Architecture & Building

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, News

Step 8 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Pool

Interestingly, in recent years, backyard pools have climbed the ladder from being one of the least desirable to one of the most desirable big-ticket items for buyers hunting for their next home. 

This is largely due to the ease with which pools are to maintain these days, complete with automated self-cleaning systems and even “robot” pool cleaners that pretty much barrel out of the pool shed, lift the latch on the gate, dive in, clean the entire pool, bring themselves back up to the surface and drag themselves, utterly exhausted, back to the shed and back on charge. 

Well, that may be the slightly embellished version of events, anyway!

With our beautiful warm climate, it’s not surprising pools are high on the list of must-have’s now that the effort required for upkeeping them is far easier and less time consuming than it used to be, and with things like pool covers reducing water evaporation and heat loss, they’ve become far more energy-efficient, too.

If you do intend to put in a pool either now or in the future, ensure to discuss this with us upfront ahead of construction, even if you don’t plan on installing it straight away, as this can have a bearing on the building design you proceed with and may also impact on the slab design/shape, cost or requirements (foundations of your new home) and construction.

You might have to consider how much more difficult it might be to have a pool dropped into the backyard after your house is built. If the pool is dropped in before you build, the site is usually clear and easy to access. 

If you’re doing it after you’ve built, the intended pool site may become inaccessible because of your house, power lines, or even a narrow nearby street, so a different method of delivery may be required. 

In some cases, if a crane is unable to get close enough to lower a pool into the ground, a helicopter is required to pick your new pool up, usually from a field nearby, and drop it into your backyard, which of course, is more costly.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, News

Step 7 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Neighbours

Here’s another good reason to love thy neighbour!

Should your proposed new home plans fall outside of the standard building regulations, your neighbours may end up playing a part in assisting with the approval of your design.

This can be tricky, especially if they already have their nose out of joint or they perceive your plans will impact on them in a negative way.

Like you would with your builder, it’s important to build a strong, open and honest relationship with your future neighbours – well before you or your builder needs to approach them for their approval of your plans. They’ll be far more receptive to you if you’ve already made an effort to introduce yourself and get to know them.

In most cases, as your builder, we like to meet with your neighbours ourselves. Not only are we keen to build a solid, harmonious relationship with them too, we are also able to take the emotion out of their objections and come up with easy solutions and compromises to any areas of concern they may have. 

Case in point might be a window placed at the top of your stairwell that would look out over their backyard pool or directly into their master ensuite. They’d, of course, like to retain their privacy, but you’re only wanting the window there for more natural light, rather than the view. Fogged-glass that diffuses light would be a great solution here, moving or raising the window height, or using an outdoor screen as a shield might be others. 

It’s important to be considerate and flexible to your neighbours’ concerns. It can turn into a tiresome negotiation of sorts, and you may need to forego something you had your heart set on, but given that you’ll be living next door to these people and may need to rely on them to collect your mail, bring your bin in or feed your cat while you’re away,  it’s worthwhile making it a win-win situation for all parties.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, House Renovation, Interior Design, News

Step 6 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Power Supply

Power Supply

These days, new home builds are connected to underground power, instead of the ugly overhead powerlines that line the streets in older neighbourhoods. 

You’ll notice power lines are missing in all new housing estates, and while they may still be present and in use in your area, slowly, overhead lines are being phased out and replaced with underground electricity – which makes for a far prettier, and safer streetscape. 

In many established areas, and as an ongoing project across the country that will continue for years to come, local councils are notifying ratepayers of their intention to commence the transition to underground power and homeowners are required to produce the funds to pay for the transition. 

We tell you this because one way or another, whether you want to or not, you’ll end up having to install and connect to an underground electricity source anyway, so it may as well be now. 

Your existing dwelling will have overhead power which will be abolished prior to demolition, and you’ll need to arrange the installation of an underground electricity pit. This process can be lengthy but can be commenced prior to the demolition of the existing home. 

