Initial consultation checklist

Initial consultation(s) between the designer and the owner and members of their family in the early stages of the project should include the following.

Letter of appointment Arrange a letter of appointment as designer either from the owner or from the designer confirming the commission – a form letter is available for NZ Institute of Architects members.
Design brief

Develop the brief that the designer will work to.


  • Is it to be a restoration where the key parameter is being faithful to the original, or is it a renovation where modern features and layout are to be incorporated into the original house? 
  • Is the building being extended? 
  • What do the owners want to achieve in terms of living spaces, comfort, sound control, connection to the outside, a pool or garage?

Determine the owner’s actual budget. Does this place limitations on the amount of work able to be done, or can the job be structured over a number of years to make it affordable?

(The key is always to have a plan of where the owner wants to end up – the variable is how long it might take to get there.)

Existing layout and structure

Do a careful measure-up and document the existing layout and construction and the condition of the building – cladding, roofing, framing wiring, plumbing and so on. Identify:

  • what work must be addressed as part of the renovation, for example, rotten timber, roofing at the end of its serviceable life
  • the opportunities and the limitations of the existing building – and whether it can be extended up or out, or lifted
  • how much is truly original and the owner wishes to be retained, what is a later modification and has no historical value and whether the original features remaining are able to be modified
  • load-bearing elements of structure 
  • framing sizes, spacing, materials and so on.

Determine what is possible given the existing structure, for example, installing new double-glazed windows into framing timbers that are not straight and level may be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Determine those parts of the existing structure that may need to be modified, for example, removal of existing walls and the structural implications of the change – will a beam have to be added in?

Resources Management Act requirements Determine whether the Resource Management Act limitations apply to the site, for example, site coverage and building height, side yards and so on – is it a listed building?
Plumbing If plumbing work is involved, check the water pressure. Some plumbing fixtures are difficult to fit in homes where there is a big variation in the pressure of the mains water supply. Renovations that bring mains pressure water into a house often result in much higher water flow rates and potentially higher water bills for owners whose homes are metered if water efficiency measures are not added to counter this.