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Designing a Home the Smart Way

It may shock you to know the high percentage of people who lose thousands of dollars during the home design process. The home design process meaning: concept idea through to final plans and engineering.

Smart House DesignDesigning a house is a project in itself and it takes skill and experience to do it successfully.

In just the last few months UBuild Homes have come across at least four different prospective Owner Builder/Kit Home customers who have had losses between $5,000 and $50,000 each on designing/creating house plans that they just cannot afford to build! Unfortunately, the drafting/architect service providers they dealt with did not properly assess their situation and took them down a misguided path that resulted in tragic outcomes. And that was before any ground was even broken!

It is important to complete some research before engaging a drafting, architectural or plan drawing service for your dream home.

Here are some tips that will point you in the right direction:

1. Don’t allow a drafting firm or an architect to be involved in estimating the cost of your home. Drafting people know how to draft plans. Only a very small percentage of these service providers can estimate the cost of a building accurately. The same goes for architects. An architect should only be engaged if you want an architecturally designed home with an open ended budget.

2. The first goal of any design is to meet your budget. You must be very clear from the outset what you are trying to achieve and ensure that your drafting service understands. Also be aware that during the design you will quite often focus on the things you “like” instead of the things you “need”. Always remember that the things you like may not be mainstream and as a result will cost more to construct – even if you are owner building.

3. Builders and trades generally do not like working with architects because they most often design something that is either very difficult or near impossible to build. Most builders and trades will describe architects as too creative and lacking in practicality. So unless you want a complex designed home and you have a hefty budget then stick with a reputable drafting firm. How do you find one? Ask UBuild Homes. You’ll have access to a panel of highly skilled, cost effective drafting professionals.

4. All costs associated with house plans, building reports, engineering plans, soil tests and energy reports must be fixed priced. Never engage any of these service providers without a fixed quote upfront.

5. The average home design process will need:

  • Budget and Finance to be pre-approved and fully advised to the drafting service. They must be under strict instructions that the cost of the home cannot exceed the budget provided. If they do not know what the design is going to cost then do not use them. 
  • Finance provision is a critical component. Do not get your design then go and talk to the bank. That is the wrong way around. If you are having challenges obtaining Owner Builder Finance then talk to us – we could have the solution you’re searching for. 
  • Before you decide on a house design service you will need a survey, contour plan and a soil test. If you need help finding a reputable service provider then let us know – we’d be delighted to help.

6. If you don’t understand the technical challenges of building a home then be wary of unique roof designs and roof lines. UBuild Homes recently had a set of plans presented to us (from an unkown third party drafting service)  that literally could not be built. These plans cost $5,000 and were useless. What a waste.

7. Try not to be too emotionally attached to the things that you “want”. These “wants” are sure to blow your budget. Unless you are not concerned about your budget stick to conventional rules in construction and the power of resale value. Sometimes a slightly smaller design with better use of space and design features will be a more valuable commodity than a giant box with a funny roof!

8. Consider energy, water, and the outside design of the total space being used. The first thing people see when they come to your home is the outside. They will also ask about water and energy efficient features of the home. Bear this in mind early on and you can design accordingly. Trying to fix this in hindsight is an expensive process.

By following some of these simple steps correctly you will have a more accurate and predictable outcome to your budget. Too many Owner Builders are unable to complete their homes due to poor quality up front planning. This is the main reason most lending institutions refuse finance to owner builders.

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.