How to arrange installation: 

  1. Contact your electricity provider for an application form. 
  2. Once returned, you’ll receive a quote which is usually valid for 30 days. 
  3. Payment is required in full before the quote expires and before works can commence.
  4. Once paid, your electricity pit will be installed approximately 28 days later. 
  5. Once installed, your electricity pit can take up to 21 days to be energised (made live).

So, this process can take anywhere from 60-90 days, depending on how quickly you pay for the works. You’ll want to have this completed ahead of construction commencing.

The benefits of underground power:

Improved public safety: by removing poles there are fewer car collisions, which continue to be a factor in a large number of accidents and deaths Australia-wide.

Improved reliability: underground power results in fewer disruptions and outages after major storm events.

Improved street appearance: No power lines create a more aesthetically pleasing neighbourhood.

Increased property value: There is strong evidence showing a positive impact on property values after the removal of poles and wires. 

Reduction in tree pruning: no more monitoring of trees getting in the way of live wires. Councils save on maintenance, while also allowing the tree canopy to flourish.

Lower costs: underground power has minimal maintenance and operating costs.

Improved opportunity for emerging technologies: helps pave the way for innovation through energy trading, electric vehicle penetration and Smart City strategies.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, House Renovation, News

Step 5 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Street Access

Street Access

The accessibility of your block during the build phase of the project is a significant factor that you may not have considered, and the reason we raise the topic is not simply for the convenience and ease of the tradespeople that will be in and out of your new home site for the next 12-months or more. 

You will need to take into account how accessible your block is for both the demolition and construction stages – especially when you’re rebuilding a new home in an already established area where lots of people already live, work, drive and go to school. 

Accessibility to your new home site, not to mention the impact imposed on all your new neighbours, can be far more tricky to navigate. You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot before you’ve even moved in!

But aside from how your new home will impact your tradespeople and the rest of the neighbourhood, a good part of the reason we advise you to think about it is because restricted access blocks will actually impact on YOU. Specifically, your bottom line.

Please be aware that additional charges may be incurred for things like traffic management or the manual unloading of materials where trades are unable to get close enough to the job site.

Below are some factors you’ll need to consider:

  • Road sizes, including parked cars: 
    • Can large trucks get in? 
    • Can they manoeuvre in and out easily? 
    • What times are best? 
  • Parking: 
    • Outside of the job site itself, is parking available?
    • How far away will trades and deliverers have to park?
    • If parking isn’t available on-site, what is the street terrain like?
    • Will heavy deliveries have to be pushed uphill?
  • Local schools: 
    • Increased traffic at school pick-up/drop-off times
    • Are children likely to be near the job site?
    • How will you minimise danger to children? 
    • Best times for trades/deliveries to avoid your site? 
  • Overhead powerlines: likely in older areas where overhead powerlines are still in use.
    • What is the height restriction for trucks, cranes and other machinery to gain access to your site?
  • Traffic:
    • How busy is the area?
    • What times are peak traffic periods?
    • How difficult is your site to access? Will traffic flow be interrupted if a large truck takes 5-10 minutes to manoeuvre in?
    • Is traffic management required for certain stages/days of the build? 
Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, House Renovation, News

Step 4 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Drainage

Legal Point Of Discharge

Whether you’re building from scratch on a vacant allotment or you’re rebuilding on a block that was previously occupied by an established home, all sites require what’s called a “legal point of discharge” or LPOD and a “sewer tie”, or “point of connection”, for drainage prior to any works beginning. 

It’s important because for many of our clients who are rebuilding a new home where an old home stood previously, the existing LPOD on the site may not be satisfactory for a new dwelling. 

What is the ‘legal point of discharge’?

Basically, the legal point of discharge is usually the lowest point of the property, being the natural direction for water to flow to. Stormwater that falls on a property is collected and drained to the lowest point, or the ‘legal point of discharge’.

