sustainable architecture - sunshine coast

Frequently Asked Questions

Our services

How do we charge?

We usually quote a fixed lump sum fee for a defined scope of work. This is broken down into stages to suit the project, typically: schematic design, design development, contract documentation and contract administration. Each stage represents an increase in detail as the project progresses from concept to construction.

If the scope of work is not clearly defined we can work on hourly rates either until the scope can be clearly defined or for the whole project, but this is not usual.

Not all projects require all stages and we tailor our fees to suit the specifics of each project.

Can we design to a budget?

Yes. However, as each project is a custom design, we need either the scope or the budget to be flexible; ie. we cannot design to a budget that is unrealistic for the scope (neither can anyone).

To paraphrase Bill Borson, it is important for clients to understand their budgets. The budget can be seen either as an empty bag to cram as much stuff into as possible, or it can be seen as a full bag from which things can be taken out until it is used up.

The first approach means that quality will be sacrificed for quantity. The second approach means that decisions will be based on priorities and the end result will be a nice balance; by far the more enjoyable way to approach the task and achieve the best long-term outcome: a good building that is a good investment.

Will the building cost more to build if an architect designs it?

No. However, it depends what you are comparing it to. We design customised buildings to suit the client's specific goals, the site and the budget. This produces a value-for-money outcome. It is not necessarilly the cheapest way to build a given number of square metres but it is a better way to spend the money. We design with future costs in mind, so operating and maintenance costs over the life of the building are low.

It is unfortunate that often the advertised costs of project homes give an overly optimistic idea of what it costs to design and build something well (and those prices typically have many exclusions, such as floor coverings, deck/patio roofs and realistic site works). We have no desire to compete with that poor-quality unsustainable market. You get what you pay for. (Will a decent coffee made by a skilled barista cost more than one from a vending machine? - yes)

If you have a small budget, build small. If you have a big budget, you don't have to use it all. Just don't build garbage.

What is included in our interior design service?

Interior design encompasses most of what you touch and see on a daily basis within a building - the floor, wall and ceiling finishes, the cabinetry forms, handles, taps, appliances, rails, hooks, mirrors, fixtures, fittings and colours. Interior design is an integral part of a successful finished building. We design buildings to be lived in; the interior design adds the finishing touches to make this seem effortless.

What is the difference between interior design and interior decorating?

Interior design generally considers the fixed or 'hard' items and forms within the building; cabinetry, floors, walls, ceilings, fixtures and fittings. Interior decorating generally considers the 'soft' items - loose furniture, fabrics, 'homewares'. There is some cross-over where, for example, our interior designers may select curtains or loose furniture for large commercial projects. We can do interior decorating if requested but it is not usually part of our scope.

Do we 'draw-up plans'?

No. We design buildings. There is much, much more to a successful holistic building design (to budget) then a 'napkin sketch' of a floor plan. Design considers every aspect of decisions such as form, function, energy-efficiency, cost, structure, light, colour, texture, availability, maintenance, buildability, site constraints, weather protection, durability...the list goes on.

In the past we have accepted requests to 'draw-up' clients' sketches and consistently found that (a) there is no money saved by the client as compared to starting with an holistic approach from the beginning (not just in fees but especially in the construction cost), and (b) when we work through a design with the clients, their true needs and wants are not met by their initial sketch...not to mention that most people sketch HUGE houses that their budgets don't match.

We aim for value-for-money. A building is a big expense by any measure; why would someone not want to have it thought through so they spend their money wisely and have something of value in the end?

Do we know good builders, engineers, certifiers?

Yes. We have several builders, engineers, and certifiers that we work with regularly. We are also open to working with new companies if they can demonstrate quality work and competitive rates; particularly if they have interest and ability in sustainable design (which is inherent in 'quality work').

Design questions

What about resale?

Like every other decision about the project, resale appeal needs to be placed in order of priority. If the project is a block of units or an investment home, obviously resale value and wide appeal is important. If the project is your family home or your business headquarters, resale should be a lower priority. In the latter case, when you have no intention of selling any time soon, 'designing for resale' is a vague second-guessing about what a non-specific third party will agree to pay for the building at, usually, some undetermined future time in unknowable market conditions.

Our advice in this situation is to build what YOU want and need, and nothing else. If you need 2 bedrooms and a study, don't build a 4 bedroom house. If you need an artist's studio, don't build a rumpus room. Who is to say what the future buyer will be looking for?

Unless you are incontinent, you do not need a toilet every five metres. If you would like that many toilets, that is another matter to be prioritised and worked out within the budget.

