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  • Writer's pictureRita Slompo


"If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design."

Dr. Ralf Speth, Jaguar CEO, was the one who said the sentence above. Unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes that someone who’s thinking about building or renovating can make is price design as a measurable matter.

Have you really thought about what is involved and how to compare services when you are hiring a designer?

First of all, comparing ‘apples with apples’ can be quite a challenging task when talking about building design. Initially, because you have to make sure that all design professionals are quoting the same services, and this may include a number of hand sketches, 3D models, renderings, a number of sections and details, council approvals, consultants, site visits, client meetings, etc. Second, because thequalityof a design may be related with the amount of time, money and dedication that each professional donates to keep up to date with courses, study and research. Third, experience counts, very much! Finally, nothing substitutescreativetalent, and you have to make sure that you identify yourself with that designer’s style and taste.  Also a good designer will be able to design to your taste not just their own.

Thinking about the final cost of a house, for example, the design fees usually vary from 4 to 8% of construction cost. Too much?  No, and I’ll explain why.  If you were building an $800,000 house, the design would cost between 32K and 64K. This includes not only the (many) hours that the designer will dedicate to your project from meetings to time spent hand sketching or 3D modelling and detailing, but also all the time spent studying, researching, his/her experience (this is so valuable!), and creativity. These are ways of making sure that not only common mistakes that can cost a lot are avoided, but also that every dollar invested on that building will construct a space with quality, style, healthy, beautiful, functional, adequate to your needs, attending to the local regulations, and a UNIQUE HOME DESIGN.

If you were having to get surgery, would you look for an average doctor with an ordinary reputation, or would you look for someone in who you would trust completely, highly referred, even if this doctor would cost you a couple of extra thousand dollars? I’m sure no one wants to put their health at risk for that. So why do some people think that ‘saving’ 10% on the design costs is going to lead to a better result in the end?  Definitely not!  The old saying rings true “you get what you pay for”.  Building a house is often the biggest expense of your life, you can choose a mediocre designer or a really good designer.  It’s like building on bad footings, it’s all about preparation.

The costs of a bad design can go much further than living in a room that is too small, too large, or almost impossible to furnish. Changes happening during the building process are very expensive and stressful, and can cost far more if you have to make them after you have already moved in. Renovations can become a disaster if not well planned. Usually, these extra expenses triggered by a bad design are MUCH MORE expensive than the fees of that good building designer / architect you rejected due to price in the beginning of the process…

Furthermore, design plays a direct role on human health, both physically and psychologically. A space with the poor orientation and wrong openings can become too cold, too hot, too dark, have bad ventilation, etc. These issues are not only directly related to several health problems, but are also commonly the cause of extra costs with electricity in the long term through the excessive use of artificial lighting, air conditioning, artificial ventilation, and heating.

Under a psychological point of view, design can strongly influence human performance and behaviour. The position of a working bench in the kitchen or in the home office, for example, can trigger stress response from the most primitive part of our brain, the limbic system. Why? Because our survival instincts are very active and still work on a pretty primitive mode. This means that if your working bench is located in a way that your back will be facing the entry door, for example, you are more likely to not be able to relax, as your brain will keep you alert, in case something attacks you from behind.

A very low ceiling or a specific colour can cause a negative response for some and positive for others. Here is the importance of assessing each client individually, creating a personalised, quality and unique design for each one.

If you are not convinced yet, just think that a bad design costs a minimum of three times more than a good one. The first time is paying for building it. The second (and worst, in my opinion), is living in a space without quality - who wants to do that? Finally, if you can’t stand living in that space anymore, you have to pay again for renovating it. The consequences of a bad design are not related to just the building time, but they extend through all the use of that building, that means that you still paying the price for many, many years.

Most of all, it is important is to remember that all of our life is lived somewhere (preferably on the Gold Coast :). There’s no story without a scenario, every experience has a background, and every memory comes with a setting picture. We develop attachments to places and signify them, this is part of the human nature. Think about the importance of living in a healthy, beautiful, pleasant and special home that you love being in. Now, think again about the price of that good building designer… I’m sure you’ll see it with new eyes!

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