Frequently Asked Questions

DCF Design Group FAQs

Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

Here we have a series of questions that are commonly asked by our customers or those people interested in our services.

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They cover a variety of topics including :

  • General information
  • Copyright
  • Fee structure
  • Town Planning Permit
  • Building Permit

Please do not hesitate to click the button below should you wish us to contact you to discuss any further questions you may have.


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The most commonly asked questions :

  • 1 / General

    What is the best way to choose a building design professional?

    • Look at their previous work – either built works or a portfolio of their work.
    • Ask them what their qualifications are and view the document if possible.
    • Also ask for references from builders and previous clients.
    • Ascertain from conversations if you feel comfortable communicating with the designer. Communication is essential to you realising your goals.Note: Fees can be a deciding factor for people when choosing a designer. Choosing a designer because they are cheap is the worst way to choose someone. You need to choose the designer you think will do the best job at the end of the day. You may save a couple of thousand dollars in design fees but will spend more fixing design problems during construction and end up with a house that you are not very happy with.

    What will a building design professional offer me that a project home company will not?

    Building Designers have been educated to specialise in design not drafting and will design a ‘one-off’ home that is very site specific – with all your individual needs factored into the design. Project builders start with a home already designed for the mass market and is not site specific – these designs will require some changes before you are totally happy.

    One-off homes are generally more cleverly designed and visually more interesting as they are not appealing to the mass housing market. They are typically more expensive but not always – it depends on the design complexity.

    When is the best time to build a home?

    Generally during a ‘building slump’ is the best time to build as labour and construction items become more competitive.

    Where do I start?

    Each project, circumstance, and nature of commission is different. That is why our process begins with our Discovery & Direction Pack. This will enable us to better understand the opportunity and constraints of your property.

    What is a ‘brief’ ?

    A brief should be as comprehensive as possible and it needs to detail your wants, needs, and requirements. It could include sizings, budget, images of appealing products or buildings, functions and lifestyle, requirements for furniture/art etc. Really it is as much information as possible to convey your project to us. Sometimes the brief may not be resolved and evolves with the project, but there is always a start or reason for the project.

    How will you resolve information transfer between client and design professional?

    Phone, e-mail and snail mail generally resolve the issue of information transfer quite well, after all it is the information (drawings, images, lists and specifications) that you employ us to provide. In our client login area we provide steps on how each section of information transfer is handled between client and designer.

    How will you resolve Consultants issues during the design or construction process?

    Generally consultants are appointed by the client in consultation with the design professional, so consultants such as Land surveyors, Engineers and others are generally local to the area and thus readily available to the client.

  • 2 / Copyright

    Can I build more than one building with the same design or drawings?

    No because the design copyright is to the author (i.e. the design professional) and also the drawings would need to be changed for each site. The drawings and design that you receive are only for that site, and for that specific building.

    Can I use a drawing that I have obtained from a display home and vary it slightly for you to provide a design for my project?

    The issue of copyright is the same, the ownership of those designs are to the author and you can only reproduce in part or whole with the author written permission. If you have ideas that you would like to incorporate in your design, write your ideas as points and we can discuss them, and see how a design can be best developed for your particular site.

    Can I buy the copyright to a drawing/s to build more than one building from the same design?

    Yes, you can buy a copyright for more that one house of the same design, if you pay the agreed sum for such use to the author of the drawings. Generally the amount paid for multi use for a dwelling design is reduced depending on the demands of Town Planning (if required) and particular site documentation requirements.

    How long after a design is done, do design copyright restriction stop?

    Generally fifty years after the author’s death, but to obtain more specific information you should refer this question to a solicitor.

    Can I change my house design without asking the design professional when I build?

    This would depend on your arrangement with the designer, but generally, any changes require to be approved by the author. You should also remember that any changes to your design may need to be approved by Town Planning and or the Building Surveyor.



  • 3 / Fees

    What are your fees?

    This is probably the most common question and one that is very difficult to answer at an early stage. We need to know the total scope of a project as well as the extent of our involvement prior to us being able to provide a fee proposal.

    We aim to provide the closest budget estimate we can at a very early stage before any real information has been collected. We provide a fixed fee wherever possible where the scope of works is quantifiable. Any stages where we cannot provide a fixed fee, we will provide either a definition of our scope or a range/window of likely costs based upon our defined scope.

    We provide a Budget Estimate after our initial consultation or Discovery & Direction process. This estimate is based on our understanding of the scope of works described in our initial consultation and the likely fees to facilitate these works.

    It may seem obvious to some, but well worth mentioning, that as a project develops sometimes our work increases and the hourly rate components provided at the budget estimate stage may need to be reviewed. The client’s best intentions when describing the brief may not be a true representation of the processes or time it takes to facilitate these services.

    There are 3 phases that are charged at an hourly rate.

    1. The Design Phase is charged at hourly rate. This means that we have estimated the best case scenario of likely hours to achieve the works described to us so far. In the event that there are changes to the design and/or scope of works, this will constitute additional charges.
    2. The Planning Negotiations Phase is charged at hourly rate as we cannot accurately estimate the time it will take to overcome the issues that may be raised by council, neighbours and other third parties.
    3. The Building Permit Facilitation Phase is charged at hourly rate as attaining the permit and any additional permissions is subject to council and and adjoining neighbour influences.

    The Documentation Phase is usually estimated at the Budget Estimate phase as a range or window and often changes as a result of the Design and Planning Negotiation Phases.

    DCF Design Group reserves its rights to reassess the construction and interior documentation phases upon the completion of the approved design or planning stage.

