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Frequently Asked Questions


Building your dream home is a huge decision, and often comes with a lot of unknowns. Here are some of the more common questions that are asked by those wanting to build their dream homes.

  • What type of projects do PdD Building Design do?
    At PdD Building Design we cover a wide range of different services. Our main focus is sustainable residential design You can go to here for more information.
  • What is the process for obtaining DA approval?
    The process for obtaining a development approval is quite simple when you know how! Our first step is to undertake preliminary investigations into your design idea, to see if it will be permissible under the planning legislation. This can encompass a wide variety of investigations, for example town planning codes such as LEP and DCPs, bushfire mapping, flood mapping and such like. Some times we can advise you that a project may not need development approval, or there maybe an alternative pathway such as Complying Development, but on the South Coast we find that more often than not we need a DA. Once we have advised you on what is achievable on your block then we would undertake the concept design stage. We work with you, your budget and dreams, to create a concept of the design. We then advise you to get this costed by some builders. Once you are happy with the costings we turn the concept plan into working drawings, we fill in all your DA forms, coordinate any additional consultants you may need and we lodge the DA on your behalf. We respond to the council queries until you have DA approval. PdD Building Design is both an Accredited Building Designer and qualified town planners, so we can manage in house the process from inception to DA approval.
  • What is an Accredited Building Designer?
    In 2019 a piece of legislation was passed by the NSW government, the Design & Building Practitioners Bill. This will require all building designer and architects to be registered or accredited. As of July 1st 2021 it will apply to class 2 buildings, and then it will gradually be rolled out to all classes of building. This legislation is designed to protect consumers from badly designed buildings. Currently anyone can hang up their shingle and call themselves a draftsman or building designer, but if they are not accredited then their skills and ability are in question. Accreditation ensures building designers meet professional standards required by the design industry. We recommend that you only ever engage an Accredited Building Designer or Registered Architect to produce floor plans or building designs for your project. At PdD Building Design we are accredited with the BDAA, and as part of that we have to have a specific level of university education, a set amount of experience and also we have to provide evidence of our CPD (continuing professional development) each year. Our education, training and experience far exceed the minimum requirements. Paul Dolphin holds more degrees and masters than is required to be a fully Registered Architect. We believe accreditation is essential for protecting you the customer and ensuring you get a safe, sound well designed building.
  • What is the difference between an architect, draftsman and building designer?
    A lot of clients want to know the difference between an architect, draftsman and building designer. What is it that PdD Buildin Design does that is different to a draftsman or an architect. Well- here is our take on it. What is a draftsman? A draftsman or draughtsman is predominantly untrained and normally without university degrees, or accreditation. The Design and Building Practitioners Bill, will require all professionals creating DA drawings to be either a Registered Architect or an Accredited Building Designer. The role of standalone draftsman will be eliminated over time as the legislation seeks to improve the skills and qualifications of design practitioners to protect you the client from bad design or even dangerous design. What is a building designer? A building designer sits in the middle ground between a draftsman and an architect. 95% of all DA submissions in Australia are done by building designers, the other 5% are done by architects, surveyors and engineers. This give a really good indication of how large, and significant the role of building designer is in Australia. A Registered Building Designer is accredited by the BDAA to a professional standard, just like a lawyer, dentist or doctor. The team at PdD Building Design have degree qualifications and are Accredited Building Designers with the Building Designers Association of Australia. A building designer can have just as many degrees as an architect and just as much experience in design. Paul Dolphin hasmore degrees than an average architect, and Kiri Wirght has a degree in architecture. Together our team has 8 degrees between us and dozens of other qualifications and training. Not to mention decades of experience in design and the built environment. As building designers we place a value on the clients needs, the style the client wants, the budget and sustainability. We also include joy, beauty and good design in the building designs, but these do not come at the expense of the budget or the clients wishes. Remember too- architects are more expensive- therefore they need to do less jobs each year than building designers to make a living, thus the building designer see more designs, more planning issues, and generally gains much more experience every year than an architect does. What is an architect? An architect has completed a tertiary qualification in architecture and has studied under an architect and completed the architects entry test. This allows them to trade as a Registered Architect. The skills set of an architect can be very similar to that of a building designer but in our experience the philosophy can be different. For much of history the architect was the only practitioner in this space, today building designers offer very similar services at a much more competitive price. Follow the link for more details of the Australian institution of Architects. What is the difference between a building designer and an architect? An architect is often trained to be an artist, so may choose to put art and design before other considerations. A building designer on the other hand is more of an artisan. So, for example if you wanted a sculpture in your garden you may commission an artist- he would work in his style and give you the end product. If you had a good idea of what you wanted, the style and materials you wanted you may go to an artisan metal worker to work with you to produce what you desire. That is the difference between an architect and a building designer- we work with you to design what you want, we use all our skills, qualifications and experience to help create your dream design. PdD Building Design's point of difference is we use our knowledge of sustainable design to help you achieve your building design with as much eco friendly design as we can include. So do you choose an architect, draftsman or building designer? Well - we would advise you to come to us obviously!!! But to give serious advice- choose an architect if you have a very large budget for example over $2 million and you want to commission a piece of art to live in. Also consider an architect for very complex commercial or high rise multi residential projects. Do not use a draftsman for anything other than the most basic work, such as approval for a shed. Using a building designer or architect trained in good design will be much more valuable and remember over time the role of draftsman is being phased out. If you want an affordable house design with a good eco friendly floor plan which comes in on budget, suits your needs and gets development approval easily- then choose a building designer- get in touch!!
