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Our Process

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It's all in the design

How Sentinel Homes partners with architectural designers

There’s nothing quite like designing and building your own home. Think floor-to-ceiling kitchen storage, open-plan living – heck, you could install a hand basin for every family member if you wanted. Starting from scratch allows you to create a home that functions perfectly for you and your family.

The design process is where it all begins, and we work with some superb architectural designers who have a natural flair for turning home dreams into design reality. Once you’ve agreed upon a preliminary estimate with Sentinel Homes, you’ll sit down with us and one of our partner architectural designers – who’ll walk you step by step through the design process.

Steve Loza from Lifestyle Architectural Services Ltd in Auckland, and Luke Hammington from Prime Designs in Wellington, explain how they work with Sentinel Homes and what’s involved with the design process.

Let’s start with the B-word – budget

So, you’ve always dreamed about having a full marble bathroom – dreams are free, right? The most important part of the design process is figuring out whether your dream home is something you can afford.

Luke explains how Sentinel Homes does a good job of helping clients set realistic goals, right from the beginning. That means when he begins work on design, clients already have their expectations managed.

“Quite often people have fallen in love with something they can’t actually afford. There is absolutely no point in billing for hopes and dreams, so we work together with clients and Sentinel Homes to make sure the home plans realistically fit within the budget.”

Steve says there’s a real benefit for clients when builders and architectural designers work together.

“When clients engage architects without a builder, and a client doesn’t know what things cost, they can end up with designs that just don’t fit their budgets. That’s the beauty of having a builder involved in the process from the start. We use our experience to know the style of house, and Sentinel Homes uses their expertise to approximate rate per square metre.”


When you approach Sentinel Homes about designing and building your home, the first step is a meet-and-greet. Sentinel Homes will visit your site, and you’ll meet with them to discuss your build and what kind of home you’re after. Then you’ll get a preliminary estimate – roughly how much it will cost to build your home.

It’s at this stage, Steve explains, that he starts putting together a design brief.

“Sentinel Homes will bring the client in and introduce us all, and that’s where we’ll take a design brief – number of bedrooms, budget, what they’re after – that sort of thing. We’ll often ask clients to bring images of houses or features that they like as reference.”

Concept design

Based on the specification Sentinel Homes has put together with the client, the architectural designer puts a concept design together.

Luke makes sure to ask a lot of questions up front, even sketching ideas out in front of clients so they can visualise what they’re asking for. His goal by the end of the first meeting is to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“It’s a process that all three of us work on together – architectural designer, duilder and client. We go through our design brief, ideas, photos, site works, potential challenges, what the client wants to achieve. We’ll identify any issues and bounce ideas off each other, until I’m comfortable we’re all ok with what can and can’t be done.”

He adds that it comes with experience knowing what will work for what budget, and he likes to be able to address any misconceptions as quickly as possible – so clients aren’t waiting too long for the final design.

“The first design should be 90% there.”

Steve agrees, adding the concept design is usually a client’s first good look at what their house might look like.

“We present the design in the form of a site plan and floor plan – and talk through how the design meets the brief. Most of the time we get it spot on, with just a few little tweaks required.”

Developed design

At this stage, the architectural designers address any design changes clients want to make from the concept design, and start to fill design elements like kitchen layout and bathroom designs. At the same time, Sentinel Homes will work with clients to make sure the design ticks all the boxes – and will update the specification as fittings, fixtures and build materials are chosen.

Steve says, “The developed design is presented to the client, and we’ll then do 3D renders so they can visualise what their house is going to look like. At this stage, Sentinel Homes then take this final design and firm up the build contract so it’s all complete in one package. ”

Steve says this seamless connection between client builder and architectural designer is part of why Sentinel Homes has such an incredible track record of taking out gold in competitions around the country.

“It’s a real testament to the value of great partnerships,” he says.

Building consent drawings

The final stage is probably best described as admin. Luke explains this is where he finalises the drawings and compliance documents required for building consents, along with the working plans. He also liaises with any consultants the build needs, like engineers.

New home with less stress

All up, the design process will take approximately 30 working days. You might have a tight budget to work to, or be after something a little more architecturally challenging. Either way, Steve says Sentinel Homes helps make the process as easy as possible – because it’s about building your house with minimum stress.

“It’s daunting and quite the unknown for a lot of people. Sometimes it’s a quick process, and sometimes things can take longer. The combination of our design experience and Sentinel Homes build experience means you get a result that’s fully customised to your needs – and you’re engaging with professionals who can help you get into a home that you love.”

what's next?

Let’s get together for a free, no-pressure meeting with one of our team, at your place or ours.

We can't wait to hear your ideas!

Call 0800 456 321