How the right architect can streamline your DA process

The development application (DA) process can be one of the most daunting parts of building or renovating your home. You don’t know what council wants, and the paperwork for planning and development can seem excessively onerous.

The good news is that by working with the right architect, your DA process will be streamlined and taken care of from beginning to end. It’s something we have honed at Playoust Churcher from our years of experience designing homes for Sydney’s North Shore and Northern Beaches.

Interpreting the code

Each council has building codes and standards that renovations and new home builds must comply with. The codes are primarily made up of two elements:

  1. Numerical standards around things such as floor space ratio, wall setbacks and heights etc
  2. Character statements that define the desired future character of the area

There is an interplay between the two elements that is very subjective and can lead to many shades of grey.

The job of your architect is to not just read the code and apply it strictly to your design but to understand how to interpret the code. Brett Churcher, Playoust Churcher Managing Director, explains why:

“Every council has a slightly different interpretation of the code. It isn’t written down, but it is our job to understand the council interpretation to get the best outcome for our clients. If you get the interpretation wrong, it can impact on the whole design of the home.”

The right architect will take your design to council through a pre-DA process to ensure that it meets all interpretations of the code. It’s what we do for our clients… and it saves a lot of work down the track.

Local expertise

The interpretation of the code varies from council to council, and most architects will have an area of specialty.

That local expertise can be the difference between a design that flies through council and one that is held up by red tape and endless revisions.

As Brett explains, for Playoust Churcher, that expertise is in Sydney’s North Shore and Northern Beaches. We know how to design for the character of these areas, we know what will give you the best long-term return and we know how to partner with council for a smooth DA process.

Northern beaches design reflects the lifestyle of the area and you will find very different designs for different areas on the North Shore. We know these areas inside and out.

And we know how to interpret the codes and character statements for our clients. When they are working with us, they know that we have decades of experience as North Shore and Northern Beaches Architects.

In Ku-ring-gai for example, you are dealing with heritage and conservation zoning and rules where adding a first floor can be very tricky.

In areas like Palm Beach and Mosman, maintaining views and view sharing are big concerns as well as the environmental character statements that speak to landscaping and the like.

On the Northern Beaches more generally, we face a number of issues around wall height causing overshadowing because of the bulk that navigating the typical sloping sites in the area can bring.”

Reputation matters

Dealing with council is not an ‘all guns blazing’ scenario. If your architect has a good relationship with council, you are going to get a far better outcome than if they don’t. Why? It comes down to their reputation.

“When you show council that you understand the area you are working in and that you respect the character statements they set, they are generally happy to support you in your endeavours.

We know that council wants to see good, creative designs. And we know that because they tell us. Complying with a character statement doesn’t result in boring design… in fact, it can be the complete opposite if you do it the right way.”

Council planners understand the reality of landscapes and building homes. They understand that sites on the North Shore and Northern Beaches can be tricky… and the role of your architect is to bring them on the journey.


Reputation, local expertise and an ability to interpret the code all add up to experience. Without experience, a streamlined DA process comes down to sheer luck.

Experience will tell your architect when they need to arrange a pre-DA with council to get them involved early and avoid any potential issues down the track.

Like the time Playoust Churcher worked with council on a large build in Mosman on Sydney’s North Shore.

“We knew we would need a pre-DA meeting with council for the Mosman house. The design included two storeys and we negotiated with council to set the building back from the street and add planters for privacy.

The wall height was well over the limit, but because we went through a pre-DA and built contingencies around our concerns, we were able to then fly through the DA process when the time came.

The benefit of the pre-DA is that it also gets council on board with your design.

If you have any objections from neighbours, council has everything they need to write their arguments and support the building work.”

Setting realistic expectations

It would be irresponsible of an architect to get you excited about a design that may never see the light of day.

The right architect should be conducting a site analysis of your block before they put pencil to paper to start sketching your design.

They should have a complete understanding of your brief – how many bedrooms you need, the style of home you want and how your home needs to support your lifestyle.

From there, they will be able to spot any potential issues and build a full picture of your home within the council code and character statements.

It doesn’t matter how good the architect is at translating the vision you have for your home into a beautiful sketch… if that design won’t ever be approved by council, it will lead to disappointment and increased costs.

When done correctly, the DA process is almost a non-event and just a small stepping stone on your path to your dream home.

You’ve found the right architect

Streamlining the DA process is just one of the ways we support our clients on their home building journey. When we talk about working with council, we speak from our decades of experience. We know our way around a sloping Northern Beaches block and we have navigated many challenging North Shore heritage homes.

Contact us to find out more about how our team of talented and passionate North Shore and Northern Beaches Architects can bring your dream home vision to life.

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11 Marian Street
Killara NSW 2071

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