Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that commissioning an architect for the first time can be a daunting prospect. Below you’ll find answers to some of the questions that we at Paterson Group Architects (PGA) are most commonly asked before and during the process.

What is a Development Approval Application?

Development Applications or DA’s are sets of documents collated by us at the end of a Concept and Schematic Design stage. They are submitted to the relevant local authority, with the necessary forms and fee payment, for review and approval. Just before these documents are finalised, we will often informally meet with a planning officer from the Council to review the design work, report back to our Clients with any comments made and then seek approval to formally submit an application. We find that this helps the DA process and can reduce the time taken for approval to be granted. A development application approval can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to process for residential or simple commercial projects.

What is a Building Licence and why do I need one?

As its name suggests, a Building Licence is an approval to commence construction, granted by an issuing authority. It is normal for building licence documents to be submitted at the conclusion of Design Development or during Contract Documentation. From 02 April 2012, the new Building Act in Western Australia requires that authorities issue (or request additional information for) a Building Licence within 14 days of receipt of documentation. Construction works cannot begin without a licence issued by the issuing authority. For commercial projects we recommend our Clients engage a Building Surveyor as part of the Design Team to assist with the Building Licence application process.

What do I do if I have any questions?

Please feel free to contact our office (ph 9485 2122) and speak to either Greg Paterson (Director) or Chris Donovan (Director) or, if you prefer, email your enquiry to us at We will contact you and, if appropriate, organise a time for you to come in to discuss your project idea. We don’t charge for your first visit to us, we just look forward to meeting you. If you like our approach and would like to move forward with us, then we can discuss the basis of our partnership.

What is Architecture and what is an Architect?

Architecture can be described as habitable sculpture, capable of providing shelter and amenity; it is simultaneously a science and art form combined in a physical structure.

Paterson Group Architects is not just concerned with buildings but with improving the built environment as a whole. We are creative individuals, using materials, technology, light, shade and colour to create and manipulate volume. Our Architects are also technically focused by necessity, applying pragmatic approaches to the construction of structures.

An Architect is a professional who is registered under the Architect’s Act with the Board of Architects of each Australian State or Territory. In accordance with the Architect’s Act of each State only those who are registered with the Board may use the term and call themselves an “Architect”. In Western Australia, Architects are university trained for five years and are required to spend a minimum of two years working in the industry before applying for Board registration.

PGA currently employs eight technical staff, five of whom are registered Architects in Western Australia. One of the Directors is also registered to work in Queensland.

What are the benefits of using an Architect?

Architects can save people many thousands of dollars with good design and add considerable value to residential and commercial property as it can be sold or leased as "architect designed". This is what we train for so many years to do. PGA considers the effective use of a Client’s capital a core attribute and it is front-of-mind in all that we do.

What do we do?

We are traditionally engaged to design and manage a project from conception through to completion (it’s what we refer to as our full service). The journey is a long one and is broken into multiple stages:

  • Brief and Project Definition
  • Concept and Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Contract Documentation and Tendering
  • Contract Administration

Please refer to the Services section of our website if you need an explanation of the terms listed above.

What are the advantages in commissioning PGA for your next project?

We deliver on promises made to our Clients. Our personable approach to managing our projects is set by the Directors and is embodied in the daily practice of all of our staff. We attend to your queries in a timely fashion and pride ourselves on the successful delivery at every stage of a design/documentation/construction process. Our aim is to ensure all of our Clients feel that their project is given the necessary time and due consideration by our team. We want you to enjoy the process as much as we do. Above all else, we want you to live, work, play, relax, concentrate, train or study in your new building, confident in the fact that your aspirations set out in our initial meetings have been satisfied in the final built form.

How much will it cost?

For the most part, we calculate our fee as a percentage of the anticipated construction cost. This generates a lump sum fee, which we breakdown into the multiple stages of the work required. A lump sum fee is generally fixed for the duration of our contract with our Clients, irrespective of minor alterations to the construction value of the project. For our full service we typically work on the following breakdown:

Brief and Project Definition 5% Initial design discussions and brief preparation
Concept and Schematic Design 10% Preliminary design
Design Development 20% Detailed design
Contract Documentation and Tendering 35% Instructional drawings and specification
Contract Administration 30% Supervision of a building Contract

We invoice our Clients on a monthly basis and each invoice reflects the work completed to date. We charge for the service level agreed with our Clients from the outset. In the event of a significant change to our scope of work or service, we reserve the right to request a variation to our fee to cover the anticipated increase in cost to produce the new work. However, we take time and care in preparing our fee proposals so that these requests are typically unnecessary.

How long will the process take?

This is difficult to answer, as each project is unique and comes with its own set of challenges. There is no rule of thumb when it comes to estimating project completion time. However, one of the critical first steps is to discuss our Client’s requirements for project completion dates. We can work backwards from this position, based on our experience, to estimate times for each of our service stages. The initial project brief document will outline a proposed design, documentation and construction programme.

Do Architects and Clients sign a Contract?

The short answer is yes. Every time you deal with an Architect in any State or Territory in Australia you should expect to sign a Contract. The reason is simple; each party has a certain amount of responsibility to the other, each has a role to play and a Contract sets the standard for the business partnership. It is important that we can both agree on what we will and will not be delivering. Can the terms of the Contract change over time? Again, the answer is yes. A signed Contract simply forms the basis of the business partnership, laid out at the beginning of a project. If project changes require a change in Contract terms, then the existing agreement is altered to suit.

Do I need a Contract with a Builder?

Yes. The type and complexity will vary and depend on the project scale but in all instances a signed building Contract is required, primarily for the same reasons that you sign a Contract with an Architect. Part of our role during the documentation process is to sit with you and explain the different building Contracts available so that you can make an informed choice.

Do Architects have Contracts with Builders?

For a traditional service, no. Our role during the construction of a project is to act fairly and impartially in all respects and to act as the eyes and ears of our Clients on site. We have no contractual relationship with the builder as we do not pay for their service, nor do we own the final building.