How to find and select a sustainable architect

There are a lot of builders and companies in New Zealand that sell house plans and standard house packages. Since we want a design that suits our site, design style, takes into account the orientation and design for passive solar, ventilation and other sustainability standards, we have opted to hire an architect.

Looking at architectural magazines and websites gave me a list of architects but the following websites proved to be useful resources:



Architectural designers New Zealand


New Zealand green building council!/&DataFilter_Find=&DFF_127=[Any]&DFF_128=[Any]


New Zealand Institute of architects


Sustainable Business Network


After reviewing architect websites and their work I made a shortlist based on the following selection criteria:

  • Have experience with sustainability
  • Have a design style we like
  • Have experience with prefab building technologies.
  • Located in Northland or Auckland

I emailed about 10 architects to request availability of which four replied they couldn’t take on new jobs (of which two also replied to double our budget for what we wanted to achieve, the first reality check…), two never replied and in the end I had four conversations with architects to see if there was a click, if they had availability and desire to do the project and discuss their rates.

The rates differed and also depended on the amount of service they delivered from 6% excluding on site observation to 10-20% of the budget for full service.

Also the first learning experience and reminder of cost breakdowns into building a house, all rates are excluding GST……

Of the total architect fee there is a breakdown in different design stages which differed a bit between architects but roughly could be divided between:

  • Concept design/briefing 6%
  • Preliminary design 6%
  • Developed design 13%
  • Detail design for application of building consent 40%
  • On site bservation/administration 35%

When it came down to selecting our architect, with one architect I didn’t feel a click or their desire to do our project, one had the right papers for design style, experience in sustainability and cutting edge prefab knowledge but was too expensive. Of the other two with similar experience one proved to be way better in prompt and easy communication so this was the architect we chose. Duncan Firth of Solarei in cooperation with Claire Furlong will be designing our home.


They are local from Northland (although Duncan lives in Thailand for part of the year) and have a lot of experience with passive solar and passive ventilation design of homes in Northland.

Excited to see what designs they come up with.


Margriet Geesink


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