Coronation Property’s In-House Design Team Brings Quality, Efficiency

Architects. Builders. For many in the development sector, putting those two professions together can be … challenging.

Both of course bring their own expertise, passions and perspectives to a project—it could be argued one brings the art, the other the reality.

Enabling both to do their jobs to the highest standards, ensuring the project proceeds to timelines and budgets, is a large part of the focus of Studio Circle & Co, the in-house design team for high-profile and high-aiming Sydney-based developer Coronation Property.

Leading Studio Circle & Co is head of design Mona Chao, who joined the organisation more than a year ago after five-plus years with Meriton Group, where she was co-head of architecture.

Since joining Coronation Property and forming Studio Circle & Co, Mona’s team has focused on bridging the gap between Coronation Property’s development arm, construction arm and engaged external agencies such as architectural firms.

“For Coronation Property, it’s about risk mitigation and quality assurance for our customers. Our team’s responsibility is to ensure the original design intent of our projects is carried through from early design concept to construction completion and customer handover,” she said.

Mason & Main
▲ Mason & Main by Coronation: the technical skills of the Studio Circle & Co team turn the design into something that’s buildable.

Technical element

Chao said the heart of the team’s role was providing connection between the architect’s vision and the builder’s reality.

“What we do is basically provide a design service that is a lot more technically focused than the architect’s per se,” she said.

“The interesting thing is trying to realise the external architect’s design, which is often beautiful, very ambitious, and that can bring design challenges.

“So, it’s about turning it into something that’s buildable—and we are very technical in terms of compliance, and the statutory and regulatory framework we operate within.

“My in-house team are all NSW-registered architects, or architects looking to register, and I am a standing panel member of the registration board.

“Having an experienced in-house design team ensures meticulous quality control throughout every phase of the build and allows the business to remain agile in the management and execution of industry regulatory framework.”

Quality and compliance are obviously a large part of Studio Circle & Co’s remit, but far from its only role within Coronation.

Saving time and money

Having a team in-house to fulfil this role is delivering substantial savings in time, and therefore money.

“There are efficiencies to be gained right across the development cycle, even as early on as acquisition,” Chao said.

“We have the ability to collaborate with our acquisition and development team to test the design and feasibility of a site before we acquire it. This allows them to better understand whether a site is efficient, what works well, what is feasible, and what is inefficient.”

“By involving Studio Circle & Co at a sites acquisition, Coronation Property has the confidence to proceed with a purchase of a site knowing that the baseline design has a compliant architectural model that can be built, and has been verified by an inhouse team of design experts.”

SJB-designed Ashbury Terrace by Coronation—Studio Circle & Co design team analyse how to best build a project.
▲ SJB-designed Ashbury Terrace by Coronation—Studio Circle & Co design team analyse how to best build a project.

Stay on course

Chao said as a design-led team, respecting the architect’s vision, while maintaining the drive to create projects that were compliant, of the highest quality and could be built in an efficient and a timely manner, was paramount.

“Once an architect and a design has been chosen for a project, we come in ensure that is practical and it is buildable.

“While we don’t influence and change the design, we look at ways to work with our external architects to ensure the design intent is met while ensuring the build is achievable and compliant.”

For Coronation Property, the design team create the opportunity early in the project lifecycle to provide their view on how they could best build the project.

“In a time of building company insolvencies, increasing material costs, labour shortages and supply chain issues, customers are demanding greater quality assurance from developers and builders,” Chao said.

“Now more than ever, there is a focus and deeper appreciation on the complexities of building. Beyond the aesthetics, our design process demands quality in the build detail.”


And as the team in the middle, a degree of diplomacy is part of the job too.

“I think you have to be (diplomatic),” Chao said.

“At the end of the day, we’re all here to get the best possible placemaking outcomes and quality build for our customers. If we can’t meet in the middle every time, it’s about refocusing on what is best for the customer, while ensuring the project is still moving ahead with no delays.

“It can be a very robust discussion and that’s what makes it interesting.

“It’s very fast paced and yet a lot can be achieved behind the scenes with both development and construction.”

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