Architecture & Building

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. 

 

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, Interior Design, News

The home design essentials that will NEVER change

Having been in the custom home industry for as long as we have, we’ve noticed a number of must-have items that have always been high on our clients’ priority lists – even as time passes and design and technology progress and evolve. 

The secret is to keep it simple! Go back to basics and focus on ways to make your home comfortable, functional and beautiful.

Ample Storage

Clutter and chaos have no business in your brand-new home. Especially for families, it’s important to have a designated place to store all the ‘stuff’. 

Design a garage that will store all of your tools, bikes, sports equipment, toys etc. Add storage to the hallways, living spaces, the laundry, bathrooms, and outdoor areas. For kitchens, it’s a scullery/butler’s pantry. In bedrooms, opt for fitted walk-in robes.

Multiple Bathrooms

Having more than one or two bathrooms in the home is a huge plus for most families. Morning routines can cause arguments between kids and parents if there’s only one bathroom in the home. 

Open Living Spaces

Open living plans are at the top of home buyer’s list. A large, open space connecting the living room to the kitchen makes quality family time effortless and parties a breeze.

Functional Kitchens

Kitchens are known for being the “heart of the home”. A place to cook, clean, talk, and hang out multiple times during the day, which is why having a functional kitchen can greatly benefit your everyday life.

Invest in quality appliances that will last. A kitchen island is a great addition that provides food prepping space and doubles as a quick breakfast spot. 

Low-Maintenance Materials

No one wants to be doing housework on their days off. While you will inevitably have to do some, there are a few smart additions you can make during the building phase to minimise your weekend chores.

Instead of scratch-prone hardwood floors, a more durable option is vinyl planks. Outdoors, premium synthetic turf is now incredibly realistic so it’ll look great year-round without a single minute of effort on your behalf. 

Technology

Having wireless capability throughout the entire house gives adults and kids the choice to work (or play) from anywhere in the home. Ensure to put in lots of outlets so that your family can stay plugged in wherever they are.

Natural Light

Daylight is a human desire and necessity. Having ample natural light brings joy and calmness. By keeping the width of your home narrow it’s much easier to bring daylight deeper into the home. For more enclosed areas consider a solar tube or skylight to bring in light from above. If you’re lucky enough to have a great view, make sure that you get to enjoy it through expansive windows.

The possibilities are endless! Choose functional, smart, and beautiful designs that will work for you and your family each and every day.

 

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

Integrating smart home technology in your new home

If you’re building your own home in 2020, you have a unique opportunity to achieve true home automation by implementing smart home technology into your design from the early planning stages. 

Imagine waking to your favourite song; your blinds letting in the light while you’re still snug under the covers. Imagine your coffee pouring into your favourite mug while you’re singing in the shower. Your mower tidying up the lawn and then putting itself back on charge in the shed.

Imagine being notified that it’s raining and you’ve left a window open, or walking through your front door after a hectic day to find your dinner in a hot oven, almost ready to serve….

‘Who is this mystery man?!’ you ask. No, this is no man, live-in butler or maid and this isn’t the set of ‘Back to the Future’. This is all now possible with the latest smart home technology. 

We’re now living in the ‘ask and you shall receive’ age and there’s bound to be a smart gadget or system to deliver every smart idea you’ve ever had.

What do you NEED?

As a starting point, ask yourself what you need. Integrated smart home technology won’t necessarily increase your home’s value, so the integrations must benefit you and your family. 

A smart coffee machine won’t be of any use if no one in the house drinks coffee. Perhaps you want to make energy savings or a state-of-the-art entertainment suite. 

Is home security is at the top of your list? If you have various people coming and going, perhaps a system that allows temporary access without giving outsiders a key would put your mind at ease.

Whatever it is, know your smart home needs from the outset and don’t get distracted by the latest gadgets if they won’t serve your lifestyle.

Get busy planning and researching products now.

When your smart-tech planning starts before building commences, you can focus on implementing the right infrastructure to support it, that will accommodate the latest technology and withstand future advances and innovations. 

The number one smart home essential is Smart Wiring and this happens at the framing stage before the walls are up. Smart wiring is a system that combines multiple wires into a single platform, allowing the integration of various smart home systems and sensors, with the capacity to add more later.

USB points are also essential in today’s connected lifestyle – where everyone in the family seems to have at least 10 or more gadgets to charge up by USB. Trust us, these won’t be a wasted commodity in any household!

It goes without saying, the foundation of any good smart-home is a strong internet connection, additional data points and a high-quality router to handle all the new smart devices that use your network to make your life easier. Without that, a smart home is not very smart at all!

