Our Build

Diary

Nailing Our Design

It’s both exciting and incredibly daunting designing your own home. Exciting in the fact you can create a space that’s tailored exactly to your tastes and lifestyle. But daunting because you could completely balls it up, left to live with your mistakes staring back at you on a daily basis.

House exterior at twilight

We spent weeks fine tuning our design, eventually arriving at a solution we absolutely love. It’s a modest 165sqm (plus 80sqm of deck), made up of three bedrooms, two bathrooms with a large open plan kitchen, living and dining area. Then there’s the cherry on top – Kylie’s genius idea of a roof top deck, enabling us to maximise our outdoor living sunshine hours.

Thinking ahead we have future proofed the bedroom side so it is capable of holding a second story down the track when we have the funds we’d need to eventually create a 250sqm home.

On the exterior we’re going to clad the house in architectural cedar and incorporate as much full height glass as possible, including our bridge connecting the two sides of the house together. While we’ve incorporated large cantilevered sections to design away the stereotypical ‘pole house’ look as much as possible because we need to build our home on stilts to keep it above any theoretical flood events.

Armed with the scale drawings we had completed of the house, I asked an architect friend to create some elevations for me, which I then took to visualisation company DeeDee Studio to produce a 3D model of our design.

Wow. It was incredible to see the ideas that had been spinning around our heads for so long come to life and look even better than we had envisaged. The only problem is we just want to move in right now!

House Exterior At Noon

32 Comment
  1. Looks fantastic, hubby and I raised two children in a pole house very close to a stream on the North Shore, yes, it did flood, many times and what excitement for two exploring children with gumboots and rain coats.

    • Cheers Louise, definitely going to be a great section to explore and play on with all the trees and stream. We’re actually able to design away all the flood risks so the stream holds all water, even in the theoretical 100-year-event, which is great :)

  2. Kiwi version of Fallingwater ? ( Frank Lloyd Wright ) … i like it … great to see Kiwi’s thinking outside the square and designing a house to fit into its natural surroundings …. not just a house on top of a piece of land

    • Thanks Dean! Yeah, that’s what we’ve been keen on doing from the start, rather than turning the land into just another section in Auckland.

  3. You guys are brave. It takes a lot of courage to push the envelope. “It always seems impossible until it’s done” to quote Nelson Mandela. Although you don’t have to go from 30 years in prison to lead the country, this is a unique challenge when facing council regulations! Have you thought of entering your build in “Grand Designs.” There might be some money to be had in that to support the project.

  4. Read today’s Herald and saw your home, I just loved it so have enjoyed the journey on your website and will continue to watch. Congratulations, a fab section , awesome house design, all the best for the ongoing project. I am a Block fan too, loved what you created on this series.

    Jenny

  5. Well done for taking this on! we looked at that site a few years ago and that was the exact design my husband (structural engineer) proposed! great out of the box thinking and all the best!

  6. Ben, great looking place you’ve got there. Any chance of squeezing an outdoor shower off the master bedroom. Looks like you’ve got some privacy on the back part of the section. Looking forward to the build.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  7. Hi Guys, Please, Please, Please, make sure you get good advice on the flood risk. Working in this field of hazards and risks there is ALWAYS an event bigger than design. You need to build in a lot of conservatism in the design re flood hieghts and flows. What about insurance, have you checked that an insurance company will actually insure the property once complete, based on the risk?? Good luck!

    • Hey Rick. Cheers for the words of warning. We’ve covered this all off though with hydrological assessments and recommendations which we are required to build to in order to get consent, plus we have insurance sorted for the end too :)

  8. Just a couple of quick comments from a builder on the North Shore that has built properties of my own in very similar environments and that might help you guys.

    That amount of huge window area connecting (and adjacent to) the two parts of the house is a huge area of potental heat loss for the entire house – especially when neither end has any doors installed, and which runs into your living area at one end and the sleeping area (especially in a bush clad area that has no shortage of water in close proximity). This will add tremendousely to your electricity bills. Other option is to have double-glazing which will rocket your building and construction costs.

    The other issues involve the use of flat roof and using the area on top of a flat roof as a potential living or recreation area. The work required to fully waterproof and avoid leakage in a house with a flat roof is extensive and not the most reliable. While it might look cool, ANY hole in an area of flat roof is a leakage point – now or in the future. It is also important that water collected by a flat roof has adequate run-off and when you situate the building close to adjacent trees and foliage, the leaves, twigs and leaves that will collect on a flat roof WILL help to regularly clog and block those run-off areas.

    Don’t forget flyscreens for every door and opening window. You are going to be murdered by mossies in summer because mossies love water, even if it appears to be a patch of water with constant flow. I see lilies coming up out of the ground in one location and that is usually always an indicator of lack of water flow – and that is how the Lillies are able to grow there – and its impossible to eradicate them.

    Finally I have built a couple of houses where the insurance company refused to insure any downstair rooms lying within a flood plain area on the North Shore. You need also to check this because Council may well require you to have this potential liability added to the title on your property which can potentially negative connotations for any buyer when you may wish to sell in the future. And this is usually cause because the solicitor for the purchaser will see it, and even though the solicitor generally has no idea what this means, will warn the potential purchaser of this being a liability.

