Choosing Your Architect

Architects have a deep understanding of design principles, building regulations and construction techniques. 

Choosing the right architect, one who’s skills and expertise you trust, can elevate the monetary value of your home and enhance your lifestyle.

What Is an Architect

An architect is a highly trained professional who uses creative thinking, highly developed problem solving skills along with finely tuned attention to detail and an in depth understanding of the functionality and buildability of a successful home to make your dream home a reality.


Architects are highly skilled and are required to gain a university degree that is 5-6 years long, depending on the university, and consists of an undergraduate degree followed by a post graduate degree.

An architect is not finished there, in fact they are not yet an architect.  To be called an architect, after a minimum two years practical experience, they must study for and sit a registration exam.

How Do You Know Your Architect Is an Architect

Architect’s working in Victoria must be registered with the Architect’s Registration Board of Victoria, meeting set standards of education, experience, knowledge and continued professional development.  Our Architectural Director Lindsay Douglas is registered with the ARBV (15933), as is our trustee company Douglas Smith Pty Ltd, which trades as Dig Design® (50971).  Lindsay is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects and Dig Design is an A+ Practice Member of the AIA..

Follow this LINK to check your architect’s registration, if they’re not on this list they’re not an architect.

Design Skills + Style

Architecture is a personalised service, a skilled architect will be able to consider and challenge your brief, developing a design direction that will exceed your expectations.

Consider your architect’s style.  Have you seen their past projects?  Do you like what you see?  Be aware that experienced architects can show you more than what’s on their website, so request a meeting and find out if you’re a good fit. 


Architect’s fees are generally calculated in three different ways; percentage fees, fixed fees, hourly rate fees.  At Dig Design® we use a hybrid model for calculating our fees, with the occasional project specific anomaly. 

Our fees are made up of two components, design and documentation then contract administration:

Firstly, for design and documentation, we calculate our fees as a percentage of a construction cost estimate, based on the scale and scope of the proposed work … and then we fix it!

Secondly, at the construction phase if you engage Dig Design® for Contract Administration, we calculate our fee as a percentage of the signed contract price (between you and the builder). 

Follow the icon below to read our more detailed post about how architect’s calculate fees.

Investment in an architect’s fee are a fraction of the cost in any building project and bring a measurable value to a project.

Client Architect Agreement

The Client Architect Agreement is a document which serves to protect both the client and architect by setting out the terms and conditions of service, outlining fees, inclusions, scope of works and responsibilities of both parties, ensuring that everyone is on the same page without ambiguity throughout the project.

Every architect is required to have one in place.

Compatibility + Trust

Beyond all these points, you need to trust your instinct, you’ll spend a lot of time working with your architect, so beyond qualifications and expertise it’s important to choose someone you like.  This intangible feeling of the right fit is almost the most important factor in choosing your architect.  A good architect will design what you are looking for, but an exceptional architect will challenge your ideas, raise the bar and give you more than what you understood was possible.

We understand that choosing your architect is a big decision.  We want you to know that at Dig Design®, when you talk, we listen [carefully] to gain a clear understanding of your needs, aspirations and priorities.  We will be there to guide and support you from start to finish as your partners in the process.

Architects are driven by a passion for good design and when you choose Dig Design® as your architect and interior designer you get years of expertise in delivering custom design solutions with minimal stress.

Find out why people [just like you] choose Dig Design® as their architects and interior designers, click on the icon below.

Do you have a project you’d like to discuss?

UPDATE: 10 Things to Know Before Planning Your Dream Home

We know it can be overwhelming when starting to plan for your dream renovation or [new] home.  Here we have put together this list of things you need to know before designing your dream renovation or [new] home, covering some key points to consider at the beginning of your journey. 

Don’t feel you need to know all the answers right now, our team at Dig Design will be there to guide you through the process from start to finish. 

With planning and considered discussion, you will be in a position to make good decisions with minimal stress and make the planning of your dream renovation or [new] home a truly enjoyable experience.

The first step is to find the architect that’s right for you.

Download our handy guide here, then give us a call to discuss your home.

Contact us at Dig Design to find out more about our architectural design process and how we can help you meet your goals.

