• VCAT

August 9, 2022

Five advantages of architects collaborating with town planners

It is well known that architects and town planners have a symbiotic relationship and sometimes adversarial situations arise when planners are overly conservative in accepting innovative design solutions. The town planning process can often be an arduous experience for architects and their clients who get frustrated at town planners subjective assessment and their perceived ‘making up of the rules’. It is common for architects to have to make unreasonable compromises in their design response purely in the interests of achieving the necessary town planning approval. Town planners have an exceptionally high level of influence over the design response of new buildings and this can be inappropriately exercised at times. The added costs associated with redesign work together with the required compromises and delay in commencing the project construction can cause stress for clients and their architects.

A lot of these frustrations can be avoided if a town planner is engaged to guide the design response of the architect from inception. A more proactive approach can save time, stress and the costs associated with reactive design amendments after the town planning application has been lodged. The benefits of collaborating with a town planner from project inception are:

1.      Increased certainty of approval.

Architects and building designers are excellent at creative design and innovation to meet their clients brief. However, an innovative and excellent design does not guarantee planning approval. A professional town planner can consult with the architects from a town planning approval perspective so that the design strikes the effective balance between innovation and an acceptable town planning outcome. This guarantees the planning approval for the proposal will be granted.  

2.      Time savings.

Professional advice about the town planning parameters are site and proposal specific and clarifying these from the outset establish an ‘envelope’ for an architect and a client to work within. This advice can relate to perspective requirements like building heights, setbacks and the like but can also be descriptive in nature related to elements like selection of finishes based on established neighbourhood character. This helps ensure the project is designed in a proactive approach to meeting town planning requirements which avoids the timely process of redesign work.  

3.      Reduced amount of design compromises post application lodgement.

Almost all clients and architects accept that an assessing council planner will request some further information and possibly compromises in their proposal before approving the planning permit. By engaging a professional planner to assist in the application preparation these requests can be mitigated resulting in less redesign work and minimal compromises post lodgement.  

4.      Reduced stress for clients.

Clients can become ‘wedded’ to a design and when this happens they can be reluctant to make compromises in the interests of obtaining the required planning approval. This can be a stressful and upsetting experience for clients that can be avoided with a proactive approach.

5.      Let architects be architects.

Architects take on a holistic role in projects and can find themselves wearing many hats. This includes being the listed council contact to obtain the necessary town planning approval. This is a role that is often beyond their expertise and takes up a lot of their time. A professional town planner can reduce their workload and allow them to focus their skills on what they do best.

There are differing opinions as to whether a town planner or an architect should be engaged first on a project. We are of a view it is best to appoint them in tandem or appoint a town planner first to set the planning context for the architect and the client to work within. Here at CS we provide our clients a memorandum of advice at the outset of projects that creates certainty around the planning requirements and assists architects defining the project parameters that minimises the level of redesign work required post application lodgement.