    Also any advice given to you by the council, make sure you get it in writing from them. If they refuse to put it in writing then you cannot count on it. Too often a building inspector will turn up on site to carry out the mandatory inspections that enable you get your Code of Compliance for the completed house. Those inspectors can require you to do anything, and if you do not have the previous advice you received from council in writing, you have a major problem. And with no Code of Compliance – you have a MAJOR problem.

    There are reasons why those in the industry know that dealing with council is a nightmare.

    Hope that helps and good luck.

    • Hey Nick, thanks heaps for your detailed and informative comments. They’re all points we have considered and pretty much already addressed.

      The house will be fully double glazed for sure. We are also looking at pre-fabrication which has huge thermal benefits as we are aware of the heat loss glass has.

      We’re working with a great team of builders and engineers to ensure our roof and other elements are 100% water tight and compliant. While also looking a solutions to keep leaves etc clear of our spouting/gutter system. Also the bedroom side will eventually have a second story added when we can afford it, so that won’t be a flat roof forever.

      We’ve had a great relationship with the council to date. Our pre-application meeting has been fully minuted by both parties and all subsequent correspondence is in writing. You are correct, one item the Council raised with us was the potential for a s72 added to our title, however we have been able to design away all flood risks by modifying the size of the stream to hold all water events, while also building the entire house above a set height deemed to be above a theoretical 100-year event – essentially not required given the stream will hold all water, even during a flood, but we have done it to be completely safe. Therefore a s72 is unlikely to be issued. All scenarios discussed with insurance company and have written notification of cover when complete.

      Whereabouts are your properties?

  9. I wish you well, I hope you get lucky with Auckland Council [AC] but doubt it from various projects we have done. Dealing with AC is like fighting with a Giant Jellyfish. It has huge mass that you need to fight your way through and has no brain.

    With the native bush is there a SEA overlay?, if not you are so lucky, AC stuffed up, but they could change this if it is not… if it is a SEA how many CIAs do you need?

    Resource Consent for earthworks for a stream… wow that’s brave! Some would say improbable without huge resources, it’s not something we would normally try…. 5 metres from a stream… very tough… but actually earthworks for then stream WOW! Got multiple AC Abatement Notices on us for just looking at a stream closely

    In a native bush area in AC area, to do earthworks over 5sq metres you need Resource Consent. and should have put it in….

    Did you consider that many many developers looked at that site for many years, with many different plans and could not get it to fly…. people who work full time in development, and they were to scared to take it on.

    Just because you write nice things about AC workers, they still will work you over.

    You are young, I wish you well, you have time to take the hit and move on, don’t let this site destroy you, what I mean by that is once the AC clobbering machine moves into action [and I truely hope it doesn’t] learn from it, and just get on with your lives, there are lots of good things out there.

    I iterate, I hope things go well, but you are dealing with the AC, so that is in my experiance, very unlikely, but if it does turn to custard, just take it on the chin and move on.

    • Hi Dave, thanks for your comments.

      No, there is no SEA overlay.

      I’m not just writing ‘nice things’ about the Council for the sake of it. I’m writing based on the experience we have had. We certainly entered the consent process with huge trepidation as all we had heard were comments as per yours, however we have only had a positive experience from every person that we have dealt with at the Council to date.

      Yes, we require Resource Consent, which we submitted and had approved relatively painlessly. Allowing us to build over the stream, modify it, and within the bush area. I put this ease down to the fact we discussed our plans with them from the outset during a pre-application meeting. Both parties knew what each other wanted out of the process and by working together, both parties are very happy with the outcome. I firmly believe if we had gone in with the attitude of the Council being the villains then the outcome would have been quite different.

      Of course we are not naive to the fact many professional developers have failed and ‘not been able to make it work’. I actually spoke to a developer who had tried because it scared me to learn they had given up on the site. But the main reason was time vs anything else. As a professional developer he could spend his time on an easier site for a similar return. However for us, we’re building our dream home so it’s not about profit. If it takes a bit of time then so be it, we’ve got plenty of that. We hope to live in the house for years. Also, many developers will have been trying to put multiple dwellings on the section, clear the bush and cover over the stream to generate greater returns which would have been a different discussion with Council no doubt. But our application was looked upon favorably because we were respecting the natural resources and in most part, improving them.

      By taking on a site others have failed on has meant we could secure the section at a bargain price, granting us entry into a suburb well above our pay grade. Sure there’s plenty of hard work ahead, on top of the months and months we’ve already spent, but we’re not adverse to that and loving the process so far.

      In the nicest possible way, we’re looking forward to proving you wrong!

      • Hi Ben,

        Nice work to date and good to see you’re planning ahead. I agree completely with your comments above and working in the development industry in Queenstown it is similar. If you get good professional advice and approach Council early you should have no issues with a fair and reasonable proposal. Similar with the construction process and getting inspections all ticked off at the right time.

