How to write a brief for an Architect : Part 2

You can download our free Ebook on How to write a Brief for an Architect Here!

 With an Editable PDF, You can create your own Architects Brief, that will get you the house you want.

Extract: In our ‘How to write a brief for an Architect ’ we discuss how it is good to get in tune with your requirements for your new home and record them for your Architect. Gathering images and information is a helpful first step to designing a bespoke home for you and your family. The next step requires you look at your list (together!) consolidate your ideas and take a step backwards – yes that is right – get out your highlighter and decide which are the top TWO key principles that are the highest priority.

Did you know the most successful home build projects revolve not around lengthy lists of what needs to go into a house but on shared core values?

The process of going through a design stage with your architect, editing out needs/wishes/wants in comparison to budget, going through the construction stage with builder and architect and making decisions on site for tricky renovations – is made infinitely easier when your motivation for the build is guided by choosing, at most, two core principles that are important to you. They should be the core of what motivates you to build – and we have seen time after time, the most successful results are when the family has nailed down these values as a firm anchor through the construction journey. 

Confirm your Why?

These principles can be different for various families – they may revolve around family wellbeing or growth, a lifestyle, they may center on a sustainable healthy environment, they may include a place to gather together at the very heart of the brief, or perhaps a feeling of calm or organisation. They may include quality/Integrity, investment in the future, or may revolve around a specific function/goal you need to achieve eg accessibility or a work from home arrangement. Perhaps the tactile materiality of the place is important, such as the beauty of wabi sabi materials that catch the light and stimulate the senses, or the authenticity of a character renovation.

An example of familes combining two top core principles have been :

“A Sustainable home for the right budget”,

“Legacy architecture that enables a luxury lifestyle”

“A Calm home with a focus on beautiful light & texture”

“Authentic renovation with the family table at the heart”

“An accessible and contemporary home”

" aw heck I just need more room ....  and quickly!"

You can see how different the results would be just by those key formative statements! It doesn’t mean that you only achieve those two things, but whatever you choose as your top priorities, and whatever your motivation for building - these two core values or principles shape your decisions for the remainder of the project …. It impacts not only the final result, your brief and your budget, but how well you weather the decision making process during the design and construction stage …. From materials, rooms, layouts, design options…. It guides all manner of decisions.

Some people come to this intuitively, for others it can be a more difficult process.... but we can often help as it is something that becomes very clear to us as we work alongside families through the design phases.

So Why do this?

The reason we say that it is a good idea to narrow it down to two ‘headline’ ideals to use as anchors – is that for some people there is an overwhelming number of choices or competing ideals when it comes to building a home. These core principles act as testing grounds against which you can prioritize your wish list. When your architect comes to you with a variety options for the designs – ultimately it makes it easier for you to see solutions that are relevant to your life, your home and your brief as well as your budget.

When you communicate these core values to your architect and builder, they know what to do and what to prioritize –there are ‘design and construction’ ingredients that go into buildings that can give you maximum area for minimum price, and they are very different from the ‘design’ ingredients that give you maximum quality or a legacy building that will last generations…. even when given the same budget to work with. Using these principles, we can offer ideas that are in line with your values.


Finding Architects and builders with the SAME CORE values as you will also help everything fall into place smoothly. It’s worth interviewing till you find someone on the same page as you and who are willing to work alongside you to achieve your goals.

At Donnell & Day Architecture, it is our passion to make sure that great architecture is achievable . For more information on the design process check out our What we do page, or subscribe to our Journal rss feed for monthly tips and ideas. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like a little help to achieve your goals!