The truth about why architecturally designed homes cost more

The truth about why architecturally designed homes cost more

Tips and Advice

Investing in architecture“Why do architects cost so much?” Recently a prospective client contacted me with this very question – regarding the cost of having a home designed by an architect compared to taking a ‘project type approach’. The question came about because he had been doing his research and concluded from various websites that the cost of building a home designed by an architect was roughly $800 – $1,000 per square metre more than non-architecturally designed homes.

When you think about it that is a lot of money. And I have in the past pushed the fact that our competitive tendering processes along with our design skill and building experience can go a long way to offsetting the cost of our fees. How can I claim that, when other sources quote an additional $800-$1,000 per square metre cost in building an architecturally designed home?

Where the figures come from

Firstly let me start off by saying I was delighted to have this question thrown at me. A lot of people would have simply made up their own minds without all of the facts and not even bothered to contact me. It was great to have the opportunity to explain why there was such a discrepancy in the figures.

It turns out from talking to this homeowner that a lot of his research came from this website here: This is the website of BMT Quantity Surveyors who have provided a very handy guide on the per square metre cost of various types of construction. Included among these are Architecturally Designed Executive Residence’s, which are significantly higher in cost per square metre than other types of homes. But as they allude to there is a very simple explanation for this difference in price.

Why so high

One of the main reasons for the difference in price comes down to how challenging the site is. Project homes typically do not get built on very steep or tricky slopes. Blocks like these more often than not need the design skills of an architect. But even though the architect can design a home to perfectly suit these challenging blocks, the cost of actually building the homes on these sites is obviously considerably higher than the cost of building a home that has ample access on a flat block. So the additional cost here is not all because it was designed by an architect but due to the block itself.

The quality of the home, the materials used and the level of fit out is also typically higher in an architecturally designed home. This is not through necessity as much as it is a desire on the part of the homeowner. It is possible to build a gorgeously architecturally designed home cost effectively without needing the very best of everything, I have proven this to clients many times over, however, if you average out the cost of building architecturally designed homes, many of which do have the highest level of fit out and materials, of course, the average is going to be higher.

Building project homes are cheap in part because there is no per project design expense. By that I mean, the design is created once and then sold to client after client after client. These homes may look slightly different due to each individual owner choosing a different type of tile or colour scheme, but the layout is identical and as such, they all tend to have a very similar resale value.

The downside of this as I’ve mentioned before is that the home never truly suits your individual lifestyle needs, leading to you needing to make compromises. There is also nothing unique or exciting about these homes. They tend to be large, dull affairs that are cheap to throw up but average in terms of liveability.

But many homeowners don’t wish to put up with compromises and prefer a tailored solution that typically has the added advantage of higher resale value in the long run. For these people, a slightly smaller home tailored to suit their individual needs is a better option for their budget than a larger home that looks like every other home in the street.


So it is possible to build an architecturally designed home where our processes and skills can go a long way towards offsetting our fees. It is also possible to have challenging blocks or expensive inclusions that mean the cost of building your home will be higher than a project style home. And it is also possible to build a slightly smaller custom designed home that has a higher per square metre rate but offers a far more comfortable lifestyle and excellent resale value.

It is important to keep in mind that a list of average building costs like the one on the BMT website only tells part of the story. The reality is that for the average person looking to build a new home in Southeast Queensland, it is very cost effective to have it designed by Dion Seminara at dion seminara architecture.

Dion Seminara Architect


Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 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.