Thursday, 7 June 2012

Another month gone

Another month has passed and it doesn't feel like much has happened.

In the background the plans continue to develop and the engineering is coming together.  Hopefully any day now I'll be pleasantly surprised when the full set arrives ready for submission to council.   Unfortunately there will be a couple of invoices involved as well!

We've made some changes and tweaks along the way. 

They include:
  • Putting the "public loo" back on the living side of the stairs, taking a bit of space out of the kitchen which had become huge (especially when we've got the scullery as well).  We are hanging out for that kitchen!  The kitchen in our current place isn't much bigger than the scullery!
  • Flipping the Family room and Bedroom 2, making the two bedrooms identical and making the family room a little bigger (using the space freed up from moving the loo)
Here is the updated downstairs plan, upstairs hasn't changed. 

The current dilemma is the door at the side of the kitchen.  We are hoping to have a 3m glass sliding cavity door there to make for a seamless opening between the kitchen/living and outdoor entertaining space.

We don't really want to have to compromise and have a fixed panel at either end, we would like open access from the living and kitchen end (and we don't want to extend a fixed panel further than 3m because we will have a lounge against the wall).

The problem is finding a glazier that has any information about a suitable unit!  Any suggestions anyone?  We don't really want bi-folds either. 

The picture below shows where I am talking about.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Time tics on

Almost a month has passed since we received planning exemption.  Since then I’ve been busy selecting and engaging an engineer, getting some preliminary quotes and looking more seriously at personal choice items. 

The engineering represents the largest single outlay to date.  By the time we get to the end of this stage (all documentation done, building and plumbing permits in place) I expect we will have outlaid a bit over $10k.  Engineering will represent about half of that.
I’ve started doing a bit of initial research on solar electricity and hot water options.  I figure we have space for 3 rows of 7 panels on the garage roof so that should mean a 5kw system. 

That will leave the laundry roof space to accommodate the hot water system panels. 
The orientation and roof angle won’t be ideal so they will have to be mounted on supports above the roofline.  I’ll make the parapet on the front side of the garage high enough so they are hidden from the entry side. 

In regard to solar hot water, I don’t like the on roof tanks so we have settled on a “split” system. 
I’ve been thinking more about heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) and am pretty keen on going with a fully ducted Energy Recovery Ventilation system.  I want to minimise heating and cooling energy use and provide for a well-ventilated building.  I envisage a well-insulated and sealed building with ducted energy recovery ventilation system (Ideally ERV, but would accept HRV or AAHX depending on cost).  Ideally the supplementary heating/cooling system would be part of the same system as illustrated below (L being the “ERV” and “Ducted” being a heat pump). 

I have no idea what size ducting is going to be required which is a bit scary, anyone got any insight?  I’m dreading that it is probably 200mm and I might need to raise the first floor height to accommodate it.   It may not be a problem, given we have 2700 ceilings right through the lower level I may just have to accept dropping the ceiling through the powder/bath/powder/loo and the end of the hall to get the ducting through.

I am still a bit worried about the depth of the living/dining area but I’ve been told to suck it up by my lovely wife.  She’s probably right!   I’ve fallen in love with the Jasper modular couch range from King Furniture … unfortunately they are not available in Tassie.   If I had that towbar and trailer I would be off to Melbourne tomorrow!    I’ve always wanted a couch with really deep wide seats so two people can lie side by side… maybe one day!

Friday, 30 March 2012

We have planning!

We've achieved our first major milestone!!!
The plans went to council yesterday for assessment against the new planning criteria and we have successfully gained exemption from planning approval!!! Clarence Council turned it around in ONE DAY!!! Fantastic service!

We can now skip the planning stage and go straight to building and plumbing permit applications!

The Tasmanian Government should be commended for what they have achieved with the new planning directives. It is a shame they have not been successful in getting more councils to
apply it to more zones but it's a great start!

Our designer has done a great job taking my drafts and drawing them up properly. She has put with lots of questions and produced an excellent result.   Here are the drawings as submitted to council.

Lower Level (click the image to enlarge)

Upper Level (click the image to enlarge)

Elevations 1 (click the image to enlarge)

Elevations 2 (click the image to enlarge)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The waiting game

Since my last post I have been a little distracted, we took a week and half off and headed to Queensland for a family celebration.  I got to jump out of a plane for the second time and loved it!  Perfectly clear skies and landing on Kirra beach made for an unforgettable experience.   If it is on your bucket list, stop procrastinating, GO FOR IT, you’ll love it! 