    Fees are charged individually to each project, no estimate of fees will be given by e-mail or phone until the project location and the client requirements are assessed. Generally, after initial contact we would ask for details of the site and a general statement of your expectations so that we can assess the project potential and resultant fees.

    How much does it cost for an initial consultation?

    There is no charge for an initial consultation in our office. If we visit you at your home, then there is a nominal fee. This is credited towards your first account if you choose to involve us.

    Do you provide a quote or estimate?

    DCF Design Group always provides a budget ‘estimate’ at any initial stage as so much of the work ahead is subject to variations and changes. Whilst we have a very strong knowledge of the processes involved in our works, individuals and their properties have a diverse range of issues which may reflect/vary our scope of works.

    Can I choose to engage you for only one of your services, eg. interior design?

    Yes, you can engage us for any of the services outlined here.

  • 4 / Town Planning Permit

    Do we require a Town Planning Permit for our proposed project?

    Generally if your project is within the inner area of the City or Town that you propose to build, or there is a Planning overlay such as a Heritage overlay (i.e. your site is within a designated Heritage area) or it is a small site, the answer is yes. Outer Suburban areas on standard site where the proposal is very similar to the surrounding sites are generally excluded.

    Who determines if we require a Town Planning Permit?

    The Town Planning Department at your local City, Shire or Council can provide you with this answer, however it does depend on your proposal, and sometimes they do require you to provide them with drawings to explain your request. However, if what you propose is straight forward and within local Planning requirements the answer can be straight forward also.

    We can provide you with an initial Design if you wish to handle this part of the operation should drawings be required for the Council to respond to this initial request. Generally as part of the whole fee we perform such inquiries and provide the necessary documentation. If you would like us to make preliminary inquiries place the information on the contacts page and we will respond to your request as soon as we can.

    How long does it take to get a Town Planning Permit?

    This depends on many factors, This is the part of the Building Process that is most unpredictable as it depends on your design expectations, the expectations of the local Planning Laws and Planning Department and the reaction of the neighbours when the project is advertised. Because of the number of participating bodies in this decision you should start your planning at least eighteen months before you are proposing to go out and look for a builder. If it takes less time than you have some time up your sleeve and you will be less rushed in your decisions making process.

    Please also refer to Permissions & Town Planning for a case study on a town planning application or learn about our Planning Application Guarantee.

    Does this mean that if I don’t require a Planning Permit I can start my association with you much later than 18 months?

    No, you should start planning for a new design as soon as possible, the application for a Planning Permit does increase the amount of drawings but it does not necessarily decrease the amount of design time. The more time you spend in designing your proposal, the greater he chance of getting it right.

    Is there an appeal process if the Council or Shire refuses my Proposal?

    The answer is generally yes to this question, however no Planning application can be guaranteed regardless of the quality of the drawings or past success. Objections from neighbours, client expectations and council requirements can sometimes conflict and even when the appeal process (Such as VCAT) is applied the success can never be guaranteed.

  • 5 / Building Permit

    Do I need a Building Permit for my project?

    In nearly all cases the answer to this is “yes”, only in rare circumstances, when the project is very small and may only involve internal work this may vary. Contact the building surveyor at your local Council or Shire they will supply you with the appropriate answer. In any case no building work should occur without determining if a building permit is required.

    This may result in penalties to a greater value of the building work itself and may affect your insurance and your capacity to sell the project at completion.

    How do I get a Building Permit?

    To get a building permit you are required to produce drawings and specifications to fully describe the proposed works (generally referred to the Working Drawings and Specifications). This involves the productions of plans, elevations and sections and a description of the materials used in the construction. If you would like us to the working drawings for your project please fill in your details in the contacts page and we will provide you with a fee structure for the working drawings and specifications and a list of probable consultants.

    What consultants do I need for my project?

    Again this depends on the type, size and nature of the project. However it would be uncommon for a project not to require at least a structural engineer consultant and a land surveyor. Consultants are generally appointed by the owners in consultation with the building designer. All consultants are paid directly by the owners unless specifically shown in contract between the building designer and the owners to be otherwise.

    Who issues a Building Permit and how long does it take to obtain?

    Building permits are issued by a registered building surveyor, this may be a council or private building surveyor depending on your particular region and circumstances. Generally after the drawings are produced by the building designer a fee is paid by the owners to the building surveyor and the checking process begins. If amendments are required the building designer amends the drawings to the satisfaction of the building surveyor who at completion of such amendments issues a building permit.

    Work on any site should only begin after a building surveyor supplies a marked drawing set showing a building permit stamp. Unlike the town planning permit the time taken for a building permit can be fairly accurately assessed as long as you have previously obtained a town planning permit and no other advertising is required.

    What else does the Building Surveyor do after they issue a Building Permit?

    The building surveyor does a number of inspections during the building process, he generally checks the building structure to comply with the Building Code of Australia and associated Codes. He is not responsible to check the builders work or determine when payments are to be made to the builder. This is an arrangement that you must make with the person doing “The Administration of Contract” which may or may not be included in your building design fee depending of the contents of the building designer contract.

Top 10 questions to ask before you engage a designer

1. Is there a charge for an initial consultation?

2. Can you confirm that you are registered and insured?

3. Do you have a signature style?

4. What services do you offer?

5. When will be able to meet?

6. How do you charge?

7. What is your track record of successful planning applications?

8. Do you work with builders?

9. Do you have a deep understanding of onsite construction methods?

10. Do you provide services to manage the construction?

  • If you have any further questions we have not answered or if you are ready to get started with the Discovery & Direction process, log your details to book in a no-obligation Free Initial Consultation. Once we have your details we’ll give you a quick call back in the next 24-hrs to either answer your question or schedule the Consultation and get some basic information about you and your project and so we can both prepare for the meeting.

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