image of building following a pac process

Delivering On a Budget: Is the PAC Process the Way to Go?

Buying a Home, Renovations, Services, Tips and Advice

If you’ve been considering a new home build or renovation, no doubt you’ve embarked on some online research, or chatted to friends or family who have been through the experience themselves.

One phrase that may have popped up is the “paid as a consultant” (PAC) process.

Maybe a friend mentioned it.

Maybe you saw it suggested on a builder’s website.

Maybe you have absolutely no clue what I am talking about!

Keep reading to find out exactly what the PAC process is – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and what it might mean for your next building project.

image of building following a pac process


What is the PAC Process?

In a nutshell, the PAC process is when a builder comes on board early in the project.

This can be as early as the pre-design or pre-construction phase.

In the PAC process, the builder essentially acts as a consultant on your project.

It’s marketed as a way for builders to develop a relationship with their clients early on, as well as a way to help shape the project to ensure it stays on track in terms of budget and feasibility. The claim is that house plans can often get blown out to be beyond the client’s budget and/or not feasible for your builder to construct.

These days, there are many builders spruiking the PAC process – and even companies whose sole purpose is teaching the method to other builders.

The PAC process is different to the standard design-tender-build process in the sense that the client doesn’t take their completed home plans to a number of different builders to source their quotes and choose their preferred option.

Instead, the builder is selected before the plans are completed.

The builder, designer, and the client then work collaboratively during the design phase. Designers here can be a draftsperson, building designer, or an architect – but more on my opinions about that later.

Brookfield Renovation Project: This project is currently underway, with our team project managing the process. Currently we are working on building our clients guest wing of their home. We are excited to see the final result!

Argument For the PAC Process:

  • On budget: It is argued that the PAC process can help the project stay on track in terms of finances, as the builder has working knowledge of costs and can alert the client when certain features may push them over-budget. We like this article which explains the path we take with our clients to avoid the pitfalls of building that many clients don’t recognise.
  • Feasible: Builders say their early involvement can ensure the design remains buildable, as they know from experience what works and doesn’t.
  • Manages client expectations: Some builders argue that the traditional method can leave their clients feeling disappointed.  Claiming they become attached to a particular house design that is in reality way over-budget.
  • Benefits for the builder: You may have heard builders complaining about spending too much time writing up unfeasible quotes for free, when they believe many of the projects will never actually get off the ground. Some argue that getting involved early on will increase the chances of the project seeing completion. They also get paid extra for their services during the PAC process.

Redcliffe Home Renovation: We completed a design concept for this pre-1946 Queenslander in Redcliffe. The objective of the new design was it bring back character and create additional amenities for a growing family. It was completed this year and our clients couldn’t be happier with their new space.

Argument Against the PAC Process:

Too many chefs in the kitchen

As expert architects, we do not need another person on the design team – especially someone who isn’t actually a designer. We are registered, experienced professionals, who know how to create house plans without input from another party.

Budgets are already considered

Many architects consult with quantity surveyors in the process to deliver the project to the market for builders to price. We are okay to pay builders to provide costings (which the PAC process also offers). Speaking from experience, we see a great advantage for clients get more than one price. We do this once we have educated clients already on their projects price, unlike drafts people who do not – causing real headaches for builders making this a primary difference. Our team respects builders and their time, and we understand the commitment they make to pricing jobs. It is a very structured process; we do not randomly ask builders to price things. We are on the side of builders very much to ensure they get value out of the pricing process we offer.

Draftspeople and building designers vs architects

When builders become involved in the process too early, rather than professional architects, they don’t fully understand what we do. If plans are missing any content, this will result in an increased final cost and potential issues between the builder and client.

No tender process

We believe it is hugely beneficial for clients to take their building plans to a select group of professional builders for the best build price, giving them a chance to source different quotes and assess their options, rather than being locked into one builder.

If the market is tight, another option we offer for select projects (or if there is a standout builder) is to negotiate with one using our cost planner’s estimate to compare quotes against.

Brookfield Contemporary Renovation: This renovation concept we completed for clients in Brookfield is currently being built under our contract administration service. The clients have felt a relief of pressure knowing that the designers of their home is watching over the build process.

Using a Quantity Surveyor 

As residential design architects, we have offered our own version of a PAC process to clients for 30 years. As we have always involved a quantity surveyor (QS) cost planner to ensure that projects are on realistic budgets. A quantity surveyor, as defined by BMT Quantity Surveyors is “a tertiary qualified professional who specialises in building measurement and estimates the value of construction costs”.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) recognises quantity surveyors as one of the only professions who have the necessary skills to enable them to accurately calculate building costs, including any tax depreciation. These skills make them an invaluable asset to pricing the cost of building your home, or helping you to understand the bottom line as an investor.

Using a quantity surveyor is superior to utilising the PAC process because the surveyor has no skin in the game. They’re there to ensure that costs are accurately reflected so you can make important decisions on building your home. When using a quantity surveyor, you get straight forward advice that gives you the information you need for a successful build.

Carina Heights New Home: This new home design was built for clients located in Carina Heights. The owners could not have been happier with the outcome. Three large bedrooms, each with ensuites, cater for the extended family. While the master bedroom features an expansive ensuite, study and ‘his and hers’ wardrobes. The basement level houses a home gym, additional bathroom and car accommodation for up to 6 vehicles.

How We Operate at Dion Seminara Architecture

Builders and entities like QBCC that license trades, builders, and building designers have created their own confusion within the process. They have encouraged drafts people and building designers to provide services on their own without working under the direction of an architect – a departure from how things traditionally worked.

Without being derogatory to nurses who work hard and are very skilled, when you work directly with a drafts person and building designer, without the benefit of an architect’s advice, it’s like asking a nurse to give you a medical diagnosis.

You wouldn’t!

You would go to a doctor with the specialist training to diagnose your health issues.

This is also why you’ll generally find builders managing draftsmen and building designers. It’s simply because they do need to be managed as they really cannot operate on their own. However, they should really offer clients the skills of an architect who have the expertise and experience in building homes.

On the other hand, architects do NOT need builders to manage the design process. Architects need builders to focus on managing their builds to the highest standard they can. Ensuring that their trades are working well under the builder’s direction.

Quality Architects

At dion seminara architecture we work with those we trust – and we trust our quantity surveyors. When you use expert design architects like our team, you can go away knowing your project is on track financially.

If you want to make sure your new build or renovation project stays on budget, get in touch.
Dion Seminara Architect


We are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.

Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.