From there, the stormwater is then ‘discharged’ or released into the Council stormwater system, which is usually an underground drain in the street or in an easement. In cases where there is no council stormwater system available, it can be drained out to the curb or gutter in the street.

Stormwater, especially if unable to escape properly, has the potential to cause great damage to both yours and your neighbouring homes. If damages occur at the fault of an unsatisfactory drainage system, liability for the costs to rectify the damage and correct the fault will be the responsibility of the homeowner at fault.

You will need to apply for a Legal Point Of Discharge Report from your council, which will provide you with information on:

  • The Legal Point of Discharge in accordance with the Building Act
  • The Point of Connection (sewer tie) – to the council sewer system
  • The location of any council drains, where available
  • Additional building and planning advice

It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure the LPOD is satisfactory according to council regulations and any additional costs are the responsibility of the owner. 

 

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, House Renovation, News

Step 3 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Easements & Setbacks

If you’ve never built before, you may not have been aware that there are rules governing how far forward you are allowed to build on your block. All new dwellings must comply with building regulations where minimum front, side and rear setbacks need to be met. 

Generally in established areas, the council requires your home to be set back to the average setback of both of your neighbour’s homes. Should you wish to be further forward than this, council approval is required. Depending on the council, this process of assessment takes approximately six weeks.

Don’t automatically assume that approval will be granted. Minimum setback rules are in place to not only maintain a pleasing aesthetic from the street, but also for street safety, privacy, noise, utilities, existing infrastructure, environmental protection, and with an ever-increasing focus on energy-efficiency, the potential solar impact your home will have on neighbouring homes by it blocking sunlight or airflow. 

Having said that, your application to build closer to the front boundary than is currently allowable has a greater chance of approval the less you’re applying to bring it forward. 

Your architect or draftsman will be able to advise on what might be considered reasonable for council approval to be granted. 

You may have wondered why a lot of homes built over a century ago were built right up to the front of the block. This is because the main form of transport for most households at that time was on foot. It wasn’t until later that automobiles became a mainstream form of transportation that town planning changed to allow for parking space at the front of properties.

Ensure to take the existing driveway position into account when designing the new home as you can’t just move it to the other side of the block should you wish to change it, you’ll need to obtain approval directly from the council.

Easements

Does your block of land have any easements on it? It’s actually rarer for your land not to have an easement than it is to have one, but the position and space it impacts will vary from block to block. 

An easement is a section of earth that has services running under the ground, such as gas, water and electricity, which must remain clear of any building in case the owner of the easement needs to gain access to it via your property. 

If there is any type of structure sitting on top of the easement, the council or owning authority has the right to remove it in order to gain the access they need without being required to return it to its original state.

You’ll see any easement outlined on your council plan of subdivision, which will show exactly where you cannot build. You can also contact the easement’s owning authority (ie: council, water) for clarity on what type of easement it is, and in some rare cases, depending on the age, type, and whether the easement is still in use, you may be able to apply to have the easement lifted. 

Next, we discuss Drainage

 

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, House Renovation, News

Step 2 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Block frontage & depth

Step 2 of 8: Block frontage & depth

The frontage (generally the block’s width, or the length that runs along the street) and block depth are both major factors which directly affect the type and size of home you can build. 

Not only must it be the right size, but have the right aspect, be in the right address or location, and right down to it having the best school zoning. 

Then, just when you think you’ve found the one that ticks all the boxes, you find an easement running through the very area you had planned to put the shed, or the only north-facing space you wanted to drop in the pool – which has the potential to completely upend all the grand plans you had for your new home, especially if there’s a spectacular view you wanted to capitalise on from the infinity pool.

It’s for this reason that people can be searching for years before finding the right piece of land to build their home on.

The block’s dimensions are one thing, but the actual ‘building envelope’, or the area you are allowed to build on, is another topic altogether. 

