26 May

Concept to completion: It’s a long and winding road

Survivors of disaster will often express these priorities: Water, food, clothes, shelter. Where we live is right up there in our needs, and getting from where you are now, to a peaceful snooze at the new ranch, can be a long and stressful, as well as exciting journey.

At Leaderbuild we will be thrilled to start collaborating with you at any point, and from our perspective the earlier the better.

Let’s assume you have decided on an individual design ‘bespoke’ builder rather than a production line, volume builder. Good, you have proven you’re not a sheep.

Finding the land

  • How’s the orientation, in particular the essential north aspect, privacy etc
  • What services are available? Water, Gas, Power, sewage
  • If there is no sewer is the land suitable for a septic system (See Insight: Sewage and LCA)
  • Is the property at bushfire risk? (See Insight: Bushfire Planning and BAL
  • Are there any difficult planning constraints? Have a chat to the local town planners.

Phew: You have had 3 picnics at ‘the block’ with the in-laws and it’s time to think design


  • Assemble a few photos or clippings of buildings or spaces that you like – think themes, but don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Before trying to come up with a layout, think about what spaces you would like. What spaces do you need? Half a dozen bathrooms and a maid’s quarters or something compact? And how do they relate to each other?
  • Remember the liveable/sustainable design basics (See Insights: Design basics)  
  • Most people at this point come up with a sketch on the back of one of the kids’ artworks. Here is a hint. Buy a scale rule and some A3 paper. Make your sketch to scale say 1:50. Buy some tracing paper or baking paper to play with overlays.
  • Before you engage a designer, be it architect or draftsman or dear old dad, get together with Leaderbuild and at no cost put together the roughest of rough budgets. A simple yardstick? Try about $3,000 per square meter (See Insight: What will all this cost?). Remember that the rough cost is just the house, and doesn’t include design, permits, roads, gardens, outbuildings etc
  • If you want to use an architect for a unique design and high-level detailing, be prepared to spend quite a bit. $30,000? Have a chat with us first, as architectural projects can be very expensive to build and sometimes can reflect the architects’ fantasies rather than yours. We can talk with you about the build-ability of any design.  
  • If you feel confident or don’t want to feature on home beautiful, then a draftsman can produce great results for half that amount or less.
  • Have a think about the other elements of your total property plan. Bushfire safety, food growing, sheds and other outbuildings, water tanks

At last, there is a draft set of drawings you can show the relatives. Tell them: what I want to hear is “Its fabulous.” Not “where is the linen press?”


This process is detailed in the insight: Costs

In summary,

  • Rough (back of the envelope) costing
  • Detailed estimate (based on completed design drawings and specification)
  • Joint review of estimate
  • Adjustments if required
  • No obligation contract offer
  • Contract
  • Build, and delirious joy on all sides.


Contract documents usually include architectural and engineering drawings, a specification detailing finishes etc and a list of ‘Prime cost” items such as tiles for which a particular amount has been allowed and may need later adjustment – up or down!

Essential reports

Land capacity assessment (LCA)

If you block is not connected to a sewage system you will need an LCA to determine what sort of septic system is appropriate, and this report will also include the soil conditions needed for the engineering design of footings etc.  (See Insight: Sewage system and LCA)

Soils report

If there is sewage available, you will not need an LCA but will need a soil report for the engineering design.

Bushfire Attack Load (BAL)

If you are in an area subject to bushfires (and goodness knows that’s almost everywhere!) you will need a report assessing the risk. (See Insight: Bushfire planning and BAL)



The local council will in most cases require a planning permit. This is to ensure your project fits into planning guidelines. Drawings showing the site plan, building floor plans and elevations, and detail regarding external finishes need to be submitted to council and a fee paid. Obtaining a planning permit not always but often, can be a long and frustrating wait with requests for further information are common.


Once you have the precious planning permit you will need a permit to ensure that the project is built to established standards. The planning permit drawings will have to be further developed into construction drawings that show precise dimensions, method of construction etc and include engineering and energy rating detail.

This permit is issued by a building surveyor, usually a private company but occasionally a council employee. He or she will check that the drawings meet codes and will visit the site at key stages to ensure the building complies. At Leaderbuild we would be disappointed if the surveyor found even one issue.


If a septic is needed you will need a specific permit from the council which details the type of system and layout etc.  (See Insight: Sewage system and LCA)

That’s a lot, and to quote the Beatles

“It’s a long and winding road that leads to your door”

But don’t worry. It's our job at Leaderbuild to guide you through all or any part of this journey.

Do you have more questions?

Get in touch