Key Activities

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​​​​Confirm a new house is the right approach

The first thing is to consider whether building a new house is the right plan for you, based on your objectives and the time and money you have available. Ask yourself if:
  • you could renovate an existing house and achieve the same objective
  • move an existing house to a new location, rather than build a new house
  • you could subdivide your land for development instead of buying a new site
  • you have the time and money to invest in a new house building project
  • you have considered the impacts your project will have on energy and water use, health and comfort, waste and place (see 'Approaches to Sustainability​' in the Sustainability hub for more information)  ​
  • there are any planning limitations in the area you are considering that increase the complexity of new developments
  • there is enough demand for the type of house and location you are planning, to ensure you get the price you expect (if you are planning to sell after you build).
Understand the level of commitment
If, after considering the above, a new house is the answer then you can continue secure in the knowledge that you have made the right decision. Designing and building a house will be exciting and rewarding, leave you with a great sense of achievement and make you knowledgeable about building in Auckland.  

However, it’s important to understand that the process you’re committing to will also require a lot of time, effort and money. Deciding how much of each you can commit to the project, and what type of role you would like to take will help you select from the project delivery options discussed in the Plan stage (Section 2 of this guide).
Establish a knowledge base
You will need to do some research on the best way of doing things and discuss this with others in your household. Types of research that can be useful for this are:
  • talking to people that have been involved in similar projects
  • looking at books and magazines for case studies and ideas, or you could use online apps such as Houzz and Pinterest​ to start collating case studies, materials and products that appeal to you.  The more information you have, the better you will be able to communicate what you want to your designer. 
  • finding out the cost of similar projects in similar locations 
  • learning where and when to get help
  • having an informal conversation with an architect or architectural designer about the design and build process.
  • finding out about certification schemes that could guide your process (see ‘Approaches to Sustainability’  in the Sustainability hub for more information)​
  • quantifying the conditions in which you feel comfortable (e.g. temperature and humidity levels). This will be helpful when setting comfort and health targets for your project (see ‘Comfort and Health’, ‘What should I be aiming for​’ section of article in the Sustainability hub for more information) ​​​
Develop the Outline Brief 
Developing an Outline Brief starts with forming a Vision Statement. This communicates the project’s overarching aims and objectives. It should be the central, most important aspect of why you are building a new house. As the project progresses and changes, your Vision Statement should be a reference point for testing the design as it evolves. It can be as simple as a single sentence. For example: 
  • Build a house that respects the style of the existing neighbourhood while taking into account the taste of potential buyers.
  • Create an infill development where both houses have equal access to sunlight and privacy.
  • Create a green building that has no impact on surrounding ecosystems.
An Outline Brief also gives more detailed information which is used to communicate your objectives to design experts. It should balance what is wanted and what is needed in the house, based on who will be living there.

Your Outline Brief should include: 
  • Vision Statement: This communicates the project’s overarching aims and objectives and becomes the guiding principle of what is to be achieved in the end. It should be a constant reference point throughout out the project. 
  • spatial requirements: These should be described in terms of quality, not quantity (e.g. open plan living for socialising and entertaining, with private and quiet spaces to retreat to).
  • user requirements: Both present and future users should be considered (e.g. ramps instead of stairs for old age, wide doors to allow wheelchair access, room for family boat). 
  • sustainability objectives: Consider the possible impacts of your home and decide on sustainability outcomes that reflect your priorities around areas such as energy, water and comfort and health.
  • sustainability objectives: Consider the possible impacts of your home and decide on sustainability outcomes that reflect your priorities around areas such as energy, water, comfort and health, waste and place [provide hyperlink to articles]. ​​
  • performance requirements (e.g. no need to he​at the ​home in winter).​
  • location requirements (e.g. lifestyle preferences, access to transport or amenities).
  • how the building integrates with the local context and environment.
  • an overall budget
  • a general schedule.
If you are building the house for yourself, the items above should reflect the priorities of your own family. If the house is being built to sell on, the priorities should reflect those of the market you anticipate selling to.

If you have already acquired land for the house or are considering infill development, it will be necessary to include site considerations in the brief.

Decisions made in these early design stages are the least costly and are likely to have the most impact on the whole life of the building, so it’s a good idea to achieve the right balance between quality, time and cost in your Outline Brief. While one of these may be a priority, none should be sacrificed entirely in the face of external pressures. Remember - improving design quality can sometimes come at a cost, but will also result in a higher-value property​ and can save you money in the long term.
​​​​Consider money matters
It is important to consider economic matters at this early stage of the process. In estimating a budget for the project there are some key issues to take into account:
  • Define a realistic budget and try to stick to it. It can be easy to overcapitalise by spending money that will not be recovered if the house is sold in the future. The house’s estimated market value should always be kept in mind, even if you intend to use it yourself for a long time.
  • Consider all costs. There may be costs you are unaware of. The budget should cover not only the price of the land, designer’s fees and construction costs, but also a range of other costs including fit-out furnishing, landscaping, sub-consultant fees, legal and finance costs, development contributions and consent application fees.
  • Consider long-term costs. Solutions or approaches that may seem expensive at first can reduce the running costs of  the home (e.g. energy, water, maintenance) and save money over the life of the building. Studies on homes built to a 5 or 6 ​Homestar rating show that the initial investment to improve the performance of a home is paid back within seven years, with such houses saving between $573 and $729 per year.
  • Keep in mind that every requirement captured in the brief will have a cost associated with it. This understanding will help to set realistic expectations regarding what is possible within  your  budget.
Some websites that may help with researching building costs are the Department of Building and Housing Quick Calculator​ and need2know.org.nz. While focused on providing information for people looking to rent, the Affordability in New Zealand​ website also presents information that shows how where you choose to live (in relation to where you work) impacts the amount spent on transport.

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