Beautiful practical designs. Excellent service.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do you start if you want to build a new house, granny flat or extend your existing house?

Think about your needs and wants. What kind of “look” do you like?  What is your budget? We understand that building is a big investment and consider your budget in the design process. On this page we answer common building development faq’s.

How do you want the design process to work? You may want to delegate all design decisions to your designer. On the other hand you may want to be fully involved throughout the process. In either case, discuss your level of involvement with your designer at the beginning.

We meet you for an initial consultation on site to understand you, how you live, your land and/or home. After that we take your “brief” and discuss the process. We carefully listen and collaborate with you to create a beautiful yet practical custom design that you are happy with. 

We are familiar with the planning regulations that apply and assist you to navigate from concept to through to building plans for approval. 

If you are looking for some inspiration, check out our recent projects.

Exterior Building Development
New Home Carnes Hill
Austral Display Home in Contemporary Style Building Development
Austral Display Home in Contemporary Style
Austral Display Home with Hamptons Style Interiors Building Development
Austral Display Home with Hamptons Style Interiors

How do you know which approval path (Council or Private Certifier) is best for your project?

We analyse the land zoning, hazards such as bushfire and flood, and what you want to achieve. After that we inform you whether your application for approval can be Development Application via Council or Complying Development Application via Private Certifier. Private Certifiers have the benefit of simplicity and speed, being required to issue approval within 20 working days.

What is involved in building on Bushfire Prone land?

Unfortunately, the best bush views often come with fire prone land. The thought of building on bushfire prone land can be daunting. Being based in the very bushfire prone Blue Mountains, Lara’s Design Studio is consequently experienced in designing for bushfire. Firstly, we identify how much of your land is bushfire prone, which we source from Council maps. The next step is engaging an Accredited Bushfire Assessor to assess the BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) rating for your land. Finally, armed with this information we advise you of the design features and building material options to comply with building bushfire regulations.

How can you reduce energy costs yet have a comfortable home to live in?

With rising energy costs and looming effects of climate change we have you covered, as Lara is a Sustainability Design Specialist. For instance, we incorporate Passive Solar Design principles to optimise the orientation of your home. This results in reduced energy running costs. We recommend methods of wall and ceiling insulation and improved glazing to keep your home at a comfortable ambient temperature. As a result, the need for excessive heating and cooling is removed. Solar PV panels and solar hot water heating can be added too.

Additionally we recommend water saving methods such as rainwater tanks for use on your garden and for toilet flushing. Most sustainable strategies can be applied with no additional or low building cost.

What is the difference between an Architect, Building Designer & Draftsman?

An Architect is the first profession that springs to mind when thinking about getting an architectural design for your home or commercial project. However, most residential homes in Australia are designed by Building Designers or Draftsmen. A recent survey revealed “An estimated 5% of single residential homes in Australia are architect designed, while architects are involved in the majority of public buildings, commercial spaces and multi-unit developments.” So, what is the difference?

In short: qualifications, skills, experience, and price.


Firstly, architects are highly skilled and licenced to design any size and type of building. In addition, architects hold a university degree and must maintain their registration every year. They must also hold professional indemnity insurance and undertake regular continuing professional development.

Secondly, architects build the cost of their education and registration into their fees. They generally charge 5-15% of the total building cost. At the upper end of fees is a full service from architectural design through to Contract Administration overseeing the building progress and ensuring building faults are rectified.

Draftsperson (Draftsman):

A draftsperson generally focuses on drawing plans and documentation for approval, rather than design. 

Although draftspersons are not currently required to hold any qualification in NSW, a draftsperson may hold a TAFE qualification. There is no guarantee of the skill level or expertise of an unqualified draftsperson. 

Draftspersons may charge the lowest fees at around 2% of the building cost.

Building Designer:

Building Designers are the middle ground between Architects and Draftspersons. They design buildings and draft plans for building approval.  They generally do not provide Contract Administration overseeing the building progress.

A building designer usually has more training and licencing than a draftsperson. However, they are more cost effective than Architects. The Building Designers Association of Australia (BDAA) requires members to hold a qualification, portfolio of projects, Professional Indemnity Insurance and undertake continuing professional development.

Lara is an Accredited Building Designer with Building Designers Association of Australia (BDAA). BDAA Accreditation demonstrates a level of expertise and competence in a range of skills in design and documentation, therefore providing extra reassurance of a quality outcome. The BDAA Accreditation is required to complete certain types of projects in NSW.

Finally, Building Designers charge around 3-5% of the building cost.

So, which one is right for you?

For a small simple project, it is best to use a Draftsman or Building Designer without the unnecessary cost of an Architect.

For more complex larger projects it is best to employ a Building Designer or Architect with more training and expertise.

Whomever you choose, the cost of services varies based on the complexity of the project, the inclusions and level of service required.

Call us today!

Get in touch with us to book in your obligation free 30 minute chat in our office.


years experience

We pride ourselves listening to you and providing high quality design service responding to your individual needs.​
Our endeavour is to make your experience easy and stress free to progress your vision into a beautiful built project.