Professional Relationships with Owner Builders
We do not often consider the relationship owner builders have with their professional advisers. That is, the consultants they work with through the course of their owner builder projects.
Just to be signing off the same hymn sheet, when we talk about professionals, we are referring to those service providers who have will generally have the qualifications and authority to sign off or certify building elements or design features.
They include engineers, architects or building designers, certifiers, surveyors, lawyers and town planners. The size, scope and complexity of your project, will normally determine the level of involvement you have with these contracted services.
Once upon a time, I would confidently say that owner builders had a very limited exposure to each of these consultants in that generally, most projects would be of traditional design using common building practices and construction techniques.
More and more though, owner builders are becoming more adventurous and confident in tackling complex projects with sometimes extreme design features that require considerable reliance on engineering design and supervision to ensure both structural integrity and compliance.
Even in the electrical space, more and more residential dwellings are including smart wiring, heating, cooling and automation features that require complex design and specialist installation.
It is these designs, features and inclusions which truly individualise a build and make a home ‘fit for purpose’, satisfying the needs of todays mobile and connected families.
I recently had the opportunity to advise a client and oversee the build of an owner built dwelling on the Gold Cost Hinterland that ended up being a 3.4 million dollar build. The water features alone were something else with waterfalls and fountains feeding a mineral salt spa. All very impressive if not indulgent. The sustainability feature though were what really made the home a work of art and a technological masterpiece.
Solar panels, inverters and battery banks are just the start of it. Couple this to soft start electric pool pumps, rainwater harvesting, heat pumps and LED lighting, this property truly attempts to minimise its impact and environmental impact.
This is just one example of how the owner builder market is maturing, with some projects meeting or exceeding the outcomes that would be expected of quality signature custom homes.
It is all well and truly within the reach and capability of owner builders who use all the resources available to them, including reliable and qualified consultants.
Happy owner building,
Making the most of your site
OK, I will admit it, I am a bit of a design nazi!!.
I love good design, but more passionately, poor design or lack of consideration and sympathy for the environment disappoints and frustrates me more than any other area of the building profession.
I recently viewed an award winning apartment in Melbourne and to say it was a design disgrace is an understatement.
Where developers push the boundaries (no pun intended) to maximise the use of available land and airspace, they drive architects, planners and designers to decisions that are seldom aligned with the end user.
By end user, I am talking about the owner occupiers, the pennants and the community at large.
The unit I was asked to evaluate, had several glaring design elements which were certainly not considerate of the liveability of the space or of general traffic flow around the floorplan.
Who designs a bedroom where once furnished with typical contemporary furnishings, it is not possible to useably place a bedside table at either side of a queen bed. Where the introduction of a single bedside table makes the built in robes inaccessible.
But the issues don't stop there.
The master bedroom is built back from the building facade, with natural light and ventilation achieved through the 4 meter by 1 meter hallway to nowhere. This 4 square meters of valuable floor space is provided as access to the master bedroom window. Quite bizarre.
The list goes on and on. Finishes in the unit are reasonable and again are touted as being designed by an award winning interior designer. God help us!
Flooring is timber in the living space with carpeted bedrooms and tiled wet areas, pretty standard, but the flooring used is of such poor quality, that it is all but unusable. Installing furniture and normal cleaning result in damage and marking of the finishes which will be a renters nightmare and an owners money pit.
Built in wardrobes are a high point of the apartment being of good quality and functional design, however other area of cabinetry leave a lot to be desired. The laundry recess see a standard 600 mm space for the installation of a washing machine, but the intrusion of the hinges remove the ability to install the machine without dismantling the doors.
Finally, the kitchen sink is a single tub farm style sink which are all the rage. Please take my advice and spend some time considering the practicality of these fixtures. They look great and are extremely functional if you want to clean large items such as BBQ grills, but be aware, it takes about 5 liters of water just to get coverage across the base of the large cross section sink, just to wash a few pieces of flatware and cutlery. Not at all eco friendly, and with many units now basing utitlity charges on hot water usage, very hard on the hip pocket.
There are some redeeming features of this inner city dwelling, but overall I could not rate it as a successful, innovative or intelligent use of space.
As owner builders, plan carefully and discuss your requirements with your architects of design professional. Be considerate of the impact on the environment, the use of natural features and the footprint you will create. Use wind, slope orientation to your advantage and leverage naturally occurring conditions to achieve the best outcomes for your family and the community.
Being an owner builder is a privilege, and you have the opportunity to create something quite special and unique.
Please choose carefully.
Best Regards and Happy Building,
Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.