Alternatives to Engineered Stone

Alternatives to Engineered Stone

Engineered stone, also known as reconstituted stone and often referred to by popular brand names, has become the benchtop material of choice for homeowners across Australia, marketed as a durable, cost effective and aesthetically similar alternative to natural stone. Here we discuss why you should consider seeking alternatives to engineered stone and what your choices are.

There has been much recent press highlighting the dangers to stone workers in working with engineered stone.  In it’s finished form, engineered stone poses no risk to homeowners, however there is considerable risk in cutting this material.  Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral in many construction materials including sand, stone, engineered stone etc., and the amount of crystalline silica found in products varies, with engineered stone containing the highest percentage at up to 95%. 

This crystalline silica becomes airborne when products like engineered stone are cut and when the dust is inhaled the mineral makes its way deep into the respiratory system with life altering consequences.  A combination of measures are required by stone workers to control exposure to crystalline silica, including wet processes and water suppression systems to prevent dust generation and disbursement.  However, much like asbestos it is expected to be determined in the near future, that there may not be a safe way to work with engineered stone.

The best way we can minimise the risk to stone workers it is to choose to use a different material for your benchtop.  Below, you will find a list of alternatives, in no particular order, to engineered stone that will not only give you beautiful benchtops and splashbacks, but also keep our construction workers safe.

Natural Stone

Natural stone contains a percentage of crystalline silica, although in significantly lower levels than that of engineered stone.  For example marble contains around 5% (although can be as high as 30%), granite 30% and limestone 2%.  Natural stone offers a stunning authentic alternative to engineered stone, although it does cost more.  Being a natural product, there can be great variability in visual grain density, so make sure you hand select your slab.

Natural Stone: Dig Design’s Hannan Street project with Super White Dolomite benchtop, splashback and wrap.


A timber benchtop adds warmth to your kitchen and is very popular for bathroom vanities.  With many timber species to choose from, you can select a colour and grain to suit your aesthetic.  Timber is a softer finish to other materials, but it is easily refinished and resealed.  The cost of timber benchtops varies depending on species, plank sizes and finish.


A concrete benchtop can really add something special to your kitchen, and your kitchen doesn’t need an industrial aesthetic to showcase a concrete benchtop.  Concrete benchtops can be pre-cast offsite or be formed and poured in situ.  Concrete contains about 30% crystalline silica, a similar percentage to granite.  Concrete benchtops are hardwearing and heat resistant and can be created in a variety of colours and finishes.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel benchtops are durable and easy to clean and are most suited to an industrial aesthetic.  They are prone to scratching and great care must be taken with abrasive products on the surface.  Stainless steel benchtops are easily dented so don’t drop your heavy saucepan on them!

Solid Surface

Solid surface benchtops are crystalline silica free, made from bauxite and an acrylic resin binder.  Slabs can be joined together using a method that makes them completely seamless, including sinks and drainers.  They are UV resistant, stain resistant, scratch resistant and repairable.  Available in many colourways, there is bound to be something to suit your aesthetic.


Porcelain is an ultra-compact surface that is increasing in popularity as a finish in Australian homes.  It is heat and fire resistant as well as highly scratch and UV resistant, making it the perfect choice for outdoor kitchens.  Porcelain benchtops contain around 15% quartz, the most common form of crystalline silica.

Porcelain: Dig Design’s Railway Crescent project with QuantumSix+ Statuario porcelain sheet wall cladding and shower shelf.

Recycled Glass

Benchtops made from recycled glass bottles are a sustainable, crystalline silica free alternative to engineered stone benchtops.  Recycled glass benchtops are relatively new to the market and made from glass bottles and jars collected form our curb side recycled home waste, they are hand crafted and variance between and across slabs is to be expected … but also comes with the kudos of being able to tell your friends all about your recycled benchtop!


Laminate technology has come a long way over the last decade or so, don’t think of laminate as your parent’s old 1970’s orange and brown kitchen.  There are over one hundred realistic prints, textures and block colours to choose from, in many different finishes, including self-healing nano particle flat matte laminates.  Laminate is not going to be for everyone, but don’t rule it out.

