Designer renovations trend is confirmed – recent survey.

85% of respondents want to improve functionality.

A great home relaxes you and informs you that you are protected and secure in your comfort zone. A home that doesn’t function well creates emotional conflict and anxt as you attempt to traverse all those niggling work arounds you dislike about your present circumstances.

A good designer is empathic to your lifestyle, that is, the designer understands how you relax, entertain, feel safe, need your own space and that designer appreciates what kind of private spaces you need, personally, to face your next challenge outside your home – outside your comfort zone.

A good home takes you on a journey from your arrival to your most private spaces. It takes your visitors from arrival to a sense of wonder and intrigue… they want to see more, but your home specially prevents them from seeing it all, unless of course invited, and then it unfolds from space to space, thrilling your guest at each stage. A good home lets you decide what experience guests/visitors have and the degree of revelation permitted.

How can we assist you to improve the functionality of your home? 

What I like to do is to try and ensure that your design permits a relaxed flow of spaces from entry/public spaces to your private and recreation spaces, whether inside or outside. Taking advantage of a variety of spaces is the key here so that, should you need to, an individual can escape the household without feeling locked up in, say a bedroom with 4 walls, a window and a door. A relaxed flow of spaces, by chance or by design, also provide for the most accessible of spaces for a person with a disability. This is what can be achieved by removing the barriers to every day life.

Read the full article at: Australian homeowner survey reveals renovation desires and designer demand

Source: Sydney Access Consultants

Group Home designs for people with disabilities

A dwelling for people with carers.

This type of domestic architecture accommodates a group of unrelated people rather than a family unit and can therefore be public as well as private housing. The building type can include highly specialised solutions to accommodate staff and residents in a safe, inclusive environment for respite, temporary or permanent occupation.

The building type came about from a shift in attitude that attempts to remove the institutionalised model in favour of purpose made dwellings that are interspersed within the community and the encouragement of community interaction. With the closure of large hospital style institutions many people in care found htemselves inappropriately placed in accommodation meant for aged car, so a federal government devolution program was instigated to ensure adequate localised care, by local community members that was targeted to the specific needs of those people in care, from the surrounding precinct.

Typically, a group home consists of about 5 residents who are provided with the level care that they, as individuals, need. Usually, there are full time staff in attendance who usually operate on a shift work basis. This provides an interesting twist to design requirements because the development is a house for some and a workplace for others. In terms of design, consideration has to be given to the health and well being of both staff and residents, to their safety and security, as well as being capable of engaging the families and visitors of residents.

At times, some residents may exhibit behavioural issues and the peculiar characteristics of residents, who may have any number of diagnosed medical, emotional and conditional needs must be considered. Care givers use management procedures to ensure the required outcomes are met, however, there is a great deal that the Architect can do to reduce risks and improve manageability. 

Buildings are designed for location in typical suburban residential neighbourhoods and consideration has to be given for reducing any potential loss of amenity on the immediate neighbours caused by reason of the group home. Many of these are designed out by providing a range of internal and external spaces in which to engage residents in a way that does not impact on the immediate neighbours.

FS Architects have designed over forty group homes each designed for particular occupants in mind, each with attributes particular to the residents and carers, but designed in such a way to accommodate the unknown future occupants, and all capable of functioning as a family home should the group home function become redundant.

If you would like to discuss group home design in detail, contact the architect principal.

Source: Sydney Access Consultants

Architect’s advice: What is inclusive design? RIBA Series Part 1/7

This film is intended to be a highly useful tool for student and practicing architects/designers, planners, clients and others involved in the built environment.

The role and relationship of the architects, the client, the user advisors, access consultants, and other members of the design team are examined in the film (clips 1 to 7). The film provides viewers with differing practical examples of inclusive design.

The film features three projects:

1.The Roundhouse in London, a Grade 2 Listed building, refurbished as a public Arts venue.

2.The Eden Project, in Cornwall, a well known, large-scale and complex visitor attraction.

