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Navigating the Building Process in Melbourne

By Anne Hindley, Principal Architect

Building your dream home or undertaking a renovation project in Melbourne can be an exciting yet complex process. Before you start, it's essential to understand the process and the specialists or contractors you will need to help ensure a smooth and successful journey with your renovation or build. 

Understanding the Building Process

The building process in Melbourne, whether it's a new build or a renovation, will typically involve several stages, including:

  • Design: This initial stage involves conceptualising your vision, developing plans, and obtaining necessary approvals.

  • Planning: This stage involves securing permits, finalising details, and appointing qualified professionals.

  • Construction: This stage entails bringing your project to life and adhering to plans and regulations.


The first step in any building project is to work with your Architect to determine the design and budget for your project. 

The design process generally has three stages: 

  1. Conduct a feasibility study tailored to your specific site and requirements. This study examines site orientation, slope, planning regulations, and spatial relationships, providing a foundation for the concept design. 

  2. The concept design phase produces schematic floor plans, 3D models, mood boards, and cost estimates, ensuring alignment with your vision before progressing. 

  3. The detailed design then delves into joinery, materials, fixtures, and services, often involving various specialist consultants. Outputs include consultant reports, architectural drawings, interior plans, material specifications, and cost estimates, facilitating informed decision-making and project progression.


The next step is moving on to permits and approvals from your local council. A good architect will be familiar with restrictions from your local council area or be in discussion with the council on your behalf to understand the local regulations for residential buildings. 

Various permits may be necessary for your project, including building permits, planning permits, and demolition permits, depending on its scope and requirements. Understanding the specific permits required can streamline your project's compliance process and ensure smooth progression.

An additional consideration to Melbourne's permit and planning process is planning overlays—additional regulations that apply to certain areas beyond the standard zoning rules. These overlays are in place to ensure that development is carried out responsibly. If your property falls under one of these planning overlays, it could significantly affect your project, so it's essential to research and understand them before proceeding with your plans.

Here are some of the common planning overlays to consider in Melbourne:

Working with an experienced architect can help you navigate this tricky stage to ensure regulations do not compromise your design. 

Professionals Needed for the Project

During the planning process, you will need to engage several professionals, some of which are: 

A. Architects

Architects act as the central point of contact, leading the design process. We translate your vision into technical drawings, handle planning applications, and collaborate with other professionals to ensure your project's seamless execution.

B. Engineers

A building project will typically need the following engineers:

  • Structural engineers: Ensure the structural integrity and safety of your building.

  • Civil engineers: Design and oversee the foundations, drainage, and overall site infrastructure.

  • Mechanical engineers: Design and oversee heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and plumbing systems.

C. Landscape Designers

Landscape architects or designers specialise in creating functional and aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces. They consider factors like drainage, plant selection, and ensuring seamless integration between your built environment and the surrounding landscape.

D. Other Relevant Professionals

Depending on your project's needs, additional professionals such as building surveyors, heritage consultants, and energy raters may be involved.


With the design approved, your architect can prepare the construction documents and drawings. These include schedules and specifications that list every material, fitting, surface, paint colour, and more to be used in your building. They lay the foundation for work to proceed smoothly without delay, ensuring that quality and costs are controlled throughout construction. The more detailed and accurate these documents are, the less overrun on the budget you will likely incur.

Contractor Selection

With the construction documentation now prepared, you can get pricing from the builders to complete your project. Agreeing on a price with a builder without the detailed foundation can result in project overruns on both cost and time.

For the building processes in Melbourne, you are required to ensure your contractor is fully insured and a registered builder with the Victorian Building Authority.The authority's website has a list of registered builders

Architect Selection

It is highly recommended that you consider multiple tenders for your project. To accomplish this, you can enlist the help of an architect who can oversee the process and ensure that the right experts are brought to the table.

  • A skilled architect can add real value to your project by creating precise and unambiguous documents that enable you to obtain comparable prices. By doing so, you can minimise variations due to unknown factors that may arise during construction.

  • Your architect will also prepare a tender report, which they will present to you to help you understand the tender results. They will also make a recommendation as to who to select.

  • Once you have settled on a builder, you can finalise the building permit and start construction. Engaging your architect to administer the contract for you will save you a great deal of time, cost and stress and achieve a higher-quality result. 

  • Your architect will check that the builder complies with the contract documents and design intent and find great solutions to problems. 

  • They also act as a mediator between the builder and you and will keep you regularly updated on the actual progress, overall cost, and expected completion date. 

  • They will keep you informed if anything is required of you so you stay on the right side of your contractual obligations.

Tips for a Smooth Building Experience

  • Set realistic expectations and budgets: Define your needs and research costs, and factor in potential contingencies. Your architect will be an excellent guide to help you with your design needs and budget to achieve your desired outcome. 

  • Maintain clear communication: Keep all parties involved updated, address concerns promptly, and ask questions if anything is unclear.

  • Proactive involvement: Stay engaged throughout the process, providing feedback and making decisions promptly.


By understanding the different stages involved, assembling a qualified team, and communicating effectively, you can confidently navigate the complexities of the building process. Remember, several resources, including professional organisations like the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and consumer affairs websites like Consumer Affairs Victoria, are available to assist you with valuable information on regulations, permits, and choosing the right professionals.

So, if you’re ready to turn your dream home into a reality, let Hindley & Co. guide you through the intricate process with ease. Whether you're building from scratch or renovating, our team ensures a seamless journey from design to construction. Contact us to get started today and bring your vision to life with confidence!


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