What is a building designer?

Building designers were once known as draftsmen. The name has since changed to reflect their evolving roles and skill sets. These days a building designer can partake in but not limited to the following:

  • Meet with cliental to develop a project design brief.
  • Perform site measure ups of the existing conditions.
  • Undertake feasibility studies.
  • Produce functional concept designs.
  • Produce town planning drawings.
  • Produce and document construction drawings.
  • Have a sound knowledge of Councils planning strategies, the planning policy framework and industry regulations.
  • Coordinate town planning submissions.
  • Coordinate building permit submissions.
  • Coordinate and facilitate external consultants.
  • Design energy efficient homes.
  • Energy rating reports.
  • 3D perspectives.
  • Bushfire Attacked Level (B.A.L) assessments.
  • Building modification applications.
  • Report and Consent applications.
  • Application to building in flood prone land.

Building designers can come from a number of design-related backgrounds. This includes people with degrees and experience in architecture who aren’t officially registered as architects, but are registered with the Victorian Building Authority as building designers.

What's the difference between an architect and a building designer?

Typically an architect and a building designer handle very similar jobs and it’s common for the role of one, to be confused with the other. Both professionals design buildings and have a very similar skill set. To be called an architect you require a university degree and need to be registered with the Architects Registration Board. A building designer will have typically completed an advanced diploma with a stronger emphasis on construction and are registered building practitioners with the Victorian Building Authority. 

A building designer can provide the same services as an architect. In fact 80% of building permits are prepared by building designers. It has also been said builders generally regard building designer’s construction plans as being more user friendly.

Do I need to find my own consultants?

If you would like to by all mean please do. Alternatively we offer a ‘one stop shop’ process where we recommend external consultants we trust and simply pass their fee proposals directly onto you for acceptance.

What is a feature and level survey?

A feature and level survey reviews the ground levels and contours of the land, identifies existing and adjoining structures including current buildings, fences, trees and other vegetation and identifies underground factors such as drains and utility services. This information is required for most building projects and is critical for establishing floor levels, building heights and setbacks etc.

What is a re-establishment survey?

Your fence may not actually be located on your title boundary. This is prevalent on older properties where the boundary fences have been replaced numerous times. A licenced land surveyor can carry out a re-establishment survey which determines the exact location of your property boundaries. Pegs are located in the corners of your site which the builder can use to set out your building. This is particularly important if you are building on or close to a boundary, building on a small or on an irregular shaped block, or you are unsure of your boundary locations.

What is a soil report?

A soil report also known as a geotechnical report investigates the reactivity of the soil on your property. The report documents the load bearing capacity of the soil and the recommended depth of footing. This is vital information for the structural engineer to determine appropriate footings for your proposed home or extension.

How long does the building design process take?

This is a very difficult question to answer as every project is unique and has its own obstacles. The design process can take anywhere from a week to a month depending on the complexities of the project and toing and froing between yourself and us to achieve your desired outcome.

What is a Report and Consent?

This is where the proposed works do not meet the requirements set out in the residential design code but do not trigger a planning permit. This process entails producing plans and sending them to Council along with the relevant fee, form and supportive documents. In most cases plans are also sent to the immediate neighbours affected by the building works giving them an opportunity to express any concerns to Council. Council’s building surveyor assesses any objections on their merit prior to approving or declining the requested variation.

We are ready to begin the building process. What the first step?

Contact us now either by phone or email. We will outline the process further, provide a quote and then arrange a date and time to meet with you on site. We are aware this process it new to many, so we will guide you through every step of the way.

How much does it cost to have plans prepared?

We quote ever project individually based on the number of hours we believe each stage will take (redrawing existing conditions, design concept, construction drawings etc). We believe this is the fairest way to quote opposed to quoting per m² of floor area or based on a percentage of the build cost which is a common approach for architects.

So the cost to have plans prepared will vary depending on the extent of design work required, size and complexity of the project, fall of the land, shape of the site. Other factors such as whether town planning approval is required, whether it is a new home, extension, unit development etc, building in a flood prone areas, Report & Consent and Building dispensations to name a few will also affect the cost.

There are many other consultants involved in the process which you may or may not require for your project:

- Land surveyor

- Town planning consultant

- Landscape designer

- Geotechnical engineer (soil report & Bushfire Attack Level (B.A.L) assessment)

- Structural engineer

- Drainage engineer

- Thermal Performance Assessment (energy report)- we provide this service.

- Disability consultant (certain commercial projects)

- Building surveyor

Why do builders quotes vary so much?

There are many reasons builders quotes vary so much. A reputable builder may be overloaded with work resulting in inflated fees, the size and skill set of their crew, the level and type of resources available, whether or not they are familiar with the type of work and whether or not they actually want the job.

This is exacerbated for extensions and renovations as the existing conditions and connections to the existing come into play. Some builders will include a large allowance for unknowns where others might be more familiar with this type of work and know that to expect.

How do I know if I need a town planning permit?

You can call your local Council or meet with a duty planner to discuss your proposal alternatively you can come straight to us and we can do the back ground work for you. Based on your intentions for the land the properties zoning and any associated overlays on your property; Design and Development Overlay, Heritage Overlay, Vegetation Protection Overlay etc. It will become apparent whether a planning permit is or is not required.


