WHAT DOES IT COST TO BUILD?...how long is a piece of string?




The cost of building is a mystery to the uninitiated and usually a shock when the estimate comes in so its worth examining what the costs are and why it costs what it does.


First off the highest cost in building is labour, and it is not unreasonable as living costs are high for everyone.  Many of my clients have cited the building costs they hear mentioned on the UK TV show ‘Grand Designs’ and wonder why it costs so much more in Australia. Anecdotally I understand that a lot of labour comes in from Eastern Europe and charges very low rates, but I stand to be corrected on that one. Also in NSW we are in a building boom and with the proposed major building and infrastructure projects it is predicted to last at least another decade.


Approval Processes

The stages of the project are: Concepts, Development Application, Construction Certificate and Construction Documentation- then construction.

The DA and CC applications require numerous documents to be prepared by consultants, from Surveys, BASIX, Statements of Environmental Effects to Fire Risk Assessments and so on. Depending upon the conditions of the site there are a variety of reports that required and this takes time, therefore money. You can find the DA and CC check list on your council website.

In addition council may request changes to be made to a design so as to achieve approval. A colleague of mine has had to make a total of 10 changes to a residential DA design…and still as yet to receive DA approval. So DA approval can take time and cost significantly more than originally estimated.


Construction Costs

Depending upon supply and demand subcontractors costs can vary.

Due to a high demand for services bricklayers are currently charging $70 per hour, so its worth looking at whether the design can be realised without bricks. This is an example of looking at the detail of the design and identifying costs.

If your site is surrounded by leafy bushland it may be a stunning location however this may be assessed as being a BAL 40 or ‘Flame Zone’. If that’s the case you need to add costs for fire protection which can add 10-15% to the construction cost.

If you are looking around to buy a block of land it is advisable to check with Council what fire zone it is identified to be. A Fire Consultant will be able to give you a more detailed opinion, the site in question may have a range of zones so the siting of the proposed dwelling can make a difference to the fire protection required.


If your site requires extensive excavation this can add a considerable cost, this is due to not only the work of excavating but also the tipping fees for the rubble removed from site. Again it is worth seeking an opinion of cost in the preliminary design stage if this is a deal breaker on a project.


Over the years I have had clients consider staging their projects. There are pros and cons so needs serious consideration.

The main con is that it significantly increases the cost of the overall project.

The builder has set up costs for each stage so these costs are duplicated, and depending upon the time between stages building costs can inflate. Plus there is a scale of economy with a project, so the smaller the scope the higher the cost.

On the plus side staging allows you to work to a masterplan that is coordinated, avoiding the danger of haphazard work which can impact on the future enjoyment, function and value of the property.

Vacating the Property

Depending upon the project it is likely that most sites need to be vacant for the builder to undertake the work unimpeded by the resident. So this requires you to include alternate accommodation costs in your build budget, if the project is an alteration and/or addition. And don’t forget your pets as they may impact on the type of temporary accommodation you can find. You may need to allow many months depending upon the project, so do budget for the existing property costs, progress payments to the builder, possible storage costs for your furniture and possessions, and rent for your temporary accommodation. And if you are staging the works you need to consider a repeat of renting if vacant possession is again required by the builder.

When embarking on a building project it is strongly recommended you:

·         are realistic about your budget and advise your architect at the initial stage of the project

·         consider the scope of your brief, what do you really need as opposed to what you think you might want

·         allow for the time it takes from engaging your architect to occupying the property

·         working with a good builder from the start of the project and ask them to provide an opinion of cost to keep the design on track.

If you would like to have a chat about your proposed project please feel free to call my office on 1300 880 576 or 0412 228 683 .


RIMG0294.JPG Exeter under construction
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The heat is on!


5 ideas to enhance the enjoyment of your home’s outdoor area

Connect the Living Space to the Garden with Glass Bi-fold /Stacking Doors

One of the most effective ways of enhancing your enjoyment of the garden area is to connect the main living area by installing glazed stacking doors.

This allows for casual living to spread out to the garden area and for ease of visual and aural supervision of the kids playing outside.