        Like your idea for future proofing the bed wing for another storey. Given you need flat roof rafters at close centres they could easily be converted to floor joists in the future so suspect any initial upgrade costs would be fairly minimal. I assume you’ve up spec’ed the bracing a bit to suit also.

        Flat roofs are perfectly fine with good design, construction and maintenance, all three equally important and don’t forget about the last one as time goes by. In your case I can see why you did it and it suits the modern design.

        Love the glass bridge, quite a feature of the house. Hope not too many birds k-o themselves thinking it’s a shortcut! Fully glazed links on a concrete slab are common place on many high end homes but having a glazed link bridge over a natural stream is way cooler.

        Looking forward to seeing it complete.

        • Hey Manu. Cheers – we’re pretty stoked with it :) Haha, hadn’t thought of the old birds hooning straight into the glass bridge!
          Looking forward to getting the build underway.

  10. Hi Ben,

    Your design looks awesome especially in the 3D rendering. We’re looking at submitting our renovation to council next week which involves building within the 1:100 flood plain of Meola Creek in Mount Albert and had do go through all the engineering you will have done. We’re encroaching with some blockwork minimally into the plain but are hoping council let it go, it was good to hear you had no issues and altering the stream was viable too. I saw that you needed a site management plan for debris control and am now wondering if we may need one to, is it quite a standard document? You’re obviously clued up and your profile should help a bit too, so I’m sure this will work out for you guys. Cheers

  11. Hi Ben
    I am about to embark on my own design project. As with your project, a stream is involved and the section is pretty daunting. You have mentioned “altering the stream to hold all water events”. How would one go about doing this? What is involved, and which professionals should I be talking to about the potential to do this?

    • Hi Gina – Absolutely, love to share!

      In our situation, Council required a flood assessment report, which calculates theoretical water events right up to a 1 in 100 year storm. It takes into account the surrounding catchment area, the down stream capacity and the contours on the section, as well as the proposed building platform.

      There was already a consent notice on our section that said we had to build 500mm above this 100 year level, so the flood assessment report confirmed these levels for us. But then they also suggested we modify the stream dimensions to ensure no water went beyond the stream banks, thereby the surrounding land would in theory never flood. So we had to get that new channel profile modeled to find the dimensions needed to hold all that water, then submit it all as part of our Resource Consent application.

      We worked with Thurlow Consulting Engineers and Surveyors and they were brilliant, can’t recommend them highly enough. Mark Hatten was who dealt with throughout.

      I’d also highly recommend that you meet with the Council and have a pre application meeting. Costs about $300 and hands down the best decision we made. You get to talk through your ideas for the section – you don’t even need plans, or just a sketch by hand on a Google Map print out would be ample. Council will then advise you on what you need to do, what to look out for etc. You should also get assigned a planner/contact that you can go back to over and over as you prepare your application for Resource Consent as part of that fee, to answer any questions or point you in the right direction.

      Hope this is helpful? Feel free to ask as many questions as you like. I’d also love to see the plans/section and keep updated on how you progress!

      Good luck, and enjoy, Ben

  12. Hi Ben

    Thanks for that, seeing as the property is in the far north I have contacted local engineers who have given us two options, dam or build a hydraulic drop structure. From what you have said, it didn’t sound like you had to do either. I feel like their might be an option 3 – what exactly did altering the stream dimensions involve; was it essentially just digging the thing deeper?

    Thanks
    Gina

    • Hey Gina

      Yeah essentially in our case we needed to make it wider and deeper. Our site is sloping so water will always be clearing away even in a flood, vs ponding and left lying, not able to get away. So I’m not sure if that makes a difference with where your site is.

      We didn’t need to do anything though to be honest. We had to build 500mm (bottom of joists) above the theoretical 100 year flood level – so are on poles basically. But that would have satisfied Council. However we have made it bigger to hold all water in the stream, so to avoid any flooding, but also to make it look better, and hopefully we can remove the requirement for a section 73 notice being added to the title upon completion.

      No doubt varies a lot depending on the location.

      Let me know how you get on. By no means an expert, but have been looking at all this stuff for the best part of a year now so have plenty of lingo and a fairly decent understanding by now!

      Cheers

      Ben

      • Hi Ben

        Well all is coming along nicely… waiting on engineers report/flood assessment. Here is the Harcourts ad for the section http://harcourts.co.nz/Property/602485/HDB2386/0-Whatuwhiwhi-Road if you were curious to check it out. Our piles will, by the sound of it, need to be at least 2.5m into the ground and many of the challenges look like they will be very similar to what you have faced. Will likely be bugging you for advice after our pre-application meeting (ideally early next year).

        The whole process seems to move so slowly…

        Regards

        Gina

        • Hey Gina. Wow, your outlook is amazing! I actually looked at a section a few years ago closer to the golf course/resort. Such a beautiful part of NZ.
          Yeah, the planning does take a while, but then when it starts to be built, it’s so satisfying! Plus, planning well now will save a lot of time and potential issues down the track.
          Please by all means do keep asking questions. By no means an expert, but happy to spew forth what we did!
          Look forward to seeing the progress :)

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