Reframing design for a mass-market television audience

A few weeks ago I mentioned a new TV show about home design that has the potential to be a game-changer for the way residential architecture is discussed in Australia.

Host Josh Byrne and the renovate and rebuild teams

Host Josh Byrne and the renovate and rebuild teams

It’s called Renovate or Rebuild, and there is a pilot you can watch on YouTube.

It arose from a project by the CRC for Low Carbon Living and NSW Office of Environment & Heritage project (supported by social science and energy ratings from CSIRO). They engaged BlueTribe Co to come up with a way to popularise sustainability messaging, and Blue Tribe Co proposed a reality TV program, in conjunction with Fremantle Media.

BlueTribe Co MD James McGregor told me that even though architects were not visible in the pilot, they were working behind the scenes on both the renovate or rebuild scenarios.

“Both designs were done by a local architecture firm, Anderson Architecture. We have posted the floor plans on the website with their details.” James said.

“The original plan was to show the teams working with the architect to develop the designs, but we just didn’t have the minutes available in a 30 min segment,” he added. “This is part of the reason we will move to a 1 hour format (actually 46min for commercial tv) - feedback has been pretty consistent that people want more detail on key decisions, budget trade offs etc - exactly the reason we produced a pilot episode first!”

The pilot will be turned into a series for broadcast later this year. The difference between this and other shows is that it presents sustainability and architectural design messages in terms of comfort, health and efficiency.

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It’s reframing how we talk about these important concepts in line with behavioural science evidence, which shows that: “67% of consumers are interested in purchasing homes that are energy efficient, but home-owners don’t know how to navigate all the options,” according to Dr Josh Byrne, the show’s host and CRCLCL researcher.

“Key findings from the CRCLCL’s social research show that sustainability needs to be communicated in a mainstream way for it to be effective,” Josh said. “Our goal with this pilot is to demystify the process of building or renovating an energy efficient home by communicating it in an engaging and entertaining format.”

The show explains how options like correct building orientation, access to natural light, cross ventilation, energy efficiency and solar power can help create a healthy, comfortable and affordable homes.

OEH Director of Sustainability Programs, Mick O'Flynn said: "This is an exciting opportunity to explore a new approach in our role as a catalyst for change. Renovate or Rebuild promotes positive energy homes which reduce energy bills and improve health and wellbeing. Collaborations between industry, academia and government like this project are key to achieving our objective of net zero emissions by 2050."

There is plenty of rich material behind this project for architects who want to engage with consumers about the benefits and value of design, and I’ll add some research findings to The Value Proposition shortly, or visit the CRCLCL.

Homeowners who are interested in appearing in series one can apply here: http://renovateorrebuild.com.au/application2019/

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I’m super-excited about the possibilities this program opens up, and applaud the key players for their out-of-the-box thinking on how to make sustainability a mass-market aspiration. Change is coming!

Is your architecture practice ready to be a part of it?

What are you doing to make the world a better place?

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We’re not afraid to ask the hard questions at The Drill. And this week, those questions centre on greenhouse gas emissions and taking decisive action to combat climate change, in the face of government inaction.

This morning I interviewed an architect for a story, and she described how she aims to design buildings - including houses - that are efficient, affordable and sustainable, and also adaptable, joyful spaces for living.

She told me that the house we were discussing for an upcoming article: “squarely challenges the Australian housing myth that perpetuates models of flabby, unsustainable McMansions and demonstrates that sustainable architecture is Affordable.”

I’m always excited to hear architects talking about how their work challenges the status quo, disrupts the current market place, and seeks to influence conversations beyond their own clients and practices.

I believe that Architects have a responsibility to become stewards for the built environment.

One way Architects can do this is to participate in conversations in public forums to promote the value of good design. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all good places to spread this message. On this topic, I was asked this week: ‘What’s the difference between a LinkedIn post and a LinkedIn Article?’, which is a great question, especially if you’re trying to establish yourself as a Trusted Advisor.

A LinkedIn Post is like a status update - it’s a short message, with people links and hashtags, to express your opinion or share an announcement. An Article is similar to a blog post, and should be longer (at least 300 words, up to 2000 if your topic is compelling); it also has a headline, an intro description, an image and has no tags or people links.

I discovered that the best day to post Articles is a Thursday, and so I suggest you try and establish a weekly schedule for new content, and then promote your Articles in a Post on LinkedIn or Twitter - to drive traffic and engagement - on the following Monday or Tuesday. You may also choose to upload your Article to your own website / blog.

