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Proper Documentation From Conception to Completion
Every building project has key documentation stages.
These are:

The Project Brief (Defining a realistic project brief)

Surveying the property (see example)
No design can commence until an accurate and comprehensive survey of the property has been prepared by a qualified surveyor. The survey not only confirms the boundaries but has to show levels and contours, site features such as trees and existing buildings, street items such as driveway crossings and services pits, adjoining buildings and their windows, doors, floor levels and roofs, as well as easements and encroachments. We brief the surveyor on your behalf.

If an existing building is to be altered, measuring the building
(see example)
If altering and adding to an existing building, we will have to measure and document the plan, elevations and sections through the building and insert this into the survey so that we have a combined survey and measured drawing. In preparing these drawings, it may also be necessary to undertake a structural engineering assessment to ensure that any additional loads can be adequately supported. There may be a requirement for a dilapidation report, a full photographic record of the building, a heritage assessment, or other investigative reports.

Carrying out a geotechnical investigation for structural design of foundations
Our structural engineer requires that a geotechnical engineering report be prepared after appropriate site investigations, which may include a number of test bores to document sub-surface foundation structure. We need to understand the foundation conditions so the footing can be properly designed. This geotechnical investigation will also help the hydraulic engineer design stormwater drainage systems.

Analysing Council’s code requirements
(see example)

Ensuring the design complies with the mathematics of the development controls
(or if it can’t demonstrating that compliance is unreasonable) (see example)

Ensuring the design meets the merit conditions of the development controls
(or if it can’t demonstrating that compliance is unreasonable) (see example)
Apart from our client’s project brief, Council’s codes determine how we must approach design.

Council’s codes will determine not only how you can use your property, but also will set rules for how much floor space you can build, how much land you can cover with building, drives, terraces and paths, how much you must set aside for landscaping, how close you can build to boundaries and how high you can build. The codes will also influence the shape and appearance of the building and set measures for the impact on privacy, sunlight and views of your neighbours. Council may have controls for what the building should look like from the street, for how you may or may not alter a building subject to heritage controls, for how you must retain stormwater on your land before it is discharged from the site, for preservation of native vegetation and species, for removal of noxious plants, for control of water run-off from the land, and other issues.

Determining which codes may be applicable to your project requires assessment of a Section 149 Certificate which can be obtained from Council. Even draft codes have to be taken into account.

The code requirements of Council determine which consultant needs to be engaged as Council will require professional reports to be lodged as part of the development application.

In lodging a development application it is necessary to demonstrate that the design complies with all the code requirements, or if it does not, why it meets the intent of the code while not complying and to seek Council’s approval for that variance. Such variations are allowable under SEPP 1.

This demonstration involves both geometric illustration (see example) and written statements describing how the design meets the merit requirements (see example). It may also require construction of a model of the design, the site, and the surrounding buildings and landscape, and use of photomontage showing an artist’s perspective inserted into a photo of the environmental context.

Shadow diagrams will also have to be prepared to demonstrate the extent of shadows cast at the winter solstice at the times of the day required by Council’s codes. These are required as Council is required to assess the impact of the proposed design on solar access on neighbouring properties.

In some projects it may be necessary to seek specialist planning and legal advise on interpretation of the codes if difficulties with Council or neighbours are anticipated. In such cases the possibility of needing to appeal to the Land and Environment Court needs to be assessed prior to lodging the development application if it is anticipated that Council may impose unacceptable conditions, or refuse the application. Such refusal may occur for a variety of reasons which may have little to do with the merits of, or compliance of the design and the application with Council or State Government Codes.

Analysing relevant State Government planning codes
Your project may be subject State Government planning policies and codes such as State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) which cover such matters as retirement development, design of apartments, protecting endangered species, etc. (For further information on SEPPs go to www.planning.nsw.gov.au)

These policies set controls which take precedence over Council planning codes. The SEPP(s) that apply to your project will set development criteria which must be complied with, and by which Council will assess your development application.

Assessing the impact of relevant Australian Standards
(see example)
All buildings must comply with the relevant Australian Standards. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) incorporates many of these standards. They can effect and determine many aspects of the design, detailing, finishes, equipment and fittings of your building ranging from the design of the building structure to the height of balustrades and the space around toilets in bathrooms for the disabled.