Have a look at:





If you are lucky enough to have a garden the most important item to enhance your enjoyment is to have shade to relax under. Pergolas can be attached to the house or free standing in the garden. Have shade allows you to create an outdoor room with either a passive lounging space, dining area or an outdoor kitchen.

A wonderful design alternative is the Vergola which has operable blades that can create an all weather space. They are more expensive than a traditional wooden pergola however the flexibility they create is well worth the investment if you enjoy entertaining or have a young family that would benefit from having access to all year round outdoor play space.


Outdoor Kitchen

Cooking outdoors has come a long way since dad used to throw a metal plate on a few bricks and douse the firewood with petrol from the mower.

Outdoor kitchens are now incredibly sophisticated and offer options such as gas/ electric grilles, bar fridges, wine chillers, pizza ovens, teppanyaki grilles and sinks to wash up.

They allow for the cook to be at the center of the gathering rather than being back in the kitchen and to allow for storage, cooking and cleaning to all happen in the one location.

More information can be found at:





Plunge Pools

With the growing energy and water bills and more compact urban living there has been a surge in interest in installing plunge pools. They allow for a sanctuary to cool down on supper hot days without having to battle traffic and parking which goes with the trip to the beach.

Alternative sanitation treatment solutions are salt chlorination, mineral or fresh water Saltwater is better for your skin with low levels of chemicals and the benefit of low maintenance and ongoing costs.

Freshwater are easy to maintain, low running costs and the freshwater prolongs the life of all the equipment and finishes.

Mineral pools are less salty than traditional pools and are increasing in popularity due to the lower salinity.

The is even the option to use a concrete water tank as a small budget pool with style.





Vegi Garden

Starting you own vegi garden has the benefit of having a ready supply of super fresh vegies and the mind body benefits of working in the garden

The move to establishing a home vegie garden is huge, from simple herb gardens to growing fresh greens, tomatoes and vine produce.

Raised garden beds make accessibility easy and are a great device to define ‘outdoor rooms’ in your garden.

Also growing in popularity, particularly in the inner city suburbs are keeping chickens and even beekeeping.

Vertical Garden Wall

Got an ugly boundary wall? A great camouflage is the Vertical Garden.

There are a number of proprietary systems on the market now that make creating a vertical garden easy and instant.

A green wall can assist in cooling the garden area as it reduces the radiant heat from a bare masonry wall and of course contributes to improving the air quality intermediate area.

Have a look at:




All images sourced from Pinterest. Please advise if you wish credit for your image to be noted.

Bar Design- finding a port in a storm

Gowings Bar display

On a cold wet rainy Friday night we were out bar hopping in the CBD and came across a wonderful bolthole in the storm, that being the fab Gowings Bar and Grill.

But what makes a bar special and so special that its worth writing about? Well a few descriptors come to mind: originality, individual character, the right lighting, styling with objects of interest that inspire conversations, eclecticism and on a more practical level comfortable furniture and a space where patrons can talk quietly.

Gowings Bar and Grill has nailed all of the above. The space planning works well with the dining and bar space spread over two levels, and having the option of taking your drinks to the foyer if you want to have a quiet tipple. The materials palette is a mix of retro and contemporary materials that speak to both the original fabric of the Gowings Building and the new function of the space.

The design and detailing give this bar a vibe like no other in Sydney, it feels as if we have fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in Berlin during the interwar years of the Weinmar Republic although firmly rooted in today. Steel framing, steel wire glass, and the art installation by Swedish artist Michael Johannsen which incorporates recycled suitcases, doors, mirrors, drawers, books and machinery all combine to give this space a warmth, complexity and style that truly invites the patrons back.

If you haven't as yet ventured up to Level 1 of the Gowings Building I sincerely recommend popping up there for a toot or two.


Architects Nic Graham + Associates (bar and grill)  |  Indyk Architects (hotel)

Find out more at: https://www.qthotelsandresorts.com/sydney-cbd/eat-drink/gowings-bar-grill/

Gowings Bar styling
Gowings Bar glass screen
Gowings Foyer installation
Gowings Bar quite corner
Bon ami