3.And the Willows, in Wolverhampton, a new school under construction, that will bring together the population of a primary school, a special needs school, and a community facility on one integrated site.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Source: Sydney Access Consultants

Universal Design – What does that mean?

We suggest that there are seven key elements to Universal Design.

  • A design that is equitable
  • A design that is flexible enough to accommodate our differences
  • A design that is simple and intuitive
  • A design that is perceptible and informative
  • A design that minimises errors
  • A designed product that requires low physical effort
  • A design providing appropriate size and space.


Universal designs express the same meaning regardless of a person’s ability, for instance, the main pedestrian entrance to a building, means, the main entrance to a building, regardless of a person’s ability.


A universal design accommodates the widest group of individual’s preferences and abilities, and it does this by providing a range choices, rather than simply applying the statistical averages. For example, left and right handed automated teller machines.


A universal design is complicated design by reason of its inherently designed simplicity. It is a design that is purposefully easy to apprehend regardless of the end user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or concentration levels. Universal signage is a reasonable example of simplicity.


Universal design communicates the necessary information available to the user, regardless of the user’s abilities, for instance, TGSI’s can be used to indicate a hazard, or entry doors can be activated by voice or movement, with appropriately intuitive configurations inherent in the design informing the user of those capabilities.

Low susceptibility to Error

Universal designs seek to reduce the potential for error by providing fail safe alternatives, for instance a bell button on a lift or button operated automated doors.


A universal design can be used effectively and comfortably while minimising fatigue, for instance, providing rest spots on stairways, access ways and ramps, as well as handrails for assistance.


Universal designs provide size and space proportions to each user regardless of their body size, posture or mobility. Widened doorways being a simple instance of this technique.

Source: Sydney Access Consultants

How do Architects control construction costs?

When an architect provides complete documentation for the construction of a project, most areas of possible misunderstanding and confusion are removed.

Proper cost control is fundamental to the success of your project. This can only be achieved if attention is given to all matters relating to cost, from conception to completion, and extending into the maintenance and operation throughout the life of the building.

From the outset, your architect will discuss and determine a project budget with you. During these discussions you should be very specific as to whether this budget includes professional fees, for example for your architect and/or other specialist consultants, or is related only to the actual cost of the works.

During the design stages and the preparation of the construction documentation your architect will report regularly on project costs. Different cost options will be explored with you and the most economical ways to achieve your objectives will be considered. This will involve a consideration of the initialcost of construction and may include the life cycle costs of the project such as costs associated with energy consumption, maintenance and management during the building’s life cycle.

Different cost options wi ll be explored with you and the most economical ways to achieve your objectives will be considered


During the construction phase your architect will manage project costs according to the requirements of your contract with the builder. Some of the provisions for this in most building contracts are:


Under most standard building contracts the builder is paid progressively throughout the project and is required to submit progress claimsto the architect on a regular basis. The architect assesses each claim, on the basis of work done, the labour and materials used, and any other construction costs, and then issues a progress certificate which states the amount calculated by the architect to be due to the builder at the time of issue.

Under this system, your architect is able to protect you from being charged for work not completed, or not in accordance with the requirements of the construction documents.


When an architect provides complete documentation for the construction of a project, most areas of possible misunderstanding and confusion are removed and variations to the work are kept to a minimum; however, unforeseeable variations may be necessary due to the discovery of unexpected site conditions, authority requirements or simply if you change your mind during construction. Again, with their training and experience, your architect is equipped to advise on options which may minimise or even avoid any increases to building costs.

When variations are unavoidable, your architect will act on your behalf to negotiate an equitable contract adjustment.


The total contract sum often includes sums of money which have been included in the contract documents to cover work which may not have been documented fully at the time of calling tenders. These allowances are known as ‘provisional sums’ and are used more particularly to cover the cost of work to be undertaken by specialist contractors selected by you and referred to as ‘nominated subcontractors’.

