The Five Stages

Architects are traditionally engaged to design and manage a project from conception through to completion. While this can be a long journey, it is helpful for prospective clients to know and understand a company’s modus operandi. To assist, MCG offer below a summary of the operating process used by its team. The five stages are:

Schematic Design

Listening, learning, guiding and creating is the first of a five step process. Through consultation, site visitation and analysis, investigation and listening the MCG team formulate a written brief of your objectives, needs, wants and desires. This is then interpreted into a concept design which is tuned and explored until a design is finalised. This evolutionary process helps to ensure the client and the team are going forward together. This further maximises the benefit to the client’s benefit by open design reviews, which explore further ideas via all of the MCG Architects.

Development Approval

In the case of most buildings, other than single residences, planning or development approval is required from the local authority. This process deals with aspects such as, proposed use of the building relative to the zoning of the land, plot ratio, setbacks from boundaries, parking, access and egress to the site, height, overshadowing, heritage issues, environmental impact issues and other aspects that may affect the local environs when the building is built. The process may involve an advertising period and may involve debate at full Council level. However, under certain situations many development approvals are signed off under delegated authority by the Planning officers. Because ‘Development Approval’ is not a building licence and does not give approval to commence construction on site, MCG recommend not to proceed to design development until development approval is obtained.

Design Development

Once the design is locked in and approvals obtained, MCG proceed to resolve a list of how’s. How to make the building stand up? How to illuminate it? How should it be ventilated, drained and generally make it work as a living structure?

MCG often work with the assistance of specialist sub-consultants and engineers who join the team under separate agreements with the client. For smaller projects this usually involves only a structural engineer. Larger projects may require a team of up to six or ten specialists.

The design development phase involves:

Analysing the ground conditions; Designing foundations and footings; Resolving services (power, water, sewer, etc) to, from and within the building; Resolving and deciding on construction techniques; Selecting materials to be used; Resolving access, egress and fire issues; Identifying and actioning health and safety issues; Creating comfortable and functional spaces; Checking costs. At MCG much of this stage is co-ordination and integration of the team’s information ready to commence contract documentation.

Contract Documentation

The bulk of an architect’s work during the life of a project is contract documentation. Contract documentation means combining all the decisions and solutions to this point and documenting them by drawing and writing everything that is to be actioned. The end product is a selection of documents, which can be used to call tenders, apply for a building permit and from which construction can begin. These documents must be comprehensive and accurate to ensure a ‘like for like’ pricing structure can be observed by all tenderers. Its importance is further emphasised as the documents are used during construction to minimise the builder’s uncertainty and consequential variations.


Calling of tenders is one of the primary processes of obtaining a price for the works. Achieved by public advertising, selected tender lists, or by negotiation with one or more builders, the tender list is established and MCG distributes identical documents to each party to review and prepare a lump sum price for the build of the project. There are a number of variables within this process but essentially each are derived via the same tendering principal.

It is the Client who calls tenders, not the Architect, consequently it is the Client’s prerogative to state the terms and conditions of the tender. The Architect’s roles is to prepare the tender documents, distribute them to the respondents and manage the process. This includes the confidential closing of tenders at the specified date and time and to provide a recommendation on which tender is most suitable.

Once selected, it is generally the architect’s role to advise the preferred tenderer, in writing, of the Client’s acceptance and to prepare the formal contracts between Client and builder. For the purpose of engaging a builder under an architect administered contract, MCG utilise the ABIC suite of contracts or AS2124. These are a tried and tested industry contracts compiled with the building industry groups, within which the architect is nominated and has a legal position to administer the contract.

Tendering is a very sensitive period because of the amount of people and effort involved in preparing the price and the size of the stakes. MCG ensure that strict and confidential processes are maintained so as to remain fair and equitable to all, ensuring no one party obtains an advantage over the other.

Building Permit

A Building Permit is the approval required prior to commencing construction. It is an assessment of all the engineering, health, safety, fire, construction and energy aspects of the project. This is also cross checked against the Development Approval to ensure compliance with any conditions.

It is generally the builder who applies for the building permit, as it is the builder whom the permit is issued using their building registration number.

Contract Administration

After contracts are signed and the building permit approval is obtained, the builder may commence construction on site. The role of the Architect during the construction phase and after is to administer the contract. During construction the architect has three roles:

  • Administrator – administrating the contract to ensure all is adhered to, that the building is constructed to the documents, resolving issues as they arise and generally ensuring work is progressing on time.
  • Certifier – approving and certifying any changes and variations, any claims for payment and any alterations in the time frame. Once the architect has certified something it constitutes a formal and legal change in the contract.
  • Agent – acting as the client’s eyes and ears on the ground and representing their interests on site. The Architect has to balance their position as agent with that of certifier to ensure everything is dealt with in a fair and equitable fashion.

During the works the Architect and the secondary consultant team maintain a regular watch on the progress and quality of the construction and liaise with the builder to rectify any errors or omissions. Regular site inspections and meetings are held to monitor progress. On completion of the works, the architect and the secondary consultant team do a Practical Completion inspection to verify everything has been completed to the Client’s satisfaction before certifying completion and giving the client the right to occupy.

Rectification or replacement of any faulty or defective work for the duration of the Defects Liability Period is the obligation of the builder as is stated in the contract. This is usually a period of one year, allowing the building to be subject to all four seasons before releasing the builder of his obligations.

The Architect remains on call during this period to attend any problems and to prompt the builder to attend to defects. A final inspection is carried out at the end of this period, to check items which may require attention before releasing the builder from the contract. Following this procedure the Architect issues a Final Certificate which finalises both the builder’s and the Architect’s contracts.