Laminate: Dig Design’s Verdon Street project with Fenix NTM (nano-tech matte) in Nero Ingo benchtop, splashback and cabinetry.

Low Crystalline Silica Engineered Stone

A new family of engineered stone benchtops are now coming to market, with a greatly reduced crystalline silica content of around 28%, a similar percentage to granite.  This product is a hybrid, combining precision printed surface along with coordinated body veining. 

You can see there are many great alternatives to engineered stone for you to choose from.  There is bound to be one to suit your needs and make your kitchen or bathroom look just as beautiful as with engineered stone … except our stone workers will be kept safe.  At Dig Design, we expect the availability of no or low crystalline silica products, such as that mentioned above, and the options available are set to increase over the next couple of years as informed consumers and designers force a change in the marketplace.

Contact us today to book a meeting to discuss how Dig Design can help you create your dream home.

How Do Architects Calculate Their Fees?

A common question we get during our initial meetings with new clients is ‘how do architects calculate their fees?’.  In this blog post we will briefly explain the three main methods architects use to calculate their fees, then explain how we calculate our fees at Dig Design.

Percentage Fees

This is probably one of the most common method architects use to calculate their fees.  Calculating fees this way involves applying a percentage to the cost of works (construction cost excluding GST).  The percentage used to calculate the fee is on a sliding scale.  The higher the cost of works the lower the percentage.

Myth:     Architects choose expensive detailing and finishes to increase the cost of works and their fee.

Reality:  Most architects will not increase fees unless there is an increase in scope, or a reluctance from the client to realistically link the brief to the budget.  Ultimately, we want you to build and love your dream home.

Lump Sum Fees

Lump sum fees are a fee negotiated and agreed to by the client and the architect for the delivery of specific services, they are also known as fixed fees.

Myth:     Architects pad their fixed fee with unnecessary costs.

Reality:  Architects with a strong body of experience are well skilled in knowing what is required on a project and therefore set their fees accordingly.   Ultimately, we want you to build and love your dream home and we want to be the ones to help you get there.

Time Charge Fees

Time charge fees are calculated using an hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours spent providing services.  This method is similar to that used by other professional service providers like lawyers and accountants.

Myth:     Architects pad their time charge fee with hours not worked.

Reality:  Architects keep a record of hours worked and will pass that information on if requested.  If you request an hourly rate fee, we will give you an estimate of hours we expect to spend on your project and let you know along the way if any of your requests have a time and cost implication.  Architects will often apply a cap if it is appropriate.

How We Calculate Our Fees at Dig Design

At Dig Design® we use a hybrid model for calculating our fees, with the occasional project specific anomaly.  Our fees are made up of two components, design and documentation then contract administration:

Firstly, for design and documentation, we calculate our fees as a percentage of a construction cost estimate, based on the scale and scope of the proposed work … and then we fix it!

Should the scope of works be increased from the original agreement, we may need to recalculate our fee.  There are a couple of triggers for hourly rates which are outlined in full within our fee proposal document.

Secondly, at the construction phase if you engage Dig Design® for Contract Administration, we calculate our fee as a percentage of the signed contract price (between you and the builder).  This percentage is outlined in our fee proposal document.  There are occasions where we might charge an hourly rate rather than a percentage due to the small scale of the project, or where the client wishes to deal directly with the builder themselves and is only after advice when required. 

Within our fee proposal, we provide fee options which we refer to as our Basic, Essentials + Comprehensive Packages.  Our Basic Package includes architectural services up to and including design development and town planning (if required).  Our Essentials Package includes the architectural services covered in our Basic Package plus the documentation of your project for building permit and construction.  Our Comprehensive Package is our complete architectural and interior design service package and is our most popular package.

In addition we have two fixed fee packages, our Brief + Possibilities Package (BPP) which is a preliminary feasibility service plus extras. and our Concept Design Package which is an add on to our BPP and looks in detail at the concept design stage for your project. 

As mentioned above our Contract Administration Package is an add on option and itemised separately in our fee proposal document.

Take a look at what’s included in our full service and fixed fee packages and download our Dig Design® Service Packages document.