These standards may start to impact the design even at conceptual stage. For instance, retirement housing must comply with AS 1428 Design for access and mobility, and the spatial requirements of this standard will impact on the size of dwelling units and consequently the number of units which can be built on your property.

Ensuring compliance with the Building Code of Australia
At the design stage it is essential to ensure compliance with the Building Code of Australia.

In a complex project Council will require as part of the development application a report from a construction certificate certifier demonstrating that the design complies with the BCA for those aspects of the design that Council must assess for development consent.

Even in simpler buildings we apply the requirements of the BCA at the design stage to ensure that later there are no problems when preparing the construction certificate application.


Co-ordinating architectural and engineering compliance with the BCA
Complying with the relevant Australian Standards

Before the construction certifier can issue the construction certificate stating that the design meets the requirements of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) all the engineers engaged on the project must complete their designs and drawings and issue certificates of compliance with the BCA and any relevant Australian Standards. This requires co-ordination of all drawings and BCA specification requirements, architectural and engineering, as well as detail design of all components of the building which must meet the requirements of the BCA.

All of this design and documentation has to be prepared in accordance with the relevant Australian Standards.

Completion and certifying of the engineering design, drawings and specification means that these documents are ready to be used for construction and thus for tendering, and therefore, all of the client’s requirements (such as airconditioning and mechanical ventilation) which effect any engineering aspects of the project must be incorporated prior to applying for the construction certificate.

There are other legal requirements of the construction certifier which must be satisfied such as ensuring that the Home Warranty Insurance (HWI) for housing is in place, and the Long Service Levy has been paid.

While the construction certificate can be prepared it cannot be issued until the preferred builder has supplied evidence of HWI usually immediately prior to the signing of the building contract.


Ensuring appropriate practice in construction detailing
(see example)
Keeping water out, reducing the risk of settlement and cracking, choosing materials that will wear and weather well, and many other aspects of construction, require the application of experienced construction detailing to ensure that the building will perform when built in accordance with the requirements of the project brief.

Ensuring architectural detail drawings and specifications meet the client’s brief
(see example)

Before calling tenders, the architect needs to complete the detail drawings and specifications which cover such non-BCA components as finishes, fittings and equipment. This will require detailed input by the client to ensure that the selection of these items meets their expectations, the project budget and the character of the design.
We also ensure the tenderers provide all necessary information to allow us to evaluate their tender.

Apart from the cost of construction and the time the builder proposes take to build, the following information needs to be provided:

  Trade breakdown
We require tenderers to submit a trade breakdown to understand how money is allocated across various parts of the construction, to provide various rates for items where we may anticipate variations could arise (eg, rates for excavation in rock).
  Critical path diagram and anticipated cash flow for progress payments
In comparing tenders we may also require submission of a critical path diagram to illustrate the sequencing of work, a cash flow of anticipated progress claims.
To provide contact details from three architects and three clients for whom they have completed similar projects and if required the obtaining of a credit check.
We may also call for further clarification of details of the tender, suppliers, or sub-contractors to determine that the quality of construction that is expected will be delivered.

All this information is necessary to check that the tenderer has a realistic understanding of the project and to check that they are equipped to complete it in accordance with the tender documents, their tender, and contract.BACK


Crossing the t’s and Dotting the i’s on the Contract

The contract between the client (in the building contract the proprietor) and the builder is a standard contract issued by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and Master Builders.

While most of the clauses are standard the contract requires decisions with respect to insurance, and completion of schedules.

As your architect we prepare these schedules in agreement with yourself and the builder and ensure that the contract documents, which will include the building contract, the builder’s tender as finally agreed, the development consent, the construction certificate, the architect’s and engineer’s drawings and specifications, the site survey, any geotechnical and other relevant reports are assembled for signing and initialling.

Once signed the contract and its associated documents is legally binding, and forms the basis for what will be built.


Minuting decisions at site meetings

We hold regular site meetings, usually on a weekly basis, with a representative of the proprietor present as well as the builder, any engineers or other consultants who should attend, and any subcontractors or suppliers who should also participate.