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, News

How to have a good relationship with your builder

Building a high-end home may occupy up to a few years of your life. Spending that much time with someone is what some might consider a ‘long-term relationship’, and just like any relationship, both parties must work at building, nurturing and maintaining it. 

Rest assured, many real, life-long friendships have formed between builder and client and your new home will be better for having a harmonious foundation! Read on for a few tips for building a great relationship with your builder.

Respect.

All good relationships are built on mutual respect. Respect that your builder is a professional with years of knowledge and experience – that’s why you have chosen them for the job. Likewise, the builder needs to respect that it’s your dream home and your money funding the project. 
As long as there are mutual respect and consideration, things should remain positive and the relationship will strengthen over time.

Communication.

Equally important as respect is to a relationship, clear and open communication is also key. Most builders aren’t mind-readers and would prefer to cut to the chase to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and confusion, which will make the process more stressful than it needs to be.

Open clear lines of communication from the beginning. Share phone numbers and emails. Decide who will be the point of contact for both sides to reduce the chances of conflicting conversations to derail the project.

Set clear expectations.

Make your expectations clear from the very beginning. A good builder will listen and give you options to what they think is reasonably possible based on their experience, professional opinion, and your budget.

It’s also important to discuss expectations about communication and quality. Do you expect a daily or weekly update? Should your builder expect you to stop by the site regularly or would they prefer to call you first? What quality level do you expect?

Finally, make sure it’s spelled out in the contract so there are no disputes later on. 

Understand that changes will happen.

No matter how well a build is planned, understand that unforeseen factors can and will come into play. If you’re the type to break out in hives if your lunch plans change, you may need to practice some meditation.

Accept that changes, delays and problems are a part of nearly every build. The only thing you can’t count on is when to expect them!

It’s best if you can have a conversation about how to handle changes at the onset so everything’s clear before you begin building. If you’re making design changes after the build is underway it can throw things off and create a lot of extra work.

Life happens and can get in the way, but don’t let it unravel your relationship.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, News

Steps to building a custom home

While the steps of building a high-end custom home with a boutique builder like Merit Homes are generally similar to that of building a cookie-cutter home with a commercialised home builder, there are several parts of the custom build process that are unique and require a lot more thought, input and hands-on involvement. 

That’s the best part, though. You become an integral part of bringing your dream to life.

You choose your team;

make the decisions;

determine the style and design;

select all the elements; 

and you can hand over as much or as little of the process as you like.

We’ve put together a general representation of the custom home-build process. Every experience will be unique, but the basic road map and final destination are the same. 

Read on for a brief overview and return back soon to delve into each step in more detail.

Dare to Dream

Homes are built from a single dream. You find inspiration in the strangest places. You gather a collection of wonderful, sometimes wacky ideas. You obsessively research products and new technology, building materials, design and locations. The dream grows over months and even years, until one day… you’re finally ready.

Budget and feasibility 

Speak with your accountant, financial planner and bank about the financial feasibility of your project and put together a budget. Allow 10-20% of your total budget for a contingency or emergency fund. Unbudgeted surprise expenses are guaranteed, and not allowing for them could mean not being able to complete the build.

Build your dream team

Your core team will be made up of your architect, builder and interior designer. It’s most important to build an open, honest and comfortable working relationship so that everyone is on the same page. 

Remember to draw on your team’s knowledge and expertise for guidance. You don’t do this every day – they do. Be open to change and different ideas and have trust in their input.

Finance

Finalise your finance and budget. It’s important to be upfront about your budget with your team from the beginning so they can design a home to suit. 

Find your build site

Location is the most important part so don’t rush it. Consider the view but also the site costs, accessibility, excavation, council zoning and restrictions. Can you build what you want? As well as your real estate agent, work with your solicitor and architect to identify suitable sites. 

Architectural design

You’ve purchased the block, now you can move into the design phase.  

There are 4 steps to the architectural design process: 

Programming; 

Schematic design; 

Design development; and 

Construction drawings. 

Feel the earth move!

Once the design is complete and your permits are in place, it’s time to prepare the site for the construction phase. This means excavation, ensuring utility connections are going to the site and ready to connect, and everything is ready for construction to commence.

Construction

Remember, an expansive custom home like yours will take much longer to complete than a mass-produced standard-built home – and so it should! You can help by making timely decisions to help prevent unnecessary delays.

Finishing touches

As your home is near ready to occupy, you can start planning the finishing touches. But beware: our insurance doesn’t allow external contractors to complete works while we’re still on site. 

Get everything ordered and ready to go by all means, but don’t book in any on-site appointments or installations until we’ve signed off and moved out.

Move in!