The importance of a good set of existing conditions plans for any project, from the smallest to the largest scale, should never be underestimated. If the correct depth of information has been sourced to produce accurate existing conditions plans in pre-design stage, it sets the project up well for subsequent project stages. Most importantly, it establishes any constraints on the project early on, before launching into concept design. 

What could possibly go wrong?! If an accurate set of existing conditions plans are produced in the early stages of a project, many headaches and potential insurance claims can be avoided. Below lists a few key documents and information that can assist with preparing a comprehensive set of existing conditions drawings, whilst also enabling you to identify any potential issues early on.


  1. Property and Parcel Search

This is a free document available from the Victorian State Government website. Most States will provide a similar service. You can download a Property Report that includes: Property and Parcel details, Lot and Plan number, Site Dimensions, relevant council details, utility information, Planning Zone Summary, and Planning Overlays, and an Area Map.





  1. Land Title

A land title can be purchased from the Titles office for a small fee. A Land Title is an important document as it lists the legal owner of the property, mortgage information and includes details about covenants, caveats, and easements which are critical to understand before beginning the concept design stage.





  1. Land Survey

It is important in the early stages of fee negotiation to advise your client that they will need to engage the services of a Professional Land Surveyor, in addition to other required consultants. Why? A Land Surveyor is qualified to provide a plan detailing a property's precise boundary, location of easements, in addition to specific locations of structures, topography or geographic features that could affect the land use, such as whether the land is in a floodplain or issues related to adverse possession. The Land Surveyor can provide a Title Re-establishment Plan and Plan of Feature and Land Survey. The architectural existing conditions drawings should be based on the Land Survey information provided, including levels to the AHD (Australian Height Datum). Your client should seek advice directly from both the Land Surveyor and a solicitor regarding any adverse possession matters, before proceeding to the concept design stage.


  1. Dial Before You Dig

An application for a ‘dial before you dig’ to review and verify underground services in the surveyed area. The service offers a single point of contact to request information about the infrastructure networks at the planned excavation site, commercial or residential, without the need to contact utility organisations individually. The service helps homeowners avoid potential damages to any surrounding infrastructure asset(s) when undertaking projects.




  1. Water and Sewerage Plan

If you are planning a development, you need a property asset plan to find out where water and sewer assets are located within the property. The following plans can be obtained from the relevant Utility provider for a small fee:

  • Property Sewerage Plan (PSP) - outlines the location of the internal private sewer pipes on a property that connects to a Water sewer main.
  • Property Asset Plan - shows Water infrastructure (water and sewer assets) that is on or near a property.
  • Sewer Depth and Offset Plan - outlines the depth of the Water sewer pipe and offset from the property boundary. This plan is important when planning the location of a building on a property so that restrictions relating to building above or near a sewer asset are adhered to


  1. Existing building permit drawings from council archives

When working on an alterations and additions project, it is prudent to apply for a copy of existing Building Permit Plans or Documents through the council Building Department. Existing construction documents are very helpful to assist with producing more accurate existing conditions plans, in addition to assisting with preliminary structural engineering.


  1. Site measure and photographic documentation

Your site measure and photographic documentation should be combined with the information provided in the Land Survey, which is the primary base document for your existing conditions drawings. Any additional critical information gained from the documents and sources above should also be incorporated.

If you have gathered all the above information, you will be well informed to put together an accurate and thorough set of existing conditions plans. Most importantly, taking the above steps allows you to keep your client informed of any aspects the project that may have been previously unknown and may impact either the brief or the budget.

You can now confidently move forward from pre-design to the next project stage of concept design, armed with your client brief and the constraints and key features of the site well understood, hence avoiding, where possible, the potential for things to “go wrong”.

And remember, promptly notify your insurer of any circumstances from which a claim may arise!


Delia Teschendorff, Insurance Portfolio


Disclaimer – ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ is not an advice column, it is only general comment from ArchiTeam who are not aware of your circumstances with any issue that you may have. You cannot rely on these general comments, each member must make their own decisions about any action they should take and seek independent advice of their own if they are unsure.