Your initial brief is your first set of instructions to your architect. It’s the starting point for your project.
It will be a “wish list” of your wants, needs and intangible hopes, often with meaning and significance beyond bricks and mortar.
It should also be a “shopping list”, as all the items on the list will have a cost.
And if you are serious about your project, it also has to have a “priorities list”. When the going gets tough, a simple reminder of your priorities will give you the clarity to make good decisions.
In my experience renovating for myself and working with clients, the hardest part about being a client is knowing your wants, needs, the emotional value you place on aspects of your project, and your financial capacity to pay for it.
So it’s useful to recognise this before you start to put together your initial brief.
Commit your initial brief to paper and ensure that you and your family are in agreement, as much as possible, before engaging an architect and starting the process.
There are a variety of ways to consider and communicate your brief including:
Read on for more.
1 The bigger picture “why” of the project
Start with the questions to ask yourself at the beginning of your project, outlined in 1: Do You Need An Architect (repeated below).
These are the bigger picture questions which frame your initial brief.
It may be that working with your architect will assist in answering some of these questions through the pre-design and design process.
The questions get to the “why” driving your project, its feasibility, your preparedness to undertake the project and the type of service you will need from your architect.
2 the accommodation schedule of your functional requirements
The more functional description of the brief a the list of requirements that clients usually have no trouble with.
Consider this as a numeric list of functions. It does not need to be a list of instructions on HOW and WHERE these items are to go, unless you have a fixed idea that is driving the project.
An accommodation schedule approach to a brief is useful and clear to understand. For example:
3 the character and feel of the home
Don’t be shy here, your architect needs to know what you like and what you don’t.
Photos are great ways explore and communicate character and feel, so a collection of images from HOUZZ or PINTEREST or a magazine is useful, as a mood board, rather than literal design instructions.
If you are doing an alteration and addition to an existing home, its also useful to consider that its going to be more realistic to work with the best features of your existing home than aspire to a vision of something so completely different, its going to be best to start building from new.
4 any other circumstances particular to your site or situation – may relate to timing, history of the site / approvals
5 your hopes and expectations throughout the project – this will be based on your personal expectations and past experiences
6 your concerns, problems or uncertainties – again based on your personal approach
The final two parts of a successful brief to start of a successful project are:
7 the overall total project spend that you can afford (this will be your reality check)
If you can’t be honest or clear about this at the beginning of your project, with yourselves and your architect, then your project won’t progress smoothly.
Clients are often reluctant to declare a figure to their architect and confess they don’t know what their “budget” is. Fair enough. As an architect at the start of a job, I also don’t know how what the project budget should or will be either. There are so many variables to residential work that it’s impossible to estimate straight off. Whatever the budget guesstimate at the engagement of the project, its not going to be accurate.
What’s more useful though is to start the other way around and consider how much you can spend on the renovations. Most clients have a measure of their financial capacity – be it savings, cashing in an investment, re-draw or refinancing a mortgage or a construction loan.
When I renovated my first home, I knew I had $490K. No more. I cut my cloth to suit the budget. I spent more on my home in the later years after, but completed what was essential to be done first.
Stating a dollar figure crystallises your thoughts and guides your decisions.
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promised and hopes…”
8 your priorities list
Your “priorities list” is one of the secrets to a successful project.
It should be short. One, two or three items or reasons why you are renovating/building. Know this and again, your decisions will be easier and your project will run more smoothly.
For my home, the priorities were:
The above was not my complete brief, but it was the absolute essential, and everything else was secondary.
If you consider all the above as your brief, then your project will have good foundations.
Armed with the above self knowledge, next step is to find the your architect.
3 Your Architect – A Good Match: How to find the right architectClient Advice