Here’s some more info about the two different types of LinkedIn content, and how to use the:, www.impactbnd.com/blog/6-expert-tips-for-building-your-2019-linkedin-marketing-strategy.

And if you need help with how to apply comms strategy to architecture practice, that’s our speciality!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Communicating the Value of Architecture

Tomorrow, I’m giving a webinar to architects, about how to create a comms masterplan and campaigns. It’s the culmination of months of work and preparation, and I’m really looking forward to it.

If you’d like to watch the webinar after the event, you can visit the ACA’s website to purchase access. And if you’d like to download the handouts so you can work on your own practice comms, just click on the image.

Also, please subscribe to The Drill, our weekly roundup newsletter (just drop your details in the box on the right).

Lastly, please get in touch with any feedback, or if you’d like help refining your practice comms.

Truth in advertising?

What’s true and what’s fake news? Does it even matter? I think it does, so when I saw a NSW builder advertising “architecturally designed homes” - without an architect in their design team - I asked them to please explain.

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Basically, it’s not ok to call yourself an Architect (because the term is protected by law) if you haven’t:

  • completed the undergraduate and masters degrees (five years of university qualifications);

  • registered with a log book and by sitting an exam; and

  • got the right insurance in place to protect consumers and clients.

Why is it important to make this distinction between architects and other types of building designers?

For a couple of reasons:

  • the term architect used to be a catch-all for all kinds of designers, but about 20 years ago, Australian states and territories enacted legislation to protect the word, to distinguish it from people who held lesser qualifications; and

  • Architects have a unique set of skills and they can’t promote these qualification and attributes, unless they can accurately describe them and distinguish themselves from other types of designers working in the same space.

So, what happened when I called attention to the breach?

In response to my tweet, Rawson Homes amended its ads, and now they are not claiming any affiliations with an architect, which is a great outcome.

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So, what’s the difference between a home designed by an architect and a non-architect (a builder designer, draftsperson or even a builder)?

A lot, as it happens, and it’s not just about money.  An architect will unpack the client’s needs and wants and come up with a design that takes into account many factors, such as:

  • solar orientation to maximise winter sun and keep our summer sun (to reduce heating and cooling costs);

  • prevailing breezes for passive cooling (perhaps negating the need for air conditioning altogether);

  • materials that are local / durable / low maintenance and in keeping with the neighbourhood;

  • the health and well-being of future residents;

  • the cost of running the house - energy and water bills, and ongoing maintenance - over time (especially important as energy prices keep rising); and much much more.

The initial investment in design may be higher, but the built result will be more functional, efficient and offer better performance for its residents over a century or more.

This is of critical importance as we try and collectively deal with the effects of the climate crisis: more heatwaves, floods, bushfires, higher energy costs, etc.

What can consumers do?

If a building company advertises to its customers that builds “architecturally designed” homes, or has an architect on the team, it pays to ask these questions:

  • Who is the registered architect?

  • Can you meet with them to discuss your design needs?

  • Can the company adapt its existing plans to best suit your site and brief?

If you find out the company doesn’t have an architect on board, let us know, and we will ask them the difficult questions.

Otherwise, it’s like trying to compare apples to oranges.

What can architects do to tackle the problem of misleading advertising?

Basically, if you are not an Architect under the terms of the various Acts - and you can read about those here - you can’t call yourself an architect. However, there are plenty of misleading ads on Google, Facebook and elsewhere at the moment - from building and design companies - that claim to have architects on their team.

It’s obviously a very compelling and useful term to attract potential customers!

At Sounds Like Design, we will address this confusion in the marketplace by helping architects explain their value, and grow their share of the market pie. Other communications firms share our objectives, so we plan to work together to stamp out misleading use of the protected term ‘Architect’.

We’ll use a combination of social media campaigning to seek clarity and amendments to advertising where necessary, and also report any companies that breach the law to the relevant state Architects Registration Boards.

The way I see it, there’s never been a better time in which to be an architect. We face almost overwhelming challenges in the form of the climate emergency and population growth in our cities, but the profession holds many possible solutions and consumers are more ready to hear about these than ever before.

That means there is awareness raising needed within the profession itself, about the opportunities and responsibilities that exist for architects, and in the consumer marketplace. This is likely to be a long campaign!.