Being a confirmed obsessive when it comes to planning for the build I couldn’t let the Queensland holiday slip past without it intruding somewhere …. So, I took the opportunity to look at a few display homes and see what you get for your money up there.  It made me think that I should be advertising for a Queensland builder to come and have a working holiday in Tasmania!   It seems $800 a square metre is pretty common up there.  I know you are thinking you can’t compare their “quoted” prices; the actual builds are much more.  To try and deal with that I got brochure prices and then I asked how much for the display home exactly as built (which was a very high spec level).  They are still cheap!  For example: For a 240 sq/m home the list price was $168,400 ($701.66 sq/m), and as built it was $290k ($1208 sq/m).  I know the “project home” is a totally different animal and having read lots of horror stories on I think I would be totally frustrated with how inflexible most project home builders are, but I can’t help being jealous of what you can get for your money up there!

On the progress front, there isn’t a lot to report.  We have had the first plan back from the designer and she has done a fantastic job.  We made some minor tweaks to add some more storage downstairs and refine a few other minor things.  We are trying to be patient but in reality I am pretty anxious about getting our planning through council, getting quotes and engineering done and then getting the actual development/build application in and approved!  It feels like it is going to be slow going for while with little tangible feeling of progress until we get through all that. 

Just to ensure that Ange’s head hurts, I’ve made a spread sheet of every fitting and personal choice item, room by room, category by category.  I’m up 328 items and I am under no illusions, it isn’t complete!  It includes a description of the item, dimensions, any special requirements, our selection (that column has lots of blanks!), the budget, the actual spend, quantity, which room, what category and sub category, supplier, web links, and which construction phase it will be required for.  Being totally obsessive (and ensure Ange’s head really hurts) I’ll probably turn it into a proper relational database soon and start adding more to it as we research and select each item.  If anyone thinks this might be useful for them I’m happy to share, let me know.

There are a few other things going on too but I’ve decided to keep you in suspense for now!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The final design!

I have given Home Designer Pro a fair workout and have updated the design page with our final design which has gone to the designer (OMG I said final!  I know there will be treaks and changes and hopefully not too many budget driven cuts but it really is feeling final!  YAY!). 

Here are a few pics of the new externals.  We are very happy with the way it has come together, what do you think?

Front Vector view (showing Matrix and Stria cladding)
Click pictures to enlarge

Front Waterclour view

Back Vector view (showing Matrix and Stria cladding)
Back Waterclour view

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Slow progress ...

So, it is 22 days since my last post.  I should have lots to report but I’m not sure that I do.
I’ve been doing lots more reading and research on sustainable building, got a bit obsessive about Structural Insulated Panels (one of the many areas I wish the Australian building industry was a bit more receptive to) and, of course, I’ve redesigned the house a few times over.  If you are interested in SIPS, I’ve added a few links to the Links page that you might be interested in.

I know I’ve said it before, but I think I have the design nailed at last.  I’m sure there will be minor fiddles and fixes (and the inevitable trimming to budget) but for the first time I’m actually happy with the external look and the layout/floor plan.  We have always been committed to three distinct zones (living / kids / parents) but have struggled with their layout, especially in respect to dealing with the slope of the block.  The placement of the laundry has always been problematic in that we want it up the SE corner with external access because that gives the best northern sun and privacy for a washing line.  That has always been at odds with the placement of the living / kitchen / dining which we also want at that same end (but obviously we don’t want the laundry in the middle of the living area!).  It is hard to articulate all the things that weigh into the design decision process, some of the key things for us have been:
·         View, Cut/Fill & Aspect
Maximising the view, minimising the cut and fill and balancing all of that with Northerly aspect has been an ongoing juggle.  We selected the block primarily because of the view and the fact that the contours are almost perfectly aligned to maximise it.  The downside is that is about 30 degrees further West than the ideal 90 off Solar North (remember, in the southern hemisphere, ideally you want your house aligned to True North (or “Solar North”) not Magnetic North.  To find the current magnetic declination at your location
click here.  If you are looking to understand the whole concept, try here or Wikipedia here.  For me, the difference is a 14° 52' bonus!  While our view is great from everywhere, the real feature is Mt Wellington so the further I can swing West the more of it we see!
·         Zones
Having the separate Parent / Kids / Living zones and after much deliberation deciding that we didn’t want the Parents zone either over or under the Kids.  Modern sound insulation might be great but not having to rely on it has to be better!

·         Wall area to internal area ratio
A wise architect reminded me of a simple fact that I lost sight of for a while.  That is that a box is the most efficient in external surface area to internal floor area.  I seem to get pretty fixated on designing to a certain number of sq/m in area while totally ignoring how much wall it would take to build it.  For example, in one of my designs I had 634sq/m of external cladding required (roof and walls) for a 316sq/m house (with 2.7m ceilings) a ratio of 1:2.  In comparison, a two story box would only require 491sq/m of external cladding (a ratio of 1:1.55).  Although the box might not look as pretty and might not work with your floor plan, using it as a starting point is a good thing!  I have certainly made more compromises here than I might have liked but at least I’ve thought about them and made conscious compromises! 

