House Renovation

Custom Builder, House Renovation, Interior Design, News

Which heating and cooling options are right for your new home? – Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed ducted gas heating and split system air-conditioning for heating and cooling your home. Here we’ll go into detail on a few other options.

 

Evaporative Cooling

You can tell if a home has evaporative cooling without even stepping inside. It’s the strange raised box that sits on top of a roof. It works by circulating water onto a cooling pad and making it very wet. A fan draws air from outside the unit through the moistened pad to cool it, then passes the cool air into the home. You’ll need to have one or two windows cracked to allow the cool air to circulate throughout the house. The unit will burn out if you don’t.

Evaporative cooling systems are cheap to run and can be preferred to refrigerated cooling, but are limited on their ability, particularly in hot humid conditions or a few days into a heatwave.

If installed in a home with gas ducted heating, it also adds an additional duct in the ceilings in each room or space it’s installed, which can deter some people. 

 

Ducted Reverse Cycle Air-conditioning

The next step up is fully ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. Generally, at the higher end of the budget, ducted air-conditioning both heats and cools your home through one unit. It also means you only have one type of duct in your ceilings as both the heating and the cooling run through the same vent. Even better these days, many systems now come with full zoning, meaning you can turn it off in the areas and rooms you aren’t using, thus making it much more cost and energy-efficient.

 

Gas Log Fire

Many people like the ambiance of a gas log fire as a way to channel a traditional wood fire, but these are often installed to enhance a heating system and create a cosy atmosphere, rather than as a total heating option.

 

Hydronic Heating

By far, our new favourite heating is hydronic, even if it comes at a cost. As the name suggests, hydronic comes from the word “hydro”, meaning water.  Hydronic heating works by circulating heated water (usually via a gas furnace) throughout the home either through your concrete slab or wall panels. 

While the cost of installing hydronic heating is at the top end, the lovely warmth of the slab under your feet on those chilly winter days is worth every penny! Generally, hydronic systems are reasonably inexpensive to run. It’s also a great option for people with allergies and asthma as you’re not blowing air and dust around your house. 

If hydronic or under-floor heating is the one for you, you’ll need to take it into consideration before you get building as the concrete slab needs to be specifically designed to accommodate the pipes.

There are many options, all of which have varying supply, installation, and running costs. However, having your home designed to work efficiently using passive solar principles ensures it will heat and cool more naturally, reducing energy costs considerably.

Using quality insulation, double glazing, draft control, and leveraging nature’s free energy source, sunlight, will have a dramatic effect on the performance and efficiency of each system to deliver year-round comfort.

Custom Builder, House Renovation, Interior Design

Which heating and cooling options are right for your new home? – Part 1

With the depths of the gloomy winter months now well and truly upon us, the importance of having sufficient, preferably instant heat in our homes is all too real. It’s as though we completely forget how cold it gets every year!

As a kid, I can recall vying for the best spot in front of the gas wall furnace in our single-brick converted-garage-come-family-room, or in front of the combustion wood heater that occupied the lounge room – our only two forms of heating. My parents would have a similar memory when they were kids – of the wood fireplace, at least.

Of course, winter in Sydney is not so tough in comparison to our south-of-the-border neighbours’, who had a rude awakening to a 1.7-degree celsius morning recently – and it was still Autumn!

Likewise, cooling and good airflow through your home during those sweltering summer months can be vital to your comfort, especially impacting how well you sleep.

Unlike past decades when we had very few options, choosing the right heating and cooling system today can be a challenging task. With energy costs on the rise, energy efficiency a large focus and heating and cooling making up about 40% of household running costs, it’s important to make the right choice for your lifestyle and budget. 

Let’s take a quick look at what’s available.

 

Gas Ducted Heating

This is one of the more common systems, especially in homes built between 10 and 30 years ago. Before houses were built on concrete slabs, gas heating ducts were installed under the flooring. One might argue this was more efficient than the ceiling duct method used these days. Because hot air always rises, releasing heat at ceiling level means it mostly hangs out there, not where you need it at ground level. 