There are rules pertaining to the maximum percentage of the land area you are allowed to build on, and a minimum percentage of the land that must be retained as outdoor space, as well as keeping the home within a certain area inside the boundary for various reasons relating to fire safety, noise pollution, privacy, and energy efficiency (sunlight & airflow). 

Thankfully, neither you nor your neighbour can legally build from corner to corner of a house block while also adhering to the various rules in place for new home builds. 

Regulations serve to maintain a high quality of living, protect us, our health, safety and the value of our homes.

There’s also the setback, which is the area of space you must allow between the street and where your home’s construction begins on the block. The setback and easements will be discussed in Step 3. Stay tuned!

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, House Renovation, News

Step 1 of 8: Planning a knock-down & rebuild – Council Planning

Building a new home is a major event in one’s life, especially when the home you have in mind is not that of the cookie-cutter variety that you’d find in a display village – with a standard set of options, upgrades and colour schemes to choose from and the half a dozen minor changes allowable for the block you’re on – but that of the totally unique variety that has been designed, planned and built for no one else but you. 

One of the first steps you’ll take on the journey of building your dream home will be finding the piece of land you’ll be building it on. Only then will your architect be able to start working on the design, knowing the building envelope, block elevations and terrain they’re working with. 

Many times, that block of land will already have a home with connected utilities that you’ll need to demolish before you can start on your own build. 

In this 2 part series, we have compiled a list of steps and tasks you’ll need to carry out in the planning of a knock-down and rebuild.  

Step 1 of 8: Council Planning

The very first thing you should do – well before you even put an offer in to buy – is contact your local council to establish if there are any overlays (heritage or vegetation) or easements affecting your land, what you can and can’t do or where you can and can’t build on the property. 

If you’re bidding at auction, being armed with this information well ahead of time is critical, because if you call out the winning bid, you are purchasing the property ‘unconditionally’, meaning there is no option to pull out of the purchase if you find that you cannot do what you want later. 

Your council can provide you with summaries of the land’s Planning Zone and Planning Overlays. Take the time to review these reports, or contact your local council for further details regarding clarification. 

Remember: Australia’s real estate industry is one of the most policed industries in the world and there are harsh penalties for those not adhering to its strict codes of conduct. However, as most agents are not trained on the legalities, you should ALWAYS do your own research.

Unless you’re very experienced in the knowledge and meanings of these council codes and restrictions, we recommend that you provide these reports to your legal representative and architect for review. 

The next step is to consider the block frontage and depth.

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, News

Ways to make a narrow-block home more spacious

As our population grows, so too does housing density in metropolitan Sydney and beyond. Our homes are getting bigger and our lifestyles are busier and busier. 

What does not increase, however, is the overall space we have to work with when building a home. That’s the only part that decreases – and to so many with an increasingly busy lifestyle, it’s a much-welcomed change! 

Old-fashioned house blocks are now often divided down the middle into two narrow separately titled lots – each with street frontage, their own driveways and no shared land. 

While the narrow-lot home is often larger than most, it can seem a little smaller. Here are some practical ways your architect might counteract the feeling of a narrow home.

#1 – Open Plan

Open plan can make your home feel more spacious. Opening space upwards, high ceilings and voids between levels gives the feeling of a much larger space than is the reality.

Fewer walls separating rooms means more natural sunlight filtering in too, which can do wonders for making your home feel more expansive.

Idea #2 – Glass

Utilising glass in your home goes a long way to creating a sense of space and light.

As a general rule, bigger is better. Large expanses of windows and full-height glass doors help to bring the outside in and create a seamless flow from one space to the next. 

Idea #3 – Add a Balcony

A balcony is a great way to create an extra element. By adding a balcony to the second floor, you are effectively adding an additional entertaining area or outdoor space to relax and enjoy.

This gives you extra square metres of living space without impacting on your overall footprint, meaning you can still find room for the double garage and a genuine, yet manageable backyard!

