Showhomes & Tools

Selecting Your Design Partner

Selecting Your Design Partner

When you are building a house you can choose to:

  • Use an architect or designer and a smaller building company (custom design)
  • Buy a house and land package, or build a house based on a display home on your land with a group building company
  • Use a design and build company
  • Buy a home being constructed off the plan

When deciding which to use, take into consideration your budget, knowledge and preferences, and time to devote to your project. Below is an outline of each of the processes to assist you with your decision.

Types of Design Partners

Custom Design Partner – Architect

An architect will be able to consider your ideas and come up with distinctive and innovative solutions for you that can be built within agreed cost and time parameters. Architects are competent in the design and coordination of all building elements, services and site works, as well as the management of each stage of the building process from concept to completion. All architects in New Zealand are required to be registered with the New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB).

Your architect can advise you on all facets of the building process including:

  • Design and planning
  • Site selection
  • Undertaking a feasibility study
  • Managing the building budget
  • Managing the construction process and team
  • Designing the interior

Professional Organizations for Architects

Custom Design Partner – Architectural Designer

An architectural designer is someone who specialises in building design and construction, from conception to final certification. They can provide a service that includes design, full working drawings, contract documentation and contract administration. Although architectural designers are entitled to practice ‘architecture’, they cannot call themselves ‘architects’. Architectural designers are generally trained in the technical aspects of design and detailing and should also be familiar with all the Building Code and local authority requirements (such as building and resource consents).

ADNZ inc., Architectural Designers NZ Inc, is the national professional body representing architectural designers. ADNZ professional and associate members are located in their own practices throughout New Zealand.

Group Housing Companies

Group housing companies give you a choice of standard house designs. Most companies will have show homes that you can visit, giving you a good idea of the standard and look of your new home. Another advantage is that you will have a cost to complete and fairly accurate build timeframe before you commence. This is a minimal stress option as a lot of the details are decided for you. The downside is that usually when you want to make changes to the standard house designs there is a cost involved, so if you make a lot of changes it can become expensive.

Design and Build Companies

Most companies offer a full service from concept to landscaping. They normally work under a fixed price contract which means the price of your building stays the same throughout the construction. Larger design and build companies have bulk purchasing power which may result in savings to the home owner. Pre-existing house plans can provide a good starting point for determining what you do want. Alternatively most companies offer a design and build service and can create a design from scratch based on your ideas.

 Your Primary Design Partner

5 Tips for selecting your primary design partner

1. Build a list of potential designers/firms.

Do this by:

  • Looking at buildings in your area that you like
  • Getting recommendations from friends and relatives
  • Checking Industry Associations such as NZIA and ADNZ
  • Checking out newspapers, magazines and the internet

2. Request information on their qualifications and experience.

  • Call each firm on your list, describe your project and see if they are available to take on your project.
  • If they can, then request information on their firms qualifications and experience. If they are too busy to take on your project ask them for a recommendation of another firm.
  • Once you have reviewed the material you should be able to narrow your list to two or three firms/designers.
  • Arrange to meet with each designer; this is crucial as you will be working with the designer for a long time so you need to feel comfortable with them.

3. Interview each designer.

Consider asking the following questions at your intial meeting:

  • How busy is the firm?
  • Do they have the capacity for your project?
  • Who will work on the project?
  • What is the firm’s design philosophy?
  • How interested is the firm in your project?
  • Talk about your budget and find out the range of fees that they anticipate for your project.
  • Ask the designer if they can take you to one of their completed projects (references from past clients are invaluable)

If at any stage throughout your selection process you don’t understand something, ask the designer to clarify. If you feel intimidated or it wasn’t explained to you in a way you could understand, they might not be the right designer for you.

4. Your final choice on designer will be someone who you trust and who feels right for your project.

5. Establish how your designer will charge their fee; will it be an hourly rate, or a sum per unit (for example the number of square metres), a fixed fee, or a percentage of the construction costs.

Engaging Your Designer

Once you have selected your designer, put the terms of your agreement in writing including scope of work, services, schedule, construction budget and designer’s compensation.

Agreements and contracts

The NZIA develops and publishes a number of Service Agreements and Construction Contracts copyrighted for use by licensed NZIA Practices and their Clients. Reference versions are available for purchase by others. All their documents have been subject to extensive consultation and expert opinion. They are continuously monitored and evaluated and, where appropriate, updated and improved. The documents currently available include:

  • NZIA Agreement For Architects Services: NZIA AAS 2007
  • NZIA Agreement For Architects Services – Short Form: NZIA AAS – SF 2007
  • NZIA Standard Conditions of Contract: NZIA SCC 2007
  • NZIA Standard Conditions of Contract – Short Form: NZIA SCC – SF 2007

In addition, they publish forms of contract between Owner and Contractor that can be purchased and used by non NZIA members. They are:

  • National Building Contract – General: NBC – G 2003
  • National Building Contract – Small Works: NBC – SW 2003

New Zealand Standards also supply the following standard building contracts:

  • NZS 3902:2004 housing alterations and small building contracts
  • NZS 3910:2003 Conditions of Contract for Building and Civil Engineering Construction


Other Partners

Interior Designer

Engaging an interior designer can save you money and give you a beautiful, well functioning home. Your designer can save you money by allocating resources wisely, save you on costly decorating mistakes and get you thinking creatively about your budget. Most architectural firms have interior designers as part of their team so they are able to satisfy all your requirements.

Kitchen Designer

Using a specialist kitchen designer, gives you a custom-designed kitchen for little more than the cost of a kit set price. You will also get a kitchen that not only functions well but looks great too.

Landscape Architect

Using a landscape architect’s skills can transform your outdoor living space. They will explore all the options available and help you think more about colour and texture. A landscape architect will look at your needs and wants and help you plan a garden that best suits your lifestyle. Visit the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects or Landscaping New Zealand for information on finding landscape architects.

Services Contacts

Services Contacts (power, phone and gas installation): You will be able to find information on a building sites infrastructure and utility service locations from the PIM or LIM. For gas and power utilities you will need to contact the specific supply company.


An engineer will design the structural and drainage elements of the home. The engineer will be engaged to ensure the home will fit with council requirements. Visit the Institution of Professional Engineers for more information.


Was this article helpful? Subscribe to receive our FREE monthly eNewsletter, or follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

View more guides

The Design Process

The first step in the design process is to gather information and analyse information necessary... Read more.

Selecting Your Design Partner

When you are building a house you can choose to: Use an architect or designer... Read more.

Your Ideal Home

When planning the design of your new home or renovation, ensure at the planning stage... Read more.

FPB - Future Proof Building Principals
Energy Smart Health & Safety Life Cycle Quality Smart & Secure Sound Control Spatial Design Sustainability