  • How much does it cost to extend a house?
    Ok.. where is that old proverbial piece of string… Estimating a project price is challenging and is always specific to the design. A square meter rate can be hard to apply to a renovation or addition, but a good starting point for our region would be $2000-$3000 a sqm. Our philosophy is to design cost effective simple designs that consider practical and sustainable solutions. We aim to design to your budget and we advise that once the concept stage is complete, that you get the projected fully estimated before Development Approval.
  • How much does a new build cost?
    We work closely with our clients to achieve as much a possible within their budget. On the South Coast in 2021, the average square meter rate was between $1,800 to $2,500 a sqm. However, in 2023 between the bushfires, a pandemic and inflation, it has become challenging to estimate accurately. Generally, the square meter rate is now around $2500 to $3000 per square meter. This is a good starting point when considering what to include in a floor plan and what you will be able to budget for. There are lots of factors that can vary this such as bushfire compliance or earthworks required on a sloping block. It is also important to remember the scale of the project will affect the average square meter rate. A 100sqm house with 2 bathrooms a kitchen and laundry will have a higher square meter rate than a 300sqm house with 2 bathrooms a kitchen and laundry, as the expensive items are amortised over the smaller floor area. In some cases, there are external costs to consider for instance, if you are on a rural block you may need large water tanks, tree clearing, septic systems etc.
  • What is ABSA and star ratings?
    In NSW a BASIX certificate is required for residential new builds and some renovations. The BASIX covers the environmental performance of the building. You can go one step further and get a NatHERS assessment. This gives the house a star rating. The more thermally efficient a house, the higher the star rating. This will result in lower energy bills. The star rating is from 1 to 10 A 0-star rating means the building does almost nothing to reduce the discomfort of hot or cold weather. A 6-star rating is the minimum standard in most states and territories. It indicates good, but not outstanding, thermal performance. A 10-star rated home may not need any artificial cooling or heating to keep you comfortable. We design sustainable homes and buildings as standard practice. We consider energy efficiency at every stage of the build. It is not always necessary to obtain a star rating however it could help to increase the value of your house if you are looking to sell in the future. There is evidence from inside Australia and world wide to show that houses that score higher on energy ratings schemes can have a higher resale value. ABSA is the leading organisation for accrediting energy assessors who provide the NatHERS assessment. They recently merged with the Building Designers Association of Australia which is great news for us and great news for environmentally friendly building design.
  • Moving to the south coast?
    If you are moving to the south coast for a treechange, sea change, to retire or grow your young family then well done!! Everyone who works at PdD Building Design has done the same and we love it here!! It is a beautiful part of the country and there are lots of great organisations and activities. We like Sage as a great organic gardening group. Here is our local newspaper. If you are looking for a block of land please feel free to give us a call before you purchase. We are happy to give you free advice and have a quick look at the zoning restrictions on your dream block. Your real estate agent or conveyancer may not know the full town planning issues of your block and we have had cases of people nearly buying a block that had a very big constraint on it. Normally the main issue is bushfire mapping. It is a complicated subject and site specific. Other issues can include biodiversity mapping and flood mapping, as well as specific zoning requirements. Feel free to contact us!
  • How do you calculate fees?
    Our fees are based on a percentage of the project budget. The fees will vary depending on the complexity of the project, the type of work, i.e. new build, addition, commercial and whether there are any constraints, for example bushfire, biodiversity or heritage planning. We give you a bracketed estimate and then we will deliver the work within that price range, as long as the scope of works is not changed by yourselves. What does this fee include? Please contact us by phone or email and we can send out an example scope of works that details all the steps required to obtain Development Approval for a building design.
  • Why has Paul Dolphin Designs rebranded to PdD Building Design?
    Paul Dolphin Designs has rebranded to become PdD Building Design. We have dropped Pauls name from the title of the business because we are a multidisciplinary team of designers and it is not just about Paul’s skill set. Kiri, has a Batchelor of Architecture and is an incredibly skilled and experienced design professional. Olivia worked for a huge landscape architecture firm in Sydney/Wollongong and Susanna worked for the Conservation Council and lived in an off grid eco house for many years. As they say, two heads are better than one, and we have four highly trained, educated and experienced building designers. We work collaboratively to solve building design and architectural problems and have a great portfolio of completed buildings.
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