Our Process

Schematic Design

In the Schematic Design phase, we collectively explore various design possibilities, sketching out layouts that refine the initial brief in collaboration with our clients and grow our understanding of the site in which the building is to be located. We create concept elevations, sections, and mood boards to vividly convey the design intent and aid in visualising the layouts. We aim to ensure that clients are comfortable in telling us what they like as well as what can be changed to improve their daily activities. This level of feedback is crucial, enabling us to refine and develop the design to something deeply personal and unique to each client.

Through this stage, we are constantly assessing the concept against the client’s brief and budget and preparing an indicative opinion of the probable cost of works. We undertake a thorough analysis of regulations and authority requirements, selecting the most appropriate planning pathway for the project. At this stage, we have a good understanding of what consultants will be required for the project and provide design briefs for them as well as indicative costs for their services to help clients budget ahead of time. On some projects with more complex requirements, we would recommend engaging specialist consultants early in the design stage and gaining additional feedback that evolves with the concepts.

Design Development

During Design Development, we focus on refining the floor plans from the Schematic Design Stage and prepare a detailed 3D design model that we collaborate on with our clients. The technology we have available in the office has enabled us to visualise the design so much earlier for us to walk through every aspect of the design and understand the form and spatial quality which previously was not possible. We use the 3D model to test the overall form, scale, quality of space, natural lighting, solar penetration, and materiality providing clients with real-time updates and a tangible design experience. Our clients can access the 3D model from their homes at any time of day through standard web browsers and provide us with comments based on the model.

The collaboration in this stage extends beyond just the clients but also to the rest of the project team. We share all this 3D information with our consultants to ensure the design intent is well understood and we are all working towards the same goal for the project. We again assess the proposal against the project budget and provide an updated opinion of the probable cost of work. We never want to get to the end of a project to see the cost not align with a client's budget, we are constantly monitoring this and providing feedback to our clients.

Development Application

Using the refined floor plan and detailed 3D design model from the Design Development phase, we now set into production mode. We prepare all the required documentation to not only meet Council or Legislative requirements but to produce a Development Application set that describes the design in a beautiful clear collection of drawings. We have a strong track record of smooth approval processes and put that down to the clarity of the information we provide. We align with consultants who share this view and prepare Development Application submissions that provide all the required information, avoiding further requests for information and delays along the way.

We prepare the Statement of Environmental Effects or align with a planning consultant for the more complex projects, and provide other supporting documentation as required by the council, coordinating with any necessary specialist consultants to ensure a consistent and comprehensive documentation set. Our role extends to attending meetings with relevant authorities, assisting our client with the formal lodgement of the Development Application, monitoring its progress, and liaising with the Assessing Officer to keep our client informed and supported during the assessment period.

Construction Documentation

As we move into the Construction Documentation phase, our focus shifts to detailing the requirements for National Construction Code compliance and preparing the documentation for a Construction Certificate. This involves a layering of information and expanding on the details in the Development Application Drawing set. We work closely with Structural, Civil, Hydraulic and Geotechnical Engineers throughout this stage to document how the project is to be constructed.

From an architectural perspective, this is the most critical stage, it is about realising the design intent and how it is to be constructed. We focus on the critical details, resolving complex junctions, coordinating engineering design, and finalising exterior selections into one cohesive and comprehensive set of drawings. Upon completion of the documentation and specifications we advise our clients on selecting an appropriate certifier and assist in applying for statutory approval, we monitor the progress of the application and remain in constant dialogue with the certifier for the project.

Interior Design + Documentation

In parallel with the Construction Documentation, we offer full design services including the Interior Design to our clients to create a consistent design approach both inside and out. We start this stage as with did the architectural design by refining the interior brief with our clients. We prepare an Interior Concept Design Presentation to describe the design intent for each space, which involves arranging samples and creating a physical mood board of all selections so clients can touch and feel and gain a greater understanding and make informed decisions.

Following this, we prepare detailed schedules for all the selections of fixtures, materials, finishes, and appliances with notes on the required craftsmanship and desired outcomes. This schedule then works in tandem with the Detailed Documentation for the Interior Space, including light and electrical layouts, which is fully coordinated with the Architectural Drawings and all Specialist Consultants, ensuring a cohesive design approach. The culmination of this stage is a set of documents to be used for Tendering the project and gaining accurate and consistent construction estimates.

Contractor Selection

Guiding our clients through the contractor selection process is integral to our project management approach. We advise on various selection methods, including tendering and direct negotiation with our clients. AO Design Studio have over 10 years of experience in the Southern Highlands and in that time has had the opportunity to work with many talented builders and contractors, building a relationship based on mutual respect. It is from this experience that we can make informed recommendations for the most suitable match for the project's needs.

Our team prepares tender documents, facilitates on-site discussions with potential contractors, and manages communications to ensure clarity and fairness. We assess tenders, negotiate on behalf of our clients with authority, and provide detailed recommendations to aid in decision-making. In negotiations, we outline the scope, liaise with cost consultants, and establish contract terms, emphasising transparency and client involvement to achieve optimal project outcomes.

Construction Contract Administration

Our Construction Contract Administration phase is crucial for the seamless progression of our projects, starting with meticulous preparation in the pre-construction stage. We compile all necessary documents and ensure the building contract is executed effectively between our client and the selected contractor, setting a strong foundation for the construction phase. We use an Australian Building Industry Contract created jointly by the Master Builders and the Australian Institute of Architects for our projects, a very clear and fair form of Contract.

Throughout the construction process, we prioritise clear communication with our clients, offering regular updates on progress, costs, and any significant developments. Our team's routine site visits aim to monitor adherence to the contract's specifications, swiftly resolving any discrepancies. We also facilitate regular meetings to review contractor submissions and integrate the work of specialist consultants, ensuring a cohesive project trajectory. Our responsibilities extend to administrating the building contract, encompassing variation assessments, progress claim approvals, and the issue of progress certificates. We guide the contractor through rectifying any incomplete work or defects, marking practical completion with official notices.

In the post-construction phase, our commitment to quality continues as we oversee the defects liability period, coordinating any necessary rectification efforts to meet our rigorous standards. The project concludes with the issue of the final completion certificate, affirming that all contractual obligations have been met. This thorough approach highlights our dedication to delivering projects of the highest standard, reflecting our commitment to quality, transparency, and client satisfaction from start to finish.

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