• Architect A person registered with the Architects Registration Board (or equivalent) in their state or territory. In Victoria, architects must be registered with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV).
  • Brief A document that states the client’s requirements for the project including the site, budget and timelines.
    Building permit The building surveyor issues a building permit to confirm that the building project complies with regulations.
  • Client A person or entity who engages an architect to provide architectural services.
    Client-architecture agreement A mandatory written agreement between a client and an architect that must be signed prior to the architect providing architectural services. The agreement outlines the responsibilities and obligations of both the client and the architect throughout the project.
    Contingency fund or sum Money set aside for extra costs that you may have to pay during the project. This is included in your building contract.
    Contractor A builder or other contractor who does construction works.
    Contractor documents The drawings, specifications and any other documents included in the building contract. The drawings, specifications and any other documents included in the building contract.
    Contract price The total cost of the building works (including GST). The client must pay this to the contractor.
    Cost of works The cost of the building works only (excluding GST).
    Certificate of final inspection

    The building surveyor issues this certificate after they have inspected the building, and confirm that it meets the requirements of the building permit and regulations. This is only required if your project does not require an occupancy permit.

  • Defect Works that do not maintain the standard of quality defined in the building contract.
    Defects liability period The time period in which the builder must fix any problems identified by the architect, the building surveyor, client’s advocate or client (as stated in the building contract).
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  • Final certificate Issued by the architect at the end of the defects liability period and when all defects and incomplete works have been rectified. This finalises payment obligations between the client and the contractor. Final certification ends the building contract.
  • GST Goods and services tax.
    Graduate of architecture/architectural graduate A person who has completed an architectural qualification but is not registered as an architect. This person may be working towards registration.
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  • Latent condition An existing condition that only appears after the building project begins.
    Liquidated damages A cost that the contractor or client must pay the other if they breach the contract. For example, if the building works are not finished by the agreed date, a building contractor may need to pay the client a set amount of money for each day until the work is completed.
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  • Novation The transfer of contractual rights and obligations, by agreement.
  • Occupancy permit The building surveyor issues an occupancy permit when they inspect the building and confirm it meets the requirements for safety, occupancy and regulation.
    Owner The owner is usually the landowner as stated on the title document. However, in some building contracts, such as for a tenancy fit-out, a party is called ‘the owner’ but they do not own the land.
  • Particular person

    A person nominated in the building contract to do a specific part of the building works.


    Detailed, scaled drawings of the building design, including floor plans, elevations and sections.

    Planning permit

    A permit relating to the zoning, use and development of land (for example, residential or commercial uses). It is obtained from the local land management authority – usually the local council.

    Planning zones and overlays

    These explain how you can use or develop your land. Every property has a planning zone that states the preferred land uses (e.g. residential or commercial). Overlays limit what you can do on the land when it needs special care. For example, flood overlays will limit building developments that might have a higher risk in the event of floods.

    Practical completion

    Certification issued by the architect once a building surveyor has issued an Occupancy Certificate/Final certificate. The works will be assessed for substantial completion, fitness for use, and whether defects or incomplete works are minor in nature. Practical completion triggers the start of the defect liability period. Liability for the site/project returns to the client.

    Primary consultant

    The primary consultant for an architectural project is engaged by the client. They are usually responsible for directing and coordinating other specialist consultants who work on the project. Architects are generally the primary consultant.

    Prime cost items

    Items included in your contract, though not selected yet, that might change or do not have a fixed cost. For example, a contract may include bathroom taps, but the exact taps have not yet been decided.

    Professional indemnity insurance

    With respect to architects, insurance that protects consumers from financial losses that might occur due to the actions of the architect.

    Progress payments

    Money that the client pays a building contractor for works completed. The payments are usually made once a month, or at agreed stages in the project.

    Provisional sums

    An amount of money stated in the contract for works that are not defined when you sign the contract. This can happen because the architect or builder doesn’t know exactly what needs to be done at the time of contract signing.

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  • Registered building practitioner  A builder registered with the Victorian Building Authority

  • Scope of works

    Plans and specifications that state how the owner wants the building to be constructed.

    Secondary consultant A consultant who works on the project, with the primary consultant. The client will have a contract with the secondary consultant. Secondary consultants are sometimes called ‘subconsultants’. Also see ‘specialist consultant’.
    Site The project location. The location where the works will be conducted.
    Specialist consultant A specialist who contributes to part of the design but not the whole design. Specialist consultants are often called ‘secondary consultants’ or ‘subconsultants’.

    A detailed list of construction methods, materials, fittings and fixtures that will be used in a building project.

    Stage payments Payments to a building contractor, made when the contractor completes a specific stage of the project. These can include base stage, frame stage, lock-up, fixing and completion.
    Subconsultants A consultant who works on the project, with the primary consultant. The subconsultant has a contract with the primary consultant (architect), not the client.
    Subcontractor A contractor who works on the project, with the building contractor. The subcontractor has a contract with the building contractor, not the client.
  • Tender

    A bid or offer to carry out work on a project, and/or supply goods for a price. A tender is usually made in writing.

    Total project cost The total amount of money available for a project, stated by the client. This should cover all costs including building costs, consultants’ fees, provisional sums, contingency sums, approval costs, application fees and levies, GST and any other cost allowance or item defined by the client.
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  • Variation Changes made to the scope of works as agreed by the client and the contractor after the contract has been signed.

  • Work The tasks, processes and labour required to perform the works.

    The combined work involved in constructing a building project, as stated in the contract.

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Reviewed 11 May 2021

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