Contact us to book a meeting to discuss your project and request a fee proposal or to find out more about our fixed fee packages.

Why Now is a Good Time to [Plan] the Renovation of My Home

For most of us our home is the biggest investment we make in our lifetime, so it is only natural to ask yourself is now a good time to renovate my home?  Or, can I design my home now and build later?  In this post we examine why now is the best time to plan your dream renovation or new build.

For many, particularly those of us in Melbourne, 2020 and 2021 saw us retreat to the safety of our homes.  It was a time of prolonged togetherness like we had never experienced before.  Kids at the kitchen dining table learning, parents at makeshift desks working, soups on the stove and sourdough in the oven.  Friday night movies on the sofa, game night Wednesdays and a little too much screen time … it really was an extraordinary time.

Some of us loved it, some of us went stir crazy at the sight, size, colour and location of our four walls!

I think most of us at some point during the pandemic imagined our lives lived in improved versions of our homes.  Home offices, huge windows with natural light streaming in, strong open connections to our backyards, bigger kitchens, larger living spaces, spaces where we could be together and spaces where we could be apart …

Some of us jumped into action on those imaginings and started working with our architects on redesigning our homes to suit our changed lifestyles.  Some of us acted immediately and are excitedly coming to the end of our builds, others are already enjoying our renovated or newly built homes.  Some of us hesitated in an uncertain world and some of us are done waiting and now looking for the right architect to bring our imaginings to life.

Housing Market

The housing market boomed and homes that ticked all our boxes where in frenzied demand.  Paired with never-before-seen low interest rates, housing prices went through the roof. As with all things that go up (or down) at a rate beyond norm, we are now experiencing the correction of the rapid and unsustainable price rises and low interest rates.

Whilst there is no denying that housing prices have begun to decline, we are still ahead of where we were pre-covid.  The real estate market is full of ups and downs and plateaus in between, it always will be.  On the below graphic from the REIV, published at the end of the March 2023 quarter, you can see the rapid increase in housing prices, and now the correction, compared to where we were pre-covid, and the commencement of the next plateau.


If you purchased a home you thought ticked all your boxes at low interest rates, inflated prices and a seller’s market (at the top of that curve), you might now be feeling some regret.  If you renovated your home you might be feeling pretty chuffed right now.  But what if you hesitated?  What now?

You’re in luck … now is the perfect time to plan your dream home.

Time to Plan

There are many different stages involved in planning your dream home, with the build being one of the final stages.  Planning your dream home doesn’t mean you need to build right away, in fact holding on a build date has many advantages not the least of which is giving yourself time with your architect to get the design of your home just right.

You can spend time writing your design brief, a document that clearly sets out all that you want your architect to know and understand about your unique family dynamic and what is important to you to include in the design of your [new] home.

Your design brief is a live document and can change but it’s the starting point for discussions with your architect, or when selecting your architect.  There are pragmatic inclusions such; your budget and how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like, but what you really want to understand are your why[s].  For more information on how to write a brief, follow the link to our post about design briefs and download our guided templates for writing a brief.

Ahead of the Market

The building process from start to finish takes time, particularly if town planning approval is required.  Starting the design process now whilst the market is quietening can put you ahead of the market when the time is right for you, putting you in a good position to make the most of competitive prices, your choice of builder and potentially a quicker turnaround for approvals and permits.

Planning your [new] home ahead of time, having a design and documentation package ready to go, makes it possible to move forward with your build when the timing suits you, rather than rushing the design and documentation process when you are looking to start your build. 

The design and documentation process is an investment that is a fraction of the construction cost, so don’t let the fear about what the fee might be stop you from being pleasantly surprised by what the fee actually is. 

Now is the perfect time to move forward with planning your dream renovation or new build.  It will give you the time needed to properly assess your why[s], develop your brief and adequately consider the design.  You are not committing to building right now, but you will be ready to move forward with your build when you decide the time is right.

Improving your lifestyle and increasing the value and usability and energy efficiency of your home is always a good move.

Contact us at Dig Design to find out more about our architectural design process and how we can help you meet your goals.