The new design
So, we have a new design.  I would love to say it is smaller, but it isn’t.  I would love to say that the cladding to area ratio is fantastic, but it isn’t (it is a little better though).  What I can say, is that it has everything where we want it, the entry and stairs work and it sits on the block pretty well.

Lower (click pic to enlarge)


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Frustrating my poor wife

It has been a little while.  As appears to be becoming the norm, we’ve been busy but progress feels very slow.
I discovered a pretty active Australian home building forum, HomeOne.  Like this blogging stuff, participating in a forum is all new to me but it has been reassuring to discover that other people are obsessing over the details of their dream homes as well.  It has also reinforced how different building is in the major markets and how much the big project builders dominate on the big island!
On the subject of blogging, I was surprised to see that I’ve hit 1000 page views.  Pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things but surprising that my boring ramblings have found any audience!  Perhaps many of you have discovered that elusive cure for insomnia!  It would be great if a few of you made some comments now and again, I have even enabled anonymous ones to make it easy for you!  Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so strange talking to myself!  SI, I still owe you a drink for making the only comment!
And while I’m rambling … here is the obligatory picture for this post.  We all know that blog posts with pictures are heaps more interesting (just like 21st speeches with presentations hey BE?).

This one is here for two reasons; firstly you can do a quick eye test.  If you can read the bottom line you are doing bloody well!  Secondly, the light fitting grabbed me.  You can pick one up for about $180 from Beacon lighting if you are keen (I think it is called “the Habitat”).
I’ve had some really encouraging talks with a potential builder and have made some progress on quotes for joinery, flooring and tiles.  In the process we’ve learnt a fair bit about options and firmed up our thoughts on lots of things.  Maybe progress hasn’t been as slow as it often feels!
I can’t say I didn’t expect to be shocked at how expensive things are but some of the joinery prices were really scary!  Custom vanities are starting to look a lot less likely!
Flooring wise, we are still struggling to find the shade of wood that we are comfortable with.  We’re looking for something in a greyish shade.  My better half isn’t keen on brown and how it will integrate with the colour pallet in the kitchen.
On the design front, I think I’ve probably been the client from hell and rather than stress my designer further I decided to part ways and firm up my plans. 
I have been starting to get more serious about looking at different construction methods and have been getting more excited about the potential of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).  From the little I know, they appear to be used pretty extensively in Europe and the Americas but are still considered radical in the Australian marketplace. 
A SIP is used to build the external (and often internal) walls of the building.  They include an outer panel (cladding), insulation and an inner lining (e.g. Plasterboard).  In effect SIP wall panels are Lego block walls which replace the frame, outer cladding and inner plasterboard.  SIP roof panels are similar, replacing the ceiling lining, insulation and roof cladding.  As one integrated unit, they are fast to construct and have superior sealing and insulation properties.
I have also started getting more serious about home automation research.  That’s a topic for another post, or possibly a whole separate blog!  I’m keen to at least automate the basic stuff that contributes to efficient energy usage.  Ideally that will include living room blinds, zone to zone heat exchange, external venting in the entry (central “cooling chimney”), heating / cooling.  All being well I’ll also include lighting but that might have to wait.  I love the idea of never having to tell the kids to turn their light off again, turning off everything as the garage door closes and all the rest!  It’s in the home automation space that I’ll really get geeky so I better stop!  ….
Oh I can’t stop …. Speaking of geek, I’ve managed to squeeze in the server cabinet and with an aligned a cable closet (study/family room).  I’m hoping that one of the wireless home automation standards will be good enough (Z-Wave, ZigBee anyone?) but I’ll still be putting at least two Cat 6 points into every room and more in key locations.  In our current place I pipe 720p video/audio/infrared from upstairs to downstairs via Cat 5.  It seems moving high def video around is still in its infancy so I’ll probably just end up with more of the same boxes in the new place.  I’m yet to decide if I’ll centrally locate things like PVR’s and Austar (will we bother … probably not) in the server cupboard or not but I’m leaning that way.  Ok ... I’m way over on the geek quotient, are you still with me JANET, I bet you aren’t unless someone gave you a heads up!  If any of you want more geek details you’ll have to comment or wait for a future geek post!
So, we are off to look at a few examples of the potential builders work on Thursday.  I have to call council tomorrow and clarify exactly how planning submissions work these days under PD4 to make sure my assumptions are right!  There, I said it.  I’ll have to do it now!
Oh, if you are left wondering what the relevance of the title of this post, "frustrating my poor wife", is .... you obviously have not pursued building.  I'm frustrating her at the moment through indecision and the constant changes.  To be honest, I frustrate myself regularly!