With the cost of energy, water, and one day soon, carbon, going up all the time, energy-efficient buildings will not be going out of fashion. Designing for minimal ongoing costs is a wise investment.

What is sustainable design?

'Sustainable' means that the rate of consumption and pollution inherent in an activity today will be able to be maintained by future generations while they enjoy the same or better quality of life. Sustainable design responds to this in a multi-facetted way:

  • Design that suits the climate; responding to the climate rather than fighting against it
  • Energy-efficient design; meaning the heating, cooling, lighting and other electrical or fuel-powered processes used in the building are minimised so that energy consumption is kept low. This typically means that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from use of the building are also minimised.
  • Low embodied energy; the amount of energy consumed to extract a resource, transport, refine it, manufacture a product, transport it to site, install it, and maintain it for the life of the building
  • Low ecological impact; respecting wild habitats
  • Non-toxic; in manufacture, for tradespeople, for building occupants and the environment
  • Re-used, recycled, renewable
  • Reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Enduring; durable, low maintenance, timeless as opposed to trendy
  • Adaptable; to future needs, different users, different functions
  • Water-efficient; collecting water and using it effectively in the building
  • Connected; preference for sites that have access to existing infrastructure
What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficient means that the heating, cooling, lighting and other electrical or fuel-powered processes used in the building are minimised so that energy consumption is kept low. This typically means that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from use of the building are also minimised.

The Process

What should I look for in a block of land?
Apart from it being somewhere you like and can afford, here are some things that affect construction costs and design opportunities:

Soil stability and classification

Poor soil means that your footings and foundations will be large, deep and expensive before the building is even out of the ground. It is a good idea to commission a soil test before committing to buy land. Cheap land may mean expensive build cost.


Flat land is generally cheaper to build on than slopes, but may not offer views nor good solar access, so the pros and cons need to be weighed up.

Bushfire zoning

Generally land that is connected to large expanses of bushland will have high bushfire ratings and therefore require provisions such as bushfire screens, laminated or toughened glass, limits on external materials, etc. Also note that fire burns uphill. Check with the local council for a guide to the bushfire zoning. The ultimate bushfire rating is usually determined by a building certifier or specialist consultant.


These are parts of the land that are reserved for others' right of access for such things as sewer lines, power lines, neighbours' access. You cannot usually build within easements so, particularly on odd-shaped blocks, they can make your building area much smaller than you might first think, limiting your options. Easements aren't necessarily a negative as it depends on the particulars.


Passive solar design (using the natural variations of the sun's angle over the year to best advantage) is easiest and least expensive to achieve with northern to north-eastern orientation. This means that blocks that face to the north to north-east will be less expensive to build to a high standard of energy-efficiency than a block facing another direction.

West is the worst direction for large expanses of glass, as the afternoon sun is low in the west all year and hot in summer in most climates.

It is possible to create energy-efficient buildings at virtually any orientation, but it is typically more expensive to do so the closer to west, east and south (in that order) that the block faces.

In terms of build cost, if northern orientation is not possible then southern orientation is next best as the roof can relatively easily be shaped to catch the north light for winter anyway (depending on particulars, of course). It is hard, but not impossible, to keep out low-angle hot western and eastern sun if you also want a view in those directions.


What are the neighbours like? Tall trees, tall buildings, and tall hills can shade the block excessively when you don't want it shaded, such as winter mornings. Excessive uncontrollable shading can mean high heating costs, high lighting costs, mould problems and limit the effectiveness of solar panels or solar hot water systems.

What does it cost to talk to us?

Initial meetings to determine a scope of work and provide a fee proposal are free of charge (within about a 200km radius).

How far afield do we work?

We are currently registered in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. To date we have projects up the east coast from Mullumbimby to Airlie Beach and inland to Quilpie, North and South Burnett, and many places in between. The majority of our work is in north Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Cooloola Coast, and north to Gladstone and Mackay.

We would consider projects in other parts of Australia and have past projects in Tasmania and Western Australia. Generally registering in other states is a formality with a small fee payable to the state's board of architects (by us).

We have also worked overseas in Kiribati, India, China, Tibet, and Canada.

Can we design without visiting the site?

It is possible but not desirable since site-specific design is an important aspect of sustainable design. Just being able to walk on a site answers many questions and makes it possible to design a more responsive, better building. We strongly prefer to visit the site unless there is a compelling reason not to or if the project is very simple and the site far away.

What building contracts do we use?

We usually use the Australian Building Industry Contracts (ABIC) suite of contracts but have also used Australian Standard AS2124-1992. An overview of the ABIC contracts can be found here: It is important to pick a contract that suits the project. Standard contracts are useful because they are tried and tested and fair to all parties.