Saturday, 28 May 2011

Return to tender

We are getting strong enquiries from builders looking for projects right now which is telling of the current market.  When builders are actively looking for work it means they are keen and competitive - a perfect time to put your project out to tender.  One of the advantages of using an architect is that you can send your working drawings out to a number of different builders and get alternative prices for your house or renovation.

With oil and gas projects coming online over the next 24 months, it is unclear how build prices will be affected by trades disappearing up north, but it seems there is a window right now where you can get things built in a normal competitive environment.

Tendering can take on a few different forms -
1. advertising in the paper to all builders and then creating a shortlist,
2. calling for registrations of interests from a large group and then refining the list, or
3. inviting a small group of known builders to tender.

You can make the tender process open, where the tenders are opened in front of all the tenderers on the tender date, or closed, where tenders are assessed by your architect and then a recommendation put forward for a preferred tenderer.

Another way to approach the pricing of your project is to work with one selected builder in an 'open book' scenario where their builder's margin is known and all their trade prices are out on the table for discussion and refinement, prior to signing a contract.

Your architect can help you with all of these processes to help get you the best possible value for money in your building project.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Random Quotes

Architecture as an idea is a little bit like writing as an idea: There are writers that are journalists, there are writers that write business letters, there are writers that write fiction,and there are writers that write great works of literature.

Architecture is probably the one kind of creative form that most people don't understand, because they are around it all the time they kind of think that they get it.
Its creative component works at a more profound level and is a little less detectable.
I like to think of it like the the soundtrack in a movie.
The soundtrack controls the way you feel about the movie although you are never quite paying attention to it. You are always giving credit to the actor or the cinematographer; but It is really the music in the background that tells you how to feel.
That is what architecture at its best can do.

Conrad Newel

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


There is an apparent trend in Perth at the moment towards renovation in lieu of detonation.  Some market uncertainty, increased builder availability, and a softening of real estate growth has encouraged a move toward the upgrade.  Renovations can have many positive benefits.  Depending on the age and layout of the existing house, it is possible to gain a richness in design and feel by living in a house that incorporates the old and the new.  It is a more energy-conscious approach by recycling the already embodied energy of the existing structure. 
It is also surprising in some cases the amount of improved functionality that can be gained, from even minor changes in spatial planning. 'Front end' design  investigation into different concept options can quickly determine the pros and cons of renovating a particular property.  A classic example of where paying for good design up front can result in huge rewards.

Perth Foreshore

My initial reaction to the new Perth foreshore proposal was a cautious one.  The way computer graphics are used in architectural presentation is powerful and it is interesting that the main sell of this proposal is through beautiful computer renderings.  These projects will morph a thousand times before getting to what is actually built.  And even if what is built looks exactly like what they are presenting, the actual 'feel' of it will not have the ambience and magic they are able to convey with computer graphics.  I have confidence in Perth architects but not always in the financially driven, fast tracked, cost cutting financing and procurement process.  It is mind boggling that such a complex, and long process of logistics, commercial reality, buildability, and the like can be all wrapped into a neat little computer rendering and be ticked off and sent out to the market to be produced like wrapping a christmas present. 

I would like to see some more meaningful functional relationship diagrams, showing how this sideshow relates to the city itself, which I feel is getting sidelined in favour of the beautiful Swan River. 

Ceiling Heights

“I put my hands up in the air sometimes, Saying AYO
Gotta let go”  - Taio Cruz

But sometimes ….they hit the flushed plasterboard ceiling at 2.4 metres above the floor, (or even the ceiling fan!).  That’s because when I looked at the floor plan of my house it seemed expansive, it has so many rooms and I got a  lot of bang for my buck, but I never thought too much about the ceiling height.

Plainly speaking, we feel better when living in houses with tall ceilings.

There a laws in Australia that say ceilings cannot be built below 2.4m (8 feet) and unfortunately the price driven home buyers market has dropped to this level as standard.  Now we talk about 2.7 or 3m ceilings as a bonus - wow! high ceilings, when in fact these heights are only high relative to the legal minimum,  beyond which the house becomes socially oppressive and hence the law.

This downward height creep is being exacerbated by our increase in housing density and our local planning laws.  As blocks get smaller, the need for internal spaces to be more generous in the vertical dimension increases.  Planning laws, more focused on the external factors such as overshadowing, are heading the other way and reducing overall height limits, which starts to force us right down to the oppressive minimum ceiling heights.

The legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright often incorporated low ceilings in his ‘Prairie’ style houses. It was not uncommon in these houses to have very low ceiling heights (around 2.1m high) expressed roof beams and floor-to-ceiling glass, yet room sizes were often wide to compensate. This was a clever device used to accentuate the horizontal and connect the inside to the outside. There is nothing wrong with this if you use a very talented architect and have good land size and expansive outdoor areas. Most often in suburbia, we don’t.

This is a call to local councillors, planning consultants and home buyers to consider the long term health and happiness benefits to the whole community of living in spaces that make us feel better by virtue of high ceilings.   Perhaps part of the attraction with older style house and the way they ‘feel’ to be in, is attributed to 10, 11, 12 foot ceilings.  Is it right to make these heights illegal? Let's go up a bit.