The Unconventional Route

Working with a building designer means leveraging their expertise throughout your design and build process.

But many business owners might not be fully aware of how valuable your building designer can be in the pre-design phase. I see business owners missing out on this additional expertise, all because they’re stumped by this question:

Should I hire my building designer before or after I choose my business premises?

Hiring a building designer

The Conventional Route

Conventional wisdom might suggest that you should find your new business premises and sign a lease BEFORE you bring a building designer on board.

In my experience, most business owners take this path.

But what if they flipped conventional wisdom on its head and saved money, time and potential frustration in the process?

Hiring a building designer

The Unconventional Route

Rather than waiting until after you’ve purchased your premises or signed a commercial lease, you could engage a building designer before you choose your business’s new home.

While it may sound counterintuitive to hire the designer before you have the space, this isn’t actually the case. In fact, the pre-design phase is essential to the success of your project. It can involve:

  • effectively curating your inspiration and understanding how your space can offer your customers a fantastic brand experience
  • distilling that essential branding work down to a tangible design vision
  • generating initial concepts and designs that take into account exactly how you want your ideal space to function, as well as considering your budget

Why you shouldn't wait to hire your designer

Here’s the real talk – any sizeable financial commitment will put you and your project under pressure. When you have the financial imperative of your mortgage or rent payments hanging over your head, you’re more likely to:

  1. Rush through the essential pre-design phase of your project, leading to quickly-made decisions that don’t fit your business now, or in the long-term
  2. Feel frustration when certain timeframes and processes are out of your control (helloooo council approvals!), because you can feel that clock ticking and dollar signs stacking up
  3. Blowout your budget because you’ve leased a property that can’t be modified in the way you want it to, without sacrificing a whole lot of cash

Let's Look at This More Closely

If you lease a space, you’re making payments as soon as you sign on the dotted line. And this financial pressure can have real implications for your budget and your brand efficacy throughout the building design process.

How it affects your brand

When you don’t hire a building designer from the get go, you don’t move through the pre-design phase at the right time. This means that you don’t have an expert alongside you who can make those all-important initial design decisions based on how you need your space to function and look. This can mean you’re not making choices that will maximise your customer experience.

Without this foundational work of understanding your brand and how your physical space can bring it to life, you may select a premises that simply can’t sustain the design concept you really want.

How it affects your budget

Without generating initial design concepts before choosing a space, you might run into several issues that compound the costs of your project.

Maybe it’s that it requires much more work to convert the existing space to a particular layout. Or maybe the problem comes in at the compliance stage. This can be a stumbling block for people because it’s difficult to accurately estimate how lengthy and complex a council or town planning approvals process will be, unless you’re well-versed in this field.

An example might be that you have particular plans for your premises that will be complicated by the specific zoning restrictions within your location. This then results in blown-out timeframes, as you wait in an approvals limbo-land, accumulating costs all the while.

And it doesn’t just affect the present – what about the future directions of your business? Have you inadvertently cut off options for expansion and growth going forward, by choosing a space that may logistically limit what you can use it for?

These are all considerations that a business owner is unlikely to be able to answer, without some qualified expertise guiding them.

Benefits of Engaging a Building Designer First

We’re all about doing things differently, especially when it serves your business best. So, how can you benefit from engaging a building designer before locking in a lease?

How it affects your brand

You’ll have a rock-solid design concept, custom-built to suit YOUR business. Rather than a short-term fix that compromises on functionality, aesthetics, customer experience or all three at once, you have the pressure-free time to truly dig into foundational pre-design work.

Who is your space for? How will they experience it in real-time? What kind of layout will serve your purposes best? Do you have plans for business expansion in the future?

These questions may seem deceptively simple, but a great building designer will be able to use your answers to distill the most effective design concept that can maximise customer experience and evolve with your business over time.

How it affects your budget

They’ll also be able to help you make the right design decisions, based on your budget and timeframe. They can sense-check your own projections when they might not be realistic and offer accurate estimates in their place.

This will ultimately save you frustration and financial strain because you then can secure a lease with a clear understanding of how long the design and build process will really take.

Plus, they’ll shed light on the planning rules and regulations of certain properties. By liaising with your designer before you lay down any money on a premises, they can advise you on what zoning regulations you’ll need to be aware of and the relative complexity of town planning and council approvals for particular builds.

So, A Word from the Wise?

Buck convention. Take the less-travelled route. Explore your options before you put yourself under the financial pressure of leases and mortgages.

And your business will reap the benefits.

As the founder of i.Balter Design, Emily Nair creates spaces that support the connections that matter.

Specialising in residential and commercial building design, she believes that our physical environments have a powerful impact on how we live and work.

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