In some instances through clever design methods we can avoid the planning triggers, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

What is the town planning process?

The below flow chart is a simplified representation of how the town planning process works. The process begins after we have completed the design work, produced full town planning drawing and supportive documents.

How long does the town planning process take?

This question is akin to how long is a piece of string. The simple answer is anywhere from 3- 12 months typically depending on a number of factors; the type and scale of development being proposed, whether there are any objectors to the proposal, the Municipal Council involved, the individual planner, whether a drainage design and or landscape design is formed as a condition of the permit.

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit is a document issued by a Registered Building Surveyor certifying that your plans comply with the Building Regulations, Australian Standards and relevant documents pertinent to your project. These standards are intended to ensure the safety of the current and future owners as well as the public. The Building Act 1993 requires a building permit to be issued before a person can carry out building work and likewise a demolition permit is mandatory preceding demolition work. The building surveyor is required to inspect the building works at various stages of construction as listed on the building permit.

Who issues Building Permits?

Only a Registered Building Surveyor can issue building permits. There are two categories of building surveyors; municipal building surveyors who are attached to Councils building department and independent building surveyors who are independent of Council.

How do I know if I need a Building Permit?

You need a building permit to carry out most construction work. Building permit requirements are based on the extent of building work rather than the previous $5,000 limit. This means smaller projects like verandahs, garages, carports and large pergolas require building permits. The building regulations recognise that some building work is minor and may exempt property owners from having to obtain a building permit.

You may not require a building permit if your project fits into the following criteria:

  • Repair work done for maintenance purposes for example replacing rotted weatherboards.
  • Works that do not affect the structural integrity of the building.
  • Works that do not affect the safety of the public or occupants of the building.
  • Works that do not encroach beyond the street alignment.
  • Works carried out are not in connection with a historical building.
  • Works are not carried out over an easement.
  • Works that do not interfere or relate to emergency services such as fire sprinklers, smoke detectors and alarms, fire rated structures etc.

It is your responsibility as the property owner/s to ensure that a building permit is in place prior to commencement of building works or guarantee that the proposed works are exempt under the building regulations from requiring a building permit. When in doubt call your local building department. See list of works below which require/ exempt a building permit.


Type of works

Building permit required

Yes / No


Additions to a residence or any other building.



Structural alterations to a residence or any other building.


Alteration to a building in a heritage act.



A carport/ garage built to the ResCode standard will have a floor area greater than 10m².


Attached to another building.


Setback less than the allowed street setback.


Construction requiring report & consent of council.



All demolition/removal work (except some minor work & outbuildings).



Construction of a side boundary fence less than 2 metres high.


Construction of a timber front fence more than 1.5 metres high.


Construction of a brick front fence more than 1.2 metres high.


Construction of a side boundary fence more than 2 metres high.


Construction of a fence that is more than 1.0 metre high, within 9m of the point of a street intersection (generally corner allotments).


Construction of a fence that is associated with forming part of swimming pool safety barriers.


Construction of a chain wire tennis court fence.



Construction of a pergola (unroofed) associated with a house; not exceeding 20m² in area; not more than 3m high; and located no further forward on the allotment than the allowed setback.


Construction of a pergola (unroofed) associated with any other building.


Construction of a verandah (roofed) attached to any building.



Reblocking/ restumping/ underpining of an existing building.


Retaining walls

Constructed on or near site boundaries (any height) (with protection of adjoining property).


Construction of a retaining wall 1m or more in height.



Replacement of corrugated iron roofing with concrete or terracotta roofing tiles.


Replacement of corrugated iron roofing with ‘Colorbond’ or other pre-finished sheeting.


Safety Services

Changes to any essential safety measures (ie. exit signs, fire sprinklers, emergency lighting, exit paths etc.)


Building Use

Change of use of a building


Swimming pools/spas

Construction of all swimming pools/ spas 300 mm or greater in depth.



Replacement of windows with similar type windows and where no structural alterations are required (except under heritage act).



Erection of a shed less than 10m² in area; not more than 3m high; not constructed of masonry; and located no further forward on the allotment than the allowed street setback.


Erection of a shed more than 10m² in area.


What will happen if I do not get a building permit when I needed one?

You will be issued with a stop works notice outlining a timeframe for your illegal works to be certified by a building surveyor. Building plans along with other necessary consultant’s documents/ plans are still required. If you do not obtain a permit within the allotted timeframe you will be forced to demolish the works or face large fines.

What is required to be submitted to the building surveyor to get a building permit?

This varies from project to project. The list below contains some of the items that your building surveyor will generally require when assessing your application.

  • Completed building surveyors application form.
  • Construction drawings accurately showing what is proposed and how it is to be built.
  • A site plan with contours and site levels showing the proposed works.
  • A current Copy of Title.
  • The builder’s registration number and insurance information or owner builder consent forms.
  • Location and connection method to the drainage Legal Point of Discharge.


Depending on your project your building surveyor may also ask for:

  • Plans endorsed by Council and a copy of the permit.
  • Copies of engineer’s plans, certificates and computations; structural, drainage and geotechnical engineering.
  • Land surveyors survey plan/s.
  • Thermal Performance Assessment.
  • Bushfire Attack Level (B.A.L) assessment.
  • Dispensation to build within designated flood prone land.

Report and Consent approvals for varying any siting requirements.