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How Star Ratings Affect Your Kit Home Design

Before building your dream home (whether it is a kit home or through a builder) you need to be sure it can be built according to your vision.

Building a home today is different to building a home a year ago, and vastly different to building a home 10 years ago. And it’s almost guaranteed to be different again 10 years from now!

Building Energy Efficient HomesPlanning and Building Approval now takes into account everything from zoning to energy efficiency, and water consumption to building code requirements. The process of achieving a permit now is more taxing. As a potential owner builder you must take note of what you want to achieve and if that requires special provisions.

You can’t just build your dream unless it conforms to the Government’s regulations with regard to Energy Efficiency. Owner Builders now must take great care to ensure a strong understanding of the Energy Efficiency requirements in their state before starting out on the design process.  
By now you have probably heard the term “Star Rating”. Star Ratings are now attached to all sorts of products, from appliances through to housing design. But what does it mean for you if you are considering an owner built kit home?

In simple terms the Star Rating System is a nationally recognised measurement of the energy rating of a particular product. This includes homes. The scale ranges from 1 star to 10 stars. 10 stars is the maximum number you can possibly achieve and to achieve this on a home is quite a challenge.
Different states have different regulations with respect to energy and water efficiency. At the time of writing this article NSW requires all new homes to have a minimum 3.5 Star Rating. To pass through council you only need to have a pass of 35%. In Queensland and Victoria you need to a 5 Star Rating or a pass of 50% to be able to build your dream home.
It is easier to achieve a Star Rating of between 5 and 7 during the design stage without too much extra construction costs being added to your budget. To achieve an even higher rating you can expect the cost of your construction to rise significantly. Every individual home design needs to be individually and independently assessed at the design stage. If it is not then alot of time and expense could very well be wasted. Don’t spend money you don’t have only to find out you are back to square one again.

UBuild Homes supports the design and construction of Energy Efficient Kit Homes by assisting Owner Builders in their quest for better environmental outcomes. UBuild can assist you through the design process to ensure compliance with all your planning requirements, including energy efficiency.

Land Choice for Building a House

When planning to buy a block of land to build that dream home or Kit Home there are some basics that you need to consider. These considerations are ones that will most probably impact your costs at construction more than anything else:

  1. Slope of the block relative to size and general site conditions. Novices always underestimate the slope of a block. Truth be known, it is easy to do. You see, the naked eye can be very decieving and often you will look at a site and say to yourself, “Doesn’t look that bad”. But you need to know that the more steep the site the more impact this will have on design and costs – particularly hidden costs. 
  2. Soil Quality. You will read a fair bit about soil tests, geotech reports and soil classifications on this site. The reason for this is, from an engineering and foundation perspective, the soil content is critical and will have an impact on construction of foundations and the costs associated with doing so. When you look at a block you will not know the quality of the soil and thereforel need specialists to conduct the necessary reports and tests.
  3. Know the Location of Services. Exactly where is the power, water, sewer and stormwater connections? This is critical information and the location of these services and the delivery method will impact on your costs. For example, let’s say you have found a fantastic 2 acre block in an outer suburb. You need to find out if the power is above or below ground. Is there a sewer system? If not you are going to need an Environmental HSTP (septic) system. The services list goes on, so do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask the land seller as many questions as you feel you need to. 
  4. Size of the Block. Beware the small, narrow lot that boasts a bargain price. Worse still, the small, narrow lot with some slope on it. Buy it, and you may discover later that it comes back to bite you when you have done your budget to build on it. Believe it or not, small and narrow is very expensive to build on. Occupational Health and Safety is now a legally compliant part of all residential construction sites – and the tighter the site, the more conditions that apply. These conditions come at a cost so give size some consideration when buying the block. 
  5. Driveway Access and Finished Ground Levels and Floor Levels. There are conditions relevant to the site about how steep a driveway can be in the distance between the boundary to the garage entrance. This is relevant to point no. 1 with the slope of the land. Some blocks simply cannot be cut and filled to suit a flat building pad. You may need to raise or lower the finished ground level to comply, and if this is extensive then expect it to impact on the finished design as well as cost.

Whether you are planning to Owner Build or Project Build always do solid research with an experienced builder before buying the block of land. UBuild Homes have professional experts that can assist you early in the process of selecting the right block to Owner Build your home or Kit Home. Why not contact us and find out how we can help you with end to end solutions.

Choosing a Kit Home to Suit Your Foundation

The foundation of your building project needs to be taken into account when choosing the right Kit Home. Some flooring systems need to be included in the Kit Home Package.

Are you building on a concrete slab or are you building off the natural ground on an elevated flooring system? Building on a concrete slab suits most Kit Homes specifications.

If you are building off the ground, on bearers and joists floor for example, then you need to make sure the Kit Home Supplier provides the floor system with the kit. Some will, some won’t. You need to be 110% certain of this, because if you don’t get the floor system supplied by the Kit Home company then you must have these materials on site at the outset so your carpenters can commence work. Otherwise you’ll just lose money and time – and quite possibly your Carpenters! Also be aware there will obviously be an additional cost for the flooring system, so remember to budget this in.

Some Kit Home Suppliers will create a specification to meet your unique needs. Others will not, so be sure to ask.

Some suppliers specialise in steel only, some in timber, and some will quite happily provide either.

Remember that steel will always be more expensive to buy and to build. So if you are choosing steel and you are on a tight budget then know every single cost pertaining to your project before you start out.

Another helpful hint is that Kit Home Companies should provide you with a service that guarantees the quantity of materials is correct to complete your house to lock up stage. If there is anything that is short then they should provide this at no cost.

Renovation Tips

Sometimes when putting House Plan Designs together people tend to focus so much on the asthetics that they forget the practicalities and live-in-ness of their future property.

A very handy website, Universal Design Renovations was put together by Alex Cochran  and his partner, Desiree who share a hands-on account of the challenges associated to renovating a house for disability access.

Now, even if you don’t believe you need to consider catering for people with access challenges in your own house designs, Alex and Desiree’s website is still full of helpful hints to designing your surroundings for safety, comfort and a focus on sustainability.

They cover everything from automating your home to installing safety flooring in wet areas,  having photovoltaic solar panels for electricity to how to care for paint brushes, and tips for tiling a wall through to replacing floor boards.

I like the no-nonsense approach, the step-by-step description of the renovations made to the property now known as ‘Bimbadeen’, as well as Alex and Desiree’s personal journey adjusting to an access restricted lifestyle.

Make sure you check out the handy ‘How to… Secrets’ section as well as the ‘Project Design Aspects’ Articles for  honest opinions and advice on using the recommended products to their best advantage.