It still does the job but if your home has airy 7-metre high ceilings, it’s probably not going to be efficient or a sufficient way to heat your home.

 

Split System (Reverse Cycle) Air-conditioning Units

Another popular option is individual air-conditioners like split systems which provide heating and cooling. Each unit has an external condenser unit and an internal wall-mounted air distributor. Depending on the unit, the kW size in relation to the size of the area it’s servicing and the manner in which you use it, it can be very cost-efficient. 

If you’re the type to run it at 32 degrees all winter and 18 degrees all summer, not only should you consider moving to the northern hemisphere where the seasons are more aligned, you’re also in for some expensive bill surprises!

If used for a couple of hours a day at no lower than 24-25 degrees on cool in summer, and around 20-21 degrees heat in winter, it should cost you somewhere between $40-$150 a year.

Unfortunately, split system units can be an eyesore and have the potential to ruin the aesthetics of your luxury Merit Home. Fortunately, the same type of unit can be recessed into a bulkhead, showing only a grill or air vent. Very sleek!

In part 2 of this article, we’ll go into some more recently developed heating and cooling systems, as well as some basic design methods to ensure maximum energy efficiency.

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, House Renovation

External home design of the Art Deco era

Greater Sydney is no stranger to the art deco style. 

Evidence of the much-celebrated era are spread throughout the city and surrounds, whether it be in old movie theatres, town halls, churches, hotels, offices, apartment buildings and private homes, all contributing their own ‘tip of the cap’ to the 1920s and ’30s beyond the streets of Sydney.

Further afield, think luxury cruise ships, jazz clubs, glittering swing dance parties, New York skyscrapers, seaside mansions, and the awe-inspiring waterside estate of The Great Gatsby. 

The style is elegant and opulent, and in its day it was daring, bold and exotic. It represented free-thinking, a strong economy, happier times; evolving technology, premium craftsmanship, and it symbolised wealth, power and sophistication. 

It was a style that influenced all things design across the world, from fashion, jewellery and cars, municipal buildings and ocean liners. Art Deco was boldly modernist with geometric shapes, clean lines, metallic highlights, luxe fabrics, bold colour, exotic materials and textures.

Now, a century later, is art-deco making a comeback? Well, we’d be more inclined to believe that it never really left us!

Whether you go all out and recreate an art-deco home from the era, or you pick up just some of the design elements to implement in your new home, rest assured, it will remain a timeless style to adore into the future.

 

Here are some art-deco features you can borrow.

 

Curves: Softly rounded corners are one of the hallmarks of the style, accentuating shape, balance and proportion. Curves bring an interesting, asymmetric element to the facade, or accentuate a grand portico or generous balcony. 

Black accents: Black or charcoal-coloured doors, architraves, window frames and balustrades like that of the railings on an art-deco ship.

White rendering: The natural way to keep the whole look fresh while ensuring the black accents pop. Elegant, contemporary, simplistic and stunning.

Motifs: Classic shapes and patterns including sunbursts, parallel lines, fans, chevrons and triangles were used to layer understated appeal to a modern-art-deco façade – repeated in the interior design with mirrors, intricate ceiling mouldings, cornices, fireplaces, and joinery.

Flat roof: The roof doesn’t always have to be flat but the idea is to allow the art-deco shape, curve and balance of the exterior to take centre stage. 

Horizontal lines: Linear mouldings etched into the facade highlight clean lines, generous proportions and elegant street appeal.

Internally, an art deco-inspired home should implement expansive light-filled living areas, a sumptuous master suite, lavish bathrooms and fabulous outdoor entertaining – just as it would do in any 2021 home. 

Next, we’ll discuss how to bring a touch of 1920s art-deco elegance into your 2020s home’s interiors.

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.