The total contract sum also may include similar sums for use in the purchase of materials and building components to be selected by you and which have not otherwise been provided for in the documents. Such allowances are known as ‘prime cost sums’ and are more specifically used to permit selection of such things as bathroom fittings, etc, during the construction period.

When the actual expenditure on works and materials differs from the provisional and/or prime cost sums, the balance is adjusted against the original contract sum. This adjustment is monitored and approved by your architect.


Most contracts require the builder to provide a sum of money to be retained by the owner as a surety that the builder will remedy any defects which might arise during the contractual period. This is known as a security or retention fund and is usually in the amount of five per cent of the contract sum. It can be held as cash in a joint bank account in the names of the owner and the builder or in the form of a bank guarantee held by the owner. If in cash, deductions are made by the architect from each progress payment certificate, usually at the rate of 10 per cent until the required amount is reached.

It is normal for half of the amount to be retained to be released on practical completion and the remainder with the issue of the final certificate.

If the builder defaults or fails to rectify the work as instructed, your architect has the power within the contract to use part or all of the money retained to have the work completed by others.


Liquidated damages is a financial recompense by the builder to which you may be entitled for financial loss if the building is not completed on time. The amount agreed to is usually stated in the contract as a daily rate and covers such items as:

  • loss of rent
  • additional financecosts and holdingcharges
  • alternative accommodation

It is advisable to seek both architectural and legal advice when considering the application of liquidated damages against the builder.


Why engage an architect during construction?

Architects possess the most appropriate training and experience to totally coordinate and manage your building project.

Involvement in the initialdesign concept, early planning and determination of your needs for the building, puts your architect in the best position to effectively plan the work, brief the builder and provide the most cost effective solution.

Throughout the project, your architect will control the design, planningand quality of workmanship and materials to meet time and budgetary constraints.

Your architect will be your independent adviser, liaising on your behalf with builders, consultants and suppliers and ensuring compliance with the spirit and intent of the project.


Most standard contracts include provisions for the contract to be administered by an architect. Some allow for administration by a ‘superintendent’ and one, the ‘Administration By Proprietor (ABP)’ contract is written to allow the owner to administer it. Having been responsible for the design and documentation, your architect has an intimate understanding of what is required by the contract and is therefore in the best position to administer it on your behalf.

Contract administration calls on your architect’s skill and professional judgement in a variety of ways including:

  • assessing and certify ing payments to bemade by you to the builder – ‘progress payments’
  • issu ing, assessing, referri ng and authori s ing any contract variations
  • assessing/determi ningcomplianceof materials and workmanship with the quality specified in the contract
  • assessing and determi ning any extensions of time
  • determining and formally notifying the date of practical completion
  • notification of faults during the ‘maintenance period’
  • determining completion and final certification

Your architect has three quite distinct roles during contract administration. They are:

  1. to act as your professional adviser
  2. to act as your agent
  3. to value and certify payments, contract value and time extensions or contractions.

In the first two roles the architect is entitled to promote your interests. In the third, the architect must act absolutely impartially between you and the builder. Some building contracts describe the roles of agent and of certifier or valuer in some detail.


In the course of construction as part of their responsibility, your architect will visit the site at regular intervals to inspect the works, attend site meetings, advise the builder and issue instructions.

In the role of contract administrator, your architect will ensure as far as possible that all work is in accordance with the contract, however it is the builder’s duty to closely supervise the construction of the work and to ensure complete compliance with the requirements of the contract documents.


For the duration of the contract, your architect must maintain effective communication with the builder to enable proper performance by the builder of the terms and conditions of the contract. Such communication will include instructions and directions given where necessary on any defect of the construction and may include explanatory sketches and drawings.

If any instruction should involve a variation in the cost of work, it is the builder’s responsibility to notify your architect of any change to the project cost before carrying out such instructions

Typical of such instructions is the issue of notices and directions as to the quality of materials and workmanship required by the specification, as well as the listing of outstanding work to be attended to by the builder before ‘practical and final completion’ is achieved. The builder is required to comply with instructions given by your architect.

