Build­ing a new house

Manawatu Standard - Property Weekly - - Front Page - He­len Mays

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: sharyn.ore­gan@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

Build­ing a home is not a sim­ple process but it can be made eas­ier.

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