilet to the sewers? Or would you consider the impact your growing family will have on the fittings and joinery throughout the house in detail? Architects do. It’s our job to realise that a built-in entertainment unit in the kids’ retreat is a bad idea because when the kids hit high school, they’ll want desks instead, or that an upstairs toilet in the wrong location could result in thousands of dollars spent on ugly bulkheads to conceal the sewer pipe.

So, how can architects save you money?

1. Architects design with your budget in mind.

Architects know how much it costs to build. This is the result of years working with builders and seeing the impact of our decisions on construction sites. We also spend a lot of time discussing how we could do it better. We’re responsible for our design when it comes to costing, so if you’ve briefed us with a realistic budget for your project and we commit to designing something, then that’s what we’ll deliver. Building designers and draftspeople are employed to draw what you tell them. So if it comes in over… you’ll often find yourself paying them again to redesign the building.

2. Architects optimise the building’s performance

There’s one thing architects love more than a sexy looking house, and that’s a house that works really well. And that doesn’t just include a house that won’t have you searching for the A/C remote the minute it hits 20 degrees. We look at optimising the design with ventilation, sun angles, insulation, flexible furniture layouts, technology and more.

Environmentally sustainable design (ESD) is a given and doesn’t cost anything to implement. Cavemen had ESD caves.

But there’s more to good design than ESD. There’s optimising views from key parts of the home. One classic example of this is positioning the head of the bathtub far away from the toilet and, if possible, facing the window.
Also, if you don’t have a lot of space or cash, we look at optimising spaces by reducing traffic areas. This involves avoiding side-by-side passages, doors on opposite ends of rooms, and rooms that don’t accommodate conventional furniture.

I know someone that has a dining suite in a bedroom because the meals area is too small for a dining table. They’ve lost the use of a bedroom, while also having a strange empty space where a table should be. This is in part because the space is simply not the correct size as well as having too many travel paths crossing through the space itself.

Another aspect of this is that architects understand what you’ve asked for, then apply it in a cost-effective way. For example, you’ve requested we position your toilet here instead of there, but we understand the impact of this change. It may result in an awkward bulkhead in the room below; or having the toilet roll holder on the back wall because it would otherwise interfere with the sliding door … and so on. We foresee these impacts immediately and tell you, then go about understanding why you want it there, then find an alternative solution that meets your needs while avoiding some of these building dilemmas. Other designers, without the onsite experience, aren’t aware of these impacts and will happily accommodate the change. Construction happens, thenyou see the bulkhead after it’s built and have to ask the builder to remove it. Then you have to pay them to reposition the toilet where it should have been.

3. Architects know what Council wants

Often, I receive calls from distressed clients who’ve been through years of disputes between Council and their draftsperson because the design simply doesn’t meet Council’s requirements. The most saddening part is that during this whole time, the client has been paying consultant fees, draftsman fees, Council fees, and most of all, mortgage repayment they didn’t need to.
When I see the drawings, I tell the client the exact same information given to them by Council.

The architect has a responsibility to understand the objectives of Council, the different neighbourhood characters, heritage, and other overlays, which are all very clearly stated in a document called the “Planning Scheme”.
Yes, sometimes architects will push the boundaries beyond what Council will accept, but at least they do it with the knowledge that this may not meet compliance (and should be prepared to correct it if Council rejects the non-compliance).

Once again, the draftsperson is engaged with a single responsibility, to draw what they were asked. So what happens when Council rejects the application? The client has to pay the draftsman again to redesign the proposal.

4. Architects know what builders want.

A builder’s job is physically hard work. They want to make sure it’s easy to understand, instruct the team, cut to size, assemble, and, most importantly, hide the flaws as easily as possible.

While a house like this appears simple and effortless, achieving this level of minimalism requires precision because mistakes can’t be concealed.

Give them a fragile stone benchtop for example, and the next thing you know is that your benchtop price has just doubled. The builder needs to factor in the cost of breaking your precious stone bench upon assembly.

Another example; Let’s say you wanted your eaves to be 70cm instead of the standard 40cm. The standard 40cm allows 1 standard fibre-cement sheet to cover 7.2 metres of eave with almost zero waste. A 70cm eave means that 1 standard fibre-cement sheet will only cover 2.4 metres of eave with 1.2 sqm of wasted material headed for the dumpster. That’s more dumpster, more labour, more fibre-cement sheet (triple), more landfill = $$$.

5. Architects know when builders are lying.

This is kind of a given, of course, we know when builders are lying. We know what they’re doing, and how much time it takes to do it. Sometimes builders are trying to make some easy money through their variations. We approve and deny variations charges, which sometimes saves more than $10k in a single variation.

Don’t have an architect on board? This means you haven’t got a client-side verifier to confirm whether the variation is valid or simply hooey.

6. Architects can get the most bang for your buck.

Given the current housing market, with banks tightening up on funding for new builds and renovations, property owners are doing away with the little ‘toys’ they were once able to justify to their lender but didn’t necessarily improve property value. The “put your money where your mouth is” approach by banks is encouraging property owners to justify every inclusions necessity.

Architects are noticing a trend away from things like double vanities, boiling water taps and built-in entertainment units.


Property owners are now moving into a more environmentally responsible era, who are concerned with homes that feature zoned heating and cooling; higher performing concrete slabs; solar panels; natural ventilation; harder wearing materials; more garden areas and less unnecessary rooms; multi-generational floor plans, and more communal family areas with fewer/ smaller individual zones.

“Wexhaus Architecture was commissioned because of their innovative approach to reassigning rooms and space re-deployment”

Gen & Brad T
Bathroom Architectural Design

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