In addition, your architect, in compliance with the terms of the contract, will issue ‘progress payment certificates’ at regular intervals, the ‘notice of practical completion’ and the ‘final certificate’ at the completion of your project.


Your architect may nominate specialist subcontractors, especially when there are only a limited number of firms capable of satisfactorily undertaking a particular section of the work on your project. Similarly, your architect may nominate a particular supplier of materials.

If monetary allowances (‘provisional sums’) have been provided for in the contract documents it will be necessary for your architect with your approval to instruct the builder on the selection, purchase and/or installation of all items for which such allowances have been made.

Specialist subcontractors and materials suppliers can be engaged through negotiation or through calling tenders.

The tender process can be managed by your architect or the builder or a specialist consultant according to your requirements. (For example, a mechanical engineer may supervise the tender process for the supply and installation of airconditioning units.)

You should expect your architect to discuss these contractual arrangements with you and make recommendations; however, it is important that the supplier or subcontractor selected is acceptable to the builder as only the builder has a legal, contractual relationship with the supplier or subcontractor.

Subcontractors and suppliers may be selected at the same time as the builder or at a later stage as required.

Sections of the work are commonly handled in this way include electrical, mechanical and airconditioning, lifts and escalators, precast concrete, etc. Items to be provided by specialist suppliers will usually include sanitary fittings, door hardware, floor coverings, light fittings, kitchen equipment, ‘white goods’, etc.


Situations may arise in which the builder is unable to complete all contractual obligations by the stipulated date for practical completion. In such cases, your architect is required to consider the builder’s claimand if appropriate grant an extension of time, adjusting the practical completion date accordingly. Delays may be caused by:

  • local authorities
  • variations to the original contract
  • industrial disputes
  • disputes with neighbours
  • bad weather
  • delays in issuing instructions
  • other matters beyond the control of the control of the Builder

In cases where a delay is beyond the builder’s control, the contract usually will require that the builder be paid adequate compensation for costs incurred by the delay. The possibility of delays occurring can be minimised by:

  • properly prepared contract documents bei ng used
  • establ i shing that the contract price i s fair
  • establ i shing trust andcooperation between the parties
  • adequate timeallowed for construction of the works
  • prompt decision making
  • maintaining effective communication between all parties throughout the project.


The date for practical completion is the date nominated in the contract for the works to be completed and available for use. This may be subject to change. Your architect is required to issue a notice of practical completion after being satisfied that all the work has been completed in  accordance with the contract, that all equipment and services are fully operational and that the project is fit for occupation.

Before issuing the notice, the architect will undertake a comprehensive inspection and list any items which require further attention by the builder.

Once the notice of practical completion is issued, you can occupy the building and you must take responsibility for its insurance from the date of that notice.


Under the terms of the contract, the builder remains liable to remedy defects in workmanship and materials which become apparent during the ‘defects liability period’ specified in the contract. The builder is required to rectify such defects during the period and/or at the end of the period as instructed by your architect.

Prior to the completion of the defects liability period, your architect will undertake a ‘final certificate’ inspection and list any unsatisfactory items for the builder’s attention. All items listed must be rectified to your architect’s satisfaction before a final certificate is issued. This gives you protection against faults developing after occupation for the length of the defects liability period (which can be as long as 12 months depending on your requirements).


At the satisfactory completion of any required rectification work, your architect will issue the final certificate. This signifies the successful completion of the defects liability period and formally completes the contract between you and the builder.

It also certifies the release of any security or retention sum which may have been provided by the builder under the terms of the contract.


Even after the defects liability period, many materials, services and specific items will remain under guarantee or warrantywhen such have been provided for within the contract documentation. Your architect will advise you on maintenance contracts which may be necessary for the

on-going operation of machinery and equipment. In entering into such a contract it is essential to ensure that neither the warrantor’s nor the builder’s responsibilities are interfered with or voided.