Insight – A Q&A with Dion
Getting To Know Dion Seminara – Architect Advice and Insight.
The advice of an experienced architect is priceless when you are renovating or building. Principal architect at dion seminara architecture, Dion Seminara, shares some of his motivations, experience and knowledge with you, giving you some insight into his perspective in the field of architecture.
What motivated you to become an architect?
‘I had an early interest in technical drawing, design and art, which served me well during the six years I spent studying my degree. Thankfully my course allowed me to work in a number of architects’ offices whilst studying which gave me a practical component to the coursework. This gave me a good grounding for my career as an architect – 26 years and counting.’
What are the attributes of a successful architect?
‘First and foremost an architect needs to be a good listener, and quickly understand the way in which a project reflects the client’s lifestyle.A willingness to show initiative and think outside the box is imperative. Being an architect is not a 9 to 5 job. Ideas can be inspired at any time, often at 3 o’clock in the morning!’
How would you describe the role of an architect?
‘The role of an architect is to understand the client’s needs, reinterpreting these into a designed space and providing a three-dimensional form to demonstrate that understanding. We then convert the concept into construction level drawings, allowing the builder to construct exactly what our client wants. A large part of our role concerns coordination; first and foremost with the client, but also with surveyors, engineers, suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors – and all the other parties involved in a construction project.’
What advice do you have for people looking to hire an architect?
‘It is all about finding the right fit and choosing someone who you think you can work with. You also need to like what you see in an architect’s folio, in terms of their design style. It is important to hire an architect who is suited to your project. For example, if you need a new home or want to renovate your home, you need to find a specialist in residential projects. This is my speciality. So clients tend to choose me, rather than me them.’
What are the advantages of using an architect over other services, such as drafters and building designers?
‘Architects ultimately are professionally obliged to advise clients on all aspects related to a project, including processes and costs – all of which relate to the welfare of the client. The collaboration and relationships between clients and architects require trust. The client must provide enough detail in the briefing stage to allow the architect to transform those ideas into lifestyle solutions. Architectural solutions may not always be what the client initially imagined. This comes back to the ability of the architect to think outside the box and their wealth of knowledge when it comes to planning, design, materials and construction. It is this wealth of knowledge that sets apart architects from others in the industry. “Design” is a creative endeavour, so most sought-after architects have the ability to custom design for each individual client and project. This is very different to directing a draftsperson to draw up a carport.’
So, what type of project would it be best to speak to an architect about?
‘Depending on your needs and site requirement, speaking to an architect might be the only solution for you. It is best to seek the professional advice of an architect through a simple phone call first, no matter what your project may be. With a few quick questions, an architect should be able to decide if your project requires their services. For some simpler jobs, a draftsperson may be all that is required. Architects are dedicated to solving problems – essentially turning nothing into something. My clients are looking for professional insights and expertise when they engage me. ’
Give us an idea of the process involved in working with an architect.
‘In my service, we have a six-step process. From your initial enquiry, we commence our services with a Pre-Design consultation. This service takes place at your property to explore options, ideas and initial thoughts on building cost. Design comes next. There are two stages through which design is translated. We commence with two concepts and then further redefine through Design Development. Development or Building Application submissions, if required, are drawn up, which may also involve interior and landscape design drawings.
One major difference between architects, drafters and building designers is that most architects do very detailed construction level documents and specifications to describe the work. I personally consider this essential to translate the design intent to a refined built outcome. The final step involves competitive tender between multiple builders and contract administration, where we can personally manage all aspects of the construction and delivery phase of your project. This concludes with a final defects period, where we monitor the defect liability period to ensure nothing unforeseen occurs – typically 6 months after building works are completed but can be as much as 12 months.’
Do you offer different levels of service?
‘Yes, it really does depend what level of service the client requires. Some only need assistance with design creation, development and approvals, while others contract me for the entire process – from the concept and design phase right through project management of the actual construction.’
How do you charge for your services?
‘At the outset, there is an initial consultation fee, which is for a Pre-Design meeting with the client. This typically takes 2 – 3 hours and is where I get an idea of the client’s vision for a project. I offer various forms of design packages from this point depending on the scope of your project. Our architectural service fees are based on the floor area of the project as we believe that percentage fees can be unclear and uncertain until the project is complete. Taking the time at the Pre-Design consultation allows me to provide a guestimate of the project’s square meterage, giving you a clearer indication of design costs for your project.’
What common mistakes do you see people making with regard to home design & building?
‘The most common mistake I encounter is clients underestimating what their project will cost. They think they can get it done with $200,000 and it ends up costing $500,000.’
What is your advice for dealing with council regulations and documentation?
‘My advice would be to try not to start changing elements of your design after gaining approval – this is when you can begin to encounter problems which impact on the timeframe of your project.’
What advice do you have for choosing a builder?
‘You need to choose a builder based on their area of expertise. New home builders are not necessarily the best option for a renovation job for example. Renovations, extensions and additions are often more complex than a new build. Sloping blocks or building a multi-level home are even more demanding from a construction point of view – so you need to make sure whoever you hire is up to the job.’
What tips do you have for working with builders?
‘Having all your documentation in order is crucial when working with builders. This allows them to price the job accurately. People tend to run into problems with builders if documentation is incomplete. There is also the expectation building can be done relatively cheaply in the current market. This is a complete misnomer – builders also need to make a profit, otherwise, they could go bust in the middle of your project.’
In your experience what trends will define residential home design in the decades to come?
‘There will definitely be more demand for multi-use space as block sizes shrink. There will also be an attitude change toward space – with an appreciation of smaller spaces. The blurring of the indoor/outdoor space will also become more prevalent in our homes, with outdoor spaces connecting to main living spaces.’
If you have any additional questions you would like Dion to answer on the general nature of architecture and process, please let us know in the comments section below.