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How long will the design take? It really depends on you, the designer and anyone else who has a stake in the final design. It also depends on the level of detail you are seeking and the extent of finishes and intricacy of the design.




One thing I can tell you is that you need to set parameters with the designer on how long you want it to take, to ensure that there is adequate time remaining to build the project and relocate within an acceptable time frame.


Here’s a classic example of what I mean. I have a client for whom we have completed four other fitouts and who have a nice but fairly simple design concept that suits their style of business. They were looking to develop a new, slightly upmarket, style of store without increasing the overall cost of the fitout too much and we were approaching it as a design and construct concept.




We had our designer on board but discussions started a bit later than they should have, in that they had a June 30 deadline and we were discussing this job in mid-April. We also had to seek design approval from another stakeholder – Westfield. Westfield have their own team of professional building managers and tenancy designers who provide significant input on how your shop can be built and have an approval processes that must be followed.

On top of that my client had just appointed a new Managing Director, another stakeholder who was also the person who approved design and budget.

So how did it turn out? We submitted a draft plan based on the initial client discussion and then changed a few items. It went back to the client who was happy and they sent it onto Westfield. They red penned it, as they wanted to see more finishes and fittings, more ‘wow’ factor. This added additional cost to the budget, and thus it needed it to be redesigned. New plans were produced and run past the Managing Director who then wanted to move the position of reception desk. Believe it or not, Westfield then made further changes and so more plans… it can be a very back and forth process.

So it was early June and the end result is that we had 13 days to fitout new premises for our client. We had to get it done because they had already surrendered their lease on their existing premises.




So you can see the need to place time frames on design. It is critical to start the design process early, set target dates, ensure that decisions are made on design and that all stakeholders are happy with the outcome and, maybe importantly, are also aware of the time restraints.

Other stakeholders you may also have to get approval from depending on your circumstances, include:

  • ƒOther section managers within your business e. g., marketing regarding signage.

  • Building management (in the above case it was Westfield) but in your case it will be the owner of the property or maybe the strata committee if your premises is a strata.

  • Council, if seeking a Development Application (DA).

  • Private Certifying Authority (PCA) who may need to review plans to ensure they all meet relevant codes

  • (remember before any building can start these guys need two days prior notice to inspect the site).

So you can see how easy it might be to burn time so to speak within the entire design process and development of plans to suit your business needs.




So what else can extend the time it takes to design your office?  The level of detail required to convey the design elements to a point where you the client can understand them and be comfortable with what you are receiving.

Everyone’s capacity to understand a plan is different. Some people can just look at a plan and understand intuitively how it’s going to look when finished. Others can’t. These people will need all the tricks that a great designer can bring to the table to make the design come alive for everyone. This may include rendered three-dimensional drawings, detailed elevations, modelling or even a computer generated walk-through design.




A very simple example of this is my family home. We recently decided to purchase a new house and because I build offices for a living I was happy to engage someone who builds homes for a living, because I do what I do and they do what they do. Problem was my wife Alison and I had never been down this path before. We went on a road of discovery, not only about the process of building a new home, but about the differences between us, that we had not discovered after 15 years of marriage.

I’m the guy who can look at plans and go yeah, that will be great I can picture that. Years of experience will do that for you. Alison struggled, no matter how (badly) I tried to explain it.

I really wanted to run with a local builder and construct a one of a kind custom home that was planned to suit our needs. But in the end we went with a project homebuilder where we could walk through the home we were about to build and actually see and feel how the home was going to be.

For me it was a personal learning curve and although it was frustrating to some extent, I had to acknowledge it wasn’t that simple. In the end we didn’t go the custom design route because it was causing too much pain.

The learning I took away was that not everyone sees things the way I do, and so it is with design. Some people will need more detail than others; some people will need more explanation than others. Some people may never get enough information. At some point you may just need to get them to where they are 90 per cent okay and just run with it.

That said, the stakeholder’s ability to grasp the design is a key denominator in reducing the time it will take to design your new office. The less explaining you need to do because of good design tools, the better.




  • ƒ Establish time deadlines for your designer.

  • Manage the various stakeholders with a firm hand.

  • Understand who all the stakeholders are.

  • Planning will help you leave sufficient time.

  • Make sure your designers use all the tools available to communicate their design in a way that all stakeholders can understand.