Idea #4 – Storage

Under stair storage is a great space-saving option. By utilising the space under your staircase you can easily store clutter-causing items like books, containers, boxes and clothes, as well as rarely used items like old appliances or your ski equipment. 

Under the stairs is ideal for wine as the temperature stays relatively constant, meaning your vintage Penfolds Grange will keep.

Invest in custom-made shelving, surfaces and drawers throughout your home – bookshelves in the library and office, entertainment units to the living rooms, bathroom storage, garage, and of course, the bedrooms. As any family can attest, storage is key to a happy, organised home and you can NEVER have too much of it!

Idea #5 – Talk to an expert

While everyone has their own ideas about how to make the best use of space, the best advice is to consult with an expert – someone who has designed hundreds of homes, all with similar challenges to overcome.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Interior Design, News

Tips for how best to work with your Interior Designer

Interior design is not so much about furnishings, artwork, knick-knacks, cushions and throws. It’s about functionality, practicality, cohesiveness, flow and making the most of every space in your home. 

Ideally, interior designers are best utilised right from the inception phase of your home design. Rather than considering interior design an additional or unnecessary expense, it’s an investment that will add genuine value to your home. 

Because of their experience with new builds, especially when it comes to selecting colour palettes, fittings, appliances, and making big design decisions – while sticking to the design brief, ordering goods in for specific stages AND keeping it within budget – they can also facilitate a good builder-client relationship. Here’s how to get the most out of your interior designer. 

  1. Find the perfect match for YOU. A good interior designer should be adept enough to jump from urban studio to industrial warehouse, rustic farmhouse to coastal getaway without skipping a beat.

Other than looking for parallels between the design you want and their previous work, look for someone you feel comfortable communicating with.

  1. Scrapbook examples. Even if you don’t have trouble articulating your desired look, pictures of rooms you love can instantly give the designer a sense of your vision. Point out specific aspects that resonate, along with what doesn’t. 

Fabric and paint swatches, furniture and Pinterest boards are other good sources. In turn, examples of colours, motifs/patterns, furniture and styles you don’t like can be equally helpful.

  1. Discuss which pieces must stay in advance. Unwilling to forego your heirloom 1920’s buffet or your glazed pottery collection? That’s okay. Your designer can work out how to display those pieces in your new home so they don’t look out of place, and also celebrate them as they should be – as long as you share that information during the initial consultation.
  2. Engage the designer as early as possible. Include the designer in the planning stages with your architect and builder so everyone is on the same page — particularly when it comes to the ‘bones’, such as doorways, ceiling beams, fixtures, right down to lighting and electrical points. It’s one thing to reorientate a window on plans; it’s another entirely to move it after installation.
  3. Clarify billing procedures up-front. Find out at the beginning when you’ll be charged and what for. In addition to the design, you may be billed for travel time, site visits, shopping, phone conversations and more. Ask how you’ll be billed for furnishings, materials or other items so you can anticipate fairly closely what and when to pay.
  4. Keep an open mind. It’s unlikely that you’ll absolutely adore 100 percent of your designer’s suggestions immediately. If they recommend a piece of furniture, a pattern, wallpaper or colour combination that you’re not so sure about, don’t say no without giving the idea some time to sink in. 

Be upfront and tell them you’re not sold on it…. yet. Chances are, when they tell you why they chose it, you’ll come to appreciate the reason it works. 

  1. Trust them. Just because you don’t love everything they suggest, it doesn’t mean they have no idea what you want or that they’re the wrong designer for you. Stay calm and just be honest. 

If you’ve had the heavy burden of selecting wall paint before, you’ll understand the anxiety that comes with picking the perfect shade of white from the 500 available. Right there is the reason you hired an interior designer in the first place! 

These are the tasks that you’re paying them to lose sleep over, so you don’t have to! But they don’t need you to micro-manage them so try to hand over the reigns and let it all come together.