An Architect with an interest in educating Owner Builders - Owner Builder Club

An Architect with an interest in educating Owner Builders

Sustainable building

In this Q&A we talk with Melbourne based Architect, Pete Collings. Pete’s tagline is ‘Spaces creatively imagined for you and the planet they inhabit’. We think that perfectly sums up Pete’s approach and perspective on building.

Let’s start with the basics. What are the key differences between a draftsperson and architect?

It’s like buying a suit from Target versus a tailor. They’re at different ends of the price spectrum. An Architect typically gets more involved in a project and it’s a much more customised approach that typically starts with a full site analysis with the design then tailored to the site and clients’ needs.

Sustainable architecture is growing in popularity, can you share your view?

There’s different terminology used in the industry from green, sustainable and low energy consumption.

I’m interested in simply making the world a better place for now and the future. As an Architect, I can make the world a better place and help people feel better about where they’re living – sustainable both environmentally, for the long term and on a financial level.

A lot more thought goes into material selection with a preference for quality materials over mass-produced imported products. For example, windows that efficiently heat and cool (and quality window frames). Thermal mass comes from the inside then you insulate around that on the outside. Brick veneer, for example, is not a quality external material that supports insulation.

What are the main considerations for OB's interested in building a sustainable home?

  1. Start with the site itself and work from there. Things like the physical site, climatic conditions of the area (rainfall levels), the view, neighbours (human or otherwise), vegetation and topography. Let the site speak for itself.
  2. What are the certain perimeters building and planning wise to work within. Check with local Council and state requirements  as far as what can and can’t be done. Head to our Pre-Plan page here for state based information.
  3. Get your head around the bigger picture first then focus on the details e.g. like door handles.

From an architect’s perspective, what do you see are the benefits of being an OB?

Job satisfaction. As an Owner Builder, you get to know every detail of the home so there’s a level of affection for the home – you can be proud of what’s been done.

And there’s an opportunity to save money.

What do you like Owner Builders to have when they first come to you?

An understanding and feel for how they want to live. Photos are great as it helps me get a sense of direction.

I like to ask clients to bring in a favourite object like a book, movie, knick-knack or furniture and I incorporate those aspects into the design.

I’ve had a client bring in a well-worn pair of shoes. We incorporated a very rustic feel in the design – worn leather looking elements.

A family of six may like to get together in the kitchen and cook together. The kitchen becomes the heart of the house approach – large and roomy.

I recently worked with a client who works from home and they expressed the importance of having their workspace separate yet physically connected to the house.

Knowing these things helps me create a design reflecting their personal world.

We love how Pete asks for a personal object! What a great way to understand the personality of his client!

Once plans are final, an OB needs to work out materials and quantities. What’s your advice here?

I’ve done this for clients where I’ve provided schedules with specifications.

Another option is to go through a Quantity Surveyor.

Otherwise it takes a lot of research.

We say re-invest money saved on the build and engage a Quantity Surveyor! Our OB finance Q&A talks about this. Check it out here.

When working with an Architect, what’s the average timeframe to get plans completed and ready to go?

On average, a 150m2 house can take up to 6 months from initial sign to detailed plans. This includes planning permit approval (if required). A planning permit alone can take 60 working days [12 weeks], longer if issues are raised. Once planning permit is approved, the building permit can then be submitted. A Building Surveyor can usually get this approved within a few weeks.

What are your ‘go-to’ sources that you can recommend for Owner Builders with an interest in sustainable building?

  1. Renew Magazine
  2. Government website –
  3. Alternative Technology Association (more value with a membership) – they issue the Renew Magazine
  4. Your local library!

And on a final note, Pete said…

There are times when being an OB makes sense however there are also times when I recommend a client goes through a builder.

Time and experience are the major considerations. How much time does someone have to dedicate to being an Owner Builder and what is their experience.

Good advice Pete and thank-you for sharing your Architect’s perspective on Owner Building.

Watch this space because Pete is developing a DIY Design tool for Owner Builders and is keen to support and educate Owner Builder’s through the process.

Pete Collings is a Melbourne based Architect. You can learn more about Pete here.

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