behind the scenes of a successful architectural project

renovated home

The photos of this renovated home in Manly – designed and overseen by architect Justine Money of Noho Architecture – show living spaces with abundant natural light flowing to landscaped gardens and courtyards, but they don’t convey all of the invisible considerations and constraints that informed and shaped the design and delivery of this project.

job of the architect

“The job of the architect is to make the process seem easy and straightforward for the client,” Architect Justine Money says. “On this project we brought Solar Passive Design principles into play to introduce natural light deep into the single-fronted semi-detached cottage, and improve comfort and energy performance; we worked within the constraints of the heritage precinct; we created a self-contained AirBNB rental for extra income; we helped our clients select natural, low toxic and industrial materials – in keeping with their wishes; and we worked our way through the approval and council processes before helping them select a suitable builder.

architect delivering a project

“There is a lot of complexity involved in delivering a project to this standard, but you can’t see all of that effort and underlying thinking in the project images,” Justine says. “My clients appreciate that there are many elements that need to be carefully orchestrated – in accordance with their brief and budget – even though they might not be clear about how to achieve their desired final result.

“The value of engaging an architect is that we can juggle all of those different and sometimes competing interests, to produce a beautiful result that our clients will love living in.”

architect many ideas and suggestions

That’s certainly been the case for the couple of commissioned this house, Bilal Bordie and his partner Aimee Farigray, who welcomed their first baby around the time they moved back into their newly renovated home.

Bilal thought he had an accurate sense of the property’s potential, but says that Justine brought many ideas and suggestions to the process that he hadn’t considered, and the final result was all richer and more satisfying, thanks to her knowledge and expertise.

architect helped me choose

“I bought a property with a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to do with it, but Justine improved on this and made the final product look ten times better than I ever imagined,” Bilal says. “She was there with ideas and examples every step of the way to guide me and the builder – who she helped me to choose – right to the end. If I ever do another house, Justine will definitely be the first person I call.”

architect residential project

Justine concedes that it can sometimes be difficult to communicate to clients all of the considerations, constraints and potentialities that come into play during a residential project, which typically takes two years from initial consultation to handover. She breaks the process down into five key stages, to make it more manageable, as follows:

  1. Sketch design, where she works closely with clients to understand their brief, lifestyles of individuals and the family, preferences around materials, and desired outcomes.
  2. Design Development, when the plans are agreed upon and submitted to the approval authority. During this phase, Justine directs clients to engage the right consultants, on matters such as energy efficiency, heritage, acoustics etc.
  3. Construction documentation follows approval, and involves the input of a structural engineer to incorporate structural detailing. Materials are selected and integrated into the drawings, which are cross-referenced against detailed construction specification and schedules which include everything in the build, right down to toilet roll holders!
  4. Contractor selection: many clients and architects tender or appoint a builder at this stage, but Justine prefers to bring in a pre-vetted builder to her projects before the DA is lodged. The builder reviews the design before DA to ensure an economical construction process.
  5. Contract administration, when the Noho team administer the contract between the client and builder, acting as the client’s independent expert during the construction process.

Finally, keys are handed over, clients move in, and Justine is on hand to help iron out any defects. Only after this point do the photographs capture the visible and obvious parts of what is usually a highly complex journey.

architect construction drawings

“I sometimes find it difficult to explain all of the moving parts that are involved to clients, because there are so many aspects that we naturally consider during these various stages,” Justine says.

“Some clients like to be super-involved with every decision and challenge, others prefer to let me take the lead and only get involved to make big-picture decisions. Either scenario is fine with me; both require a degree of trust, which is why it’s so important to establish a warm rapport and great communications from the outset.

“I often find that – regardless of how involved my clients have been – it’s not until they are actually onsite during the build phase that they realise how all those moving parts come together to form a unified whole,” she explains. “The penny drops, and they say to me: “Right! We understand what you were talking about now!”

joinery by architect

In a way, she says, the process of working with an architect is like finding a trusted guide to steer clients through what is probably the most expensive investment they’ll ever make; one that has the potential to be stressful and challenging for all parties involved.

“We are there to hold our clients’ hands through every stage of the process,” Justine says. “Whatever happens during the course of the design and build, there is no problem that will arise – hitting unexpected sandstone in excavation, dealing with objections from neighbours, a missed supplier delivery that holds up construction – that we haven’t dealt with before.

designed bathroom

“There is nothing in the entire process that can’t be overcome if you are working with a talented and experienced architect – who cultivates a successful network of other building professionals – to deliver the project.”

If you’d like to find out whether Justine’s guidance and expertise is a good fit for your residential project, please call her on 0412 564 418 or email justine@noho.com.au, or book into an upcoming webinar.

biophilic design