Building a new house
We may say glibly how we’d love to build a house some day, and then put it into the distant future could-be-a-baddream basket. The reality is, building a new home requires extreme organisation, dogged determination and acute attention to detail.
No wonder then that group building systems offering house and section packages are thriving and helping to house many families in New Zealand. The competition is tough, the risks are high and the margins can be slim.
Since the Christchurch earthquakes it’s been necessary to tighten up on engineering and building laws to protect public safety. Defining the liabilities and then restricting work to licensed practitioners has changed the face of building in New Zealand, but GJ Gardner Palmerston North ownermanager Trevor Low says it’s ultimately a good thing.
‘‘I describe it as a pendulum effect, where something drastic happens and we react extremely to it and yes it hurts, but you up-skill your staff and accept responsibility as the changes are inevitable. Ultimately it gives us clear processes and clear standards.’’
Building a house requires multiple visits from building inspectors and the signing off of multiple consents. Nothing is left to chance and any adjustments to the original plans have to be meticulously submitted and signed off.
But long before the first sod is turned, there is so much eyewatering detail required that as a lay person contemplating a selfmanaged build you probably won’t start.
For example here is a brief list of the drawings required for consent:
First, a site plan showing the boundaries, heights , legal description, lot numbers, street address, surveyor’s notes, site area, coverage ratio, footprint wind zone, earthquake zone, corrosion zone, soil type and tests.
Then the site works as required by the engineers after soil tests. Throw in a proposed floor plan showing the overall layout including your proposed terraces, pergolas etc.
Include a copy of your proposed elevations including the building envelope risk matrix, the wind zone, roof and wall details. Don’t forget details of the envelope complexity etc.
The next step, your foundation plan will need to show slab heights, floor levels and dimensions etc plus the foundation design including steel specs, all control joints and concrete specs.
Include your drainage plan showing all the pipes, gulley traps, storm water design, sewer design including vents etcetera.
Fortunately when buying through a group building system, the pain of all these preparations is spared. Their job is to present you with only the good bits, the excitement of choosing light fittings and colours, appliances and floor coverings. Group building systems have streamlined and outsourced the plans and compliance work so they can focus on pulling a house and section package together for the client.
‘‘We have made ourselves a onestop shop at GJ Gardner,’’ says Trevor. ‘‘We’ve formed relationships with drafting companies and because of the volume of work we send through everything’s become very organised and streamlined.
‘‘GJ Gardner Palmerston North have a full-time estimator in-house, sales are trained to provide basic floor plans and elevations for the client from which our estimator can accurately price against. The client gets the joy and excitement of deciding what they want and meanwhile, like the proverbial graceful swan, GJ Gardner is paddling madly beneath the water to make the whole process appear effortless.
‘‘People are meant to enjoy the build and it’s our job to manage the whole process transparently.’’
What people often fail to realise, Trevor points out, it’s the soil beneath the house that can cause the biggest hold up, even stopping the building process altogether.
‘‘We advise people, get a soil test. Before you buy a section or commit to one, get a soil test and if you have already bought a section get a soil test. It is essential to building a house and can put the price of the build up easily by $10-15K when extra foundations are necessary because of the soil type.’’
Palmerston North has several areas where soft soils require deeper foundations. Trevor says putting piles down one metre or more is not unusual because of river silt.
Areas at risk of flooding or liquefaction are charged with providing deeper more stable foundations.
That limits the number of good building sections available in the city, increases the price of good building sites and is pushing people to build in outlying areas.
Sections in Levin, Feilding, Halcombe and Aokautere, for example, are in demand, where soil type is less of an issue and section prices are more affordable.
‘‘Once the soil test is done we receive the details of possible extra work from KOA, Kevin O’Connor and Associates, because we can then accurately propose a price on a house and land package, otherwise it is always on the assumption of a good building site,’’ Trevor explains.
‘‘If extra work needs to be done on the foundations it may blow the clients’ budget and they may decide to walk away, but we will always try to shave a bit off the build here and there to make it affordable to them.’’
Lowering the house specs may still make the build possible but sometimes, Trevor says, it’s the soil type that can wreck the clients’ dreams.
If everything gets signed off and approved then its full steam ahead with good management of the building process essential, both to client satisfaction and business profit.
‘‘Palmerston North is a small place and reputation is everything. You’ve got to do a great job every time and you need to surround yourself with professional advice that’s why you spread the responsibility amongst other relevant technical teams, because you’ve got to get it right the first time.’’
Being ready for the various inspectors is essential; come hell or high water and bad weather, each part of the job needs to be signed off before the building progresses.
Get it right and the build progresses steadily. Get it wrong and all you get is frustration and delays.
Ultimately Trevor’s pendulum may not move back to the middle. ‘‘We will always be charged with providing the intricate detail required for full accountability from every trade, every contractor and all the products used therein.
‘‘But it’s keeping us all honest, there are no short cuts and the inspections are thorough,’’ adds Trevor. ‘‘Our contractors are all licensed professionals so the home owner is the ultimate winner and we all get to sleep well at night.’’ Manawatu’s biggest property publication Property Weekly can be viewed as a digital edition. To see the latest issue, go to www.propertyweekly.co.nz. Then you will receive a weekly email reminder to let you know the latest edition is available to view. New copies are refreshed every Friday by 12 noon, and back copies are available. Check out our open home liftout – it’s the most extensive map available, and easy to handle when you’re checking out your preferred properties. Pages 25-28 Real Estate Account Manager Direct dial: 355 8785 Mob: 027 433 1553 Email: email@example.com
Building a home is not a simple process but it can be made easier.