During these meetings the construction is inspected, any questions concerning the construction or interpretation of drawings or specifications are answered and we minute the meeting. Minutes are distributed to all relevant parties.

These inspections do not relieve the builder of the responsibility for properly constructing the building in accordance with the contract. The builder is the construction supervisor.

Issuing architect’s instructions

(see example)
There can be a number of reasons why the Architect may issue instructions during the building contract.

Ground conditions after excavation may require adjustment to the construction; the proprietor may add or delete work, the builder may request further information about construction. If the project involves alterations to an existing building its condition when walls, floors and roofs are opened may require adjustment of construction methods, final selections of finishes, fittings and equipment which will have to be conveyed to the builder.

All or any of these, or other requirements of the contract will require the architect to issue an instruction to the builder.

These instructions may, or may not vary the contract. If they do vary the contract the instruction will identify whether a cost is associated with this variation, and require quantification of the cost by the builder. Similarly, an instruction can cause an extension of time and a similar processed is followed.

It is essential that the proprietor only instruct the builder through the architect to ensure that the proprietor and the builder are properly instructed. Any instruction may constitute a variation to the contract with possible financial and time consequences. Experience and the contract provides the architect with the knowledge and authority to make those instructions.

Certifying that the builder’s monthly progress claims are reasonable
(see example)
The building contract requires that the builder submit progress payments. These are usually submitted monthly. The claim is broken down by trades, and may involve claims for provisional or prime cost sums for finishes or fittings. The claim is evaluated by the architect and the building cost consultant to check that it represents a reasonable claim for the work carried out in the previous month. If there are any questions adjustments may be made to the claim. The reason for these adjustments are included in the certificate requiring the proprietor (the client) to pay.

Ensuring that costing of any variations are reasonable
(see example)
There can be many reasons for variations. The foundations conditions may vary from the test bore results produced by the geotechnical engineer which may effect excavation costs and require adjustment to the footings. Sub-surface drainage conditions may vary from that assumed requiring adjustment to the drainage (nobody can see under the ground). If the project involves alterations and additions, opening up of existing construction may reveal unsatisfactory conditions requiring additional work, and even re-design of details, finishes and methods of construction. The client may, after watching the building come into existence see additional work that they decide they want done. Selection of finishes or fittings, which may have been deliberately left until during construction, will result in adjustments to provisional or prime cost sums. Wet weather may delay construction. Strikes, or unforeseeable delays in transport if materials or products are imported can cause delay.

All of these, and other causes which the contract allows, can be a reasonable basis for a variation to the contract.

With the building cost consultant we check that any variation claims are allowed under the contract, and if so, priced realistically.

Ensuring that extension of time claims and any costs arising are reasonable

(see example)
Variations and other contractually valid reasons for delay can be the basis of legitimate extension of time claims and associated costs, if so defined in the contract.

We determine whether such claims are legitimate, and in conjunction with the building cost consultant if the costs claimed are reasonable.

Documenting the final construction accounting

(download example)
At practical completion the final contract accounts are prepared. These include a statement of payments made against all the trade breakdowns, adjustments of provisional and prime cost sums, accounting of all variations and any costs associated with extensions of time.

At the issuing of the certificate of practical completion half the retention sum is released. The other half is retained until the end of the defects liability period and all defects have been fixed.

Issuance of the final certificate the when all defects have been properly rectified and the remainder of the retention is released completes the building contract.

Obtaining an occupation certificate from the construction certificate certifier
The construction certificate requires that a occupation certificate be issued to demonstrate that the building has been completed in accordance with the requirements of the development consent, the construction certificate, the Building Code of Australia, and relevant Australian Standards, the requirements of insurance, and any other matters covered in the construction certificate.

This occupation certificate is different from the architect’s certificate of practical completion required to be issued under the building contract although many of the requirements of the occupation certificate are similar to the requirements to be satisfied before the certificate of practical completion can be issued.

The certificate of practical completion required by the building contract states that the building is "substantially complete and any incomplete work or "defects remaining in the" works are of a minor nature and number, the completion or rectification of which is not practicable at the time and will not unreasonably effect occupation and use".

The occupation certificate is issued by the construction certifier not by the architect, and arises from the State law. The certificate of practical completion is issued by the architect and arises from the conditions of the building contract.

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