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Understanding the Design and Construction Process

When you are considering a building project, whether a new build or an alteration, one of the most important things you can do is to develop a good understanding of the process. A building project is a major investment, and learning more about the process can make it a lot less daunting. Additionally, a sound understanding of the design and construction process will make your building project more enjoyable, and will ultimately result in better outcomes for you from both a budget and design quality perspective.

This article will outline the stages of a typical building project and help you understand what to expect as you progress through each stage.

Initial Meeting

The first step before we begin the design process is to meet with you and understand what you would like to achieve.At this stage we want to listen to any ideas that you have, get to know you and the way that you live, or in the case of a commercial project, the way that the space will be used.We’ll also talk about your budget and timeline and make sure that you understand the rest of the process.We’ll then prepare a proposal for you outlining the brief as we understand it, the services we’ve discussed and an estimate of our fees.

Project Establishment

Project Establishment is like finding all the edge pieces when you do a puzzle - it frames the project and sets the scene for successful design.

After the initial meeting with you to understand your project brief, we will begin gathering information about the site, further clarify the brief as necessary, and identify any additional consultants that may be required for your project.This stage may include obtaining information from the local council, additional meetings with you, site visits, site surveys and other technical reports. If there is an existing dwelling or structure we might need to measure this and prepare a CAD model.

Concept Design

Our creative response to your brief.

With all the relevant information in hand we will create a concept design or designs as an initial creative response to your brief. Our considerations include the scope of your brief, your budget, and the features and constraints of the site.This is a ‘first-cut’ exploration of the possibilities, designed to provoke plenty of further discussion. It may include several options, including or excluding certain elements and features, or allowing parts of the project to be staged over a period of time.This is also when we collectively begin the process of reconciling your aspirations and your budget.The concept design(s) will be presented to you as drawings, floor plan and perspective sketches, and/or computer renderings.

Preliminary Design

Incorporating your feedback to the concept design.

After meeting with you to present the concept design(s), we use your feedback to further refine the design.At this stage we also generate sufficient detail for a quantity surveyor to provide a preliminary cost estimate. This is an opportunity to consider together the brief, the design, and the cost estimate and to make any adjustments required to bring them into alignment.

These first three stages together can be considered a feasibility study as they provide sufficient detail to understand if and how your ambitions for the project can be achieved within the desired budget.

Developed Design

Advancing your design and selecting materials.

Once you have a design concept you would like to proceed with, PAUA will work with you to develop the design and, if necessary, apply for resource consent on your behalf.In this stage we resolve design and structural issues and make decisions on materials and finishes. By the end of this stage you should have a clear picture of how the building will look and how the environment will feel.

Detailed Design and Documentation

Documenting your project design ready for construction.

The next step is to document exactly how your project is to be constructed.From the Developed Design we produce all detailed drawings needed to build your project. We also produce written specifications and schedules.This documentation will be used:

  • to apply for building consent
  • by tenderers to prepare competitive pricing (so that you can compare like with like)
  • for the construction of your project

Contractor Procurement

Find the right builder and a competitive price.

PAUA can manage the process of finding a contractor to build your project, supplying the relevant information, ensuring that quotes are consistent with the documentation and undertaking negotiations on your behalf.We always recommend projects be tendered out, competitive pricing can often save you the equivalent of our entire fee.

Contract Administration and Observation

Overseeing the construction of your project.

After we’ve helped you reach an agreement with a contractor to build your project and established a construction contract, PAUA will make sure the work is carried out in accordance with the design and instructions we have all agreed.We will answer the contractor’s queries, make regular site inspections and review the contractor’s payment claims.By this stage in the process we have an intimate understanding of your project and the reasons behind each of the design decisions that have been made. We can help your contractor understand the importance of the decisions that have been made, and ensure that your project is completed both to a high standard and in a timely manner.

Practical Completion


This is the exciting moment when your project is complete and you can enjoy the space.

We will certify the project’s practical completion. We (and you) then have the opportunity over a specified period of time to check the workmanship is up to standard and to require the contractor to make good any defective work.

If you still have questions about the architectural process, or you'd like to discuss a specific project idea, please give us a call 07 839 6521 or email


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