Saturday, 31 December 2011

2012 A special year.

Well Christmas has come and gone and we saw the New Year in with a bang! As has become our tradition, we watched the fireworks from the water only about 100m from the barge.  It was pretty special.  Very fitting for what is shaping up to be a pretty special year for us.  We hope that in 2012 we will be celebrating Christmas and seeing in the New year with our extended families in our new house.

Since my last ramblings a few things have happened.  The most important one being that weve settled on a designer and accepted his quote.  Since then Ive been bombarding the poor guy with a number of variations and total redesigns.  Last time I posted a version, it was up to V12.  Were now up to V20 with a few unsaved ones in between! 

The madness started after having sent off a set of plans to the designer.  We made the mistake of reviewing all our past attempts and came across one that grabbed us and got us re-thinking the garage location.  The objective being to reduce the footprint up and down the block and minimise the amount of cut / fall.

I guess the other thing that resurrected the old plan was the decision to try and get the Guest Bedroom back in.  We had eliminated it early on thinking it was just more money we didnt want to borrow, hopefully we will be able to keep it!
The Lower floor plan (click the picture to enlarge)

Here is the lower floor plan.  Moving from left to right, weve incorporated the garage on to the left end of the house.  One less wall to build, a better position for the driveway and more outdoor space at the NE corner (but well have to establish some plants to get some privacy).  The garage is a little narrower than I would have liked but Im using every bit of block width I can.  The bedrooms are a good size with generous built in robes. 

On the storage front, I am not totally happy with the linen cupboard placement but you cant win on everything!  Ideally I would probably move it into the back of the cupboard in the bedroom closest to the family room but that would make the two kids bedrooms different and would no doubt put someones nose out of joint!  We will probably close in the stairs and get some storage in the entry that way.  Well make the end wall under to top end of the stairs 300 deep (just to the left of the front door) and put some little drawers, key hanging and the like under there.  I imagine I will try to squeeze the server rack, patch panel, video distribution and the like under the stairs too but Im not sure on code requirements in that respect. 

The three area bathroom layout is as weve always wanted it.  A central powder room separate from the loo and bathroom will allow the two kids to procrastinate simultaneously in the mornings!  It is a little far from the living, and through the family/rumpus which is less than ideal but it works. 

Two of the other things that drove us to this design where the entry and the placement of the living area.

Get some Wow factor into the entry. 
Weve got a great view and want to achieve that Indoor/Outdoor feel as soon as you walk in.  Weve got that now with an outdoor room to the right of the entry and glimpses of the view straight ahead and through the living area.

This is a rough view from just inside the front door, you can see the outdoor room on the right, and look through it to the living.  You can see the water and mountains behind (excuse the dull overcast background pic, I must put one in from a nice sunny day!  Youll also have to excuse bannisters and other details I havent worked on modernising them!).

Get the living back downstairs at the Northern end with an indoor/outdoor feel. 
We couldnt help feeling if we put the living upstairs we wouldnt utilise the outdoor space as much.  We will no doubt have a few years of developing the outdoor and garden space and figure if we are down there amongst it we will be more inclined to do it!

This is the view as you walk in from the entry into the Living area.  The outdoor room and dining is on the right.  Excuse the furniture and fittings, at this stage it is just about giving us an idea of general layout and that things fit.

This is the view sitting at the dining table.  The TV will go on the wall with the ugly cabinet on it.  The brick wall was me getting my wall types wrong, but were starting to think we might keep it that way.

The upper floor plan (click the picture to enlarge)

The upper floor plan has the ensuite sitting on top of the main bathroom to simplify things and gives us a pretty generous WIR (OK it is outrageous, but pretty practical too!).  It is accessible without going into the master suite and a nude dash from it to the master is pretty private (you wont be able to see up there unless you are up the stairs).  The light into the hall should be good as the entry is flooded.

The layout makes it reasonably easy for one person to get up and not disturb the other too much getting ready.

So what next?
Im waiting anxiously to hear from the designer after his Christmas break and has time to digest all the emails Ive spammed him with.  Hopefully I havent put him off already and he views it all as inspirational rather than confusing!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Is length better than width?

It has felt like a slow and frustrating week in DestinationTranmere land.

Although we're loving the basic floor plan, I'm still not happy with the entry and how the house is sitting on the block, particularly in regard to the height of the entry vs the back wall.  Basically I've got to deal with a drop 1.4m or bury 1.4m of wall.  The advice to avoid buried walls with all their waterproofing issues has been almost universal (which appears a rarity in the building world, generally everyone gives you conflicting advice). 

On the plus side my "saviour" introduced me to another designer who was really helpful and is in the process of preparing a quote.  Hopefully he will wave a magic wand and solve all my entry / height dilemmas!   Again on the plus side, he confirmed that a flat hidden roof shouldn't be expensive, it should be a pretty economical way to build (less siding etc). 

On the plus and minus side, I've finally found the elusive definitive information about the Tasmanian "Planning Directive No 4" which is almost as hard as finding the right answer to life the universe and everything. 

I finally found it here.  Its aim is to streamline the planning process for the majority of single dwellings in residential zones in Tasmania (i.e. most houses).  It became effective on the 29th August 2011 and it basically overlays the various "planning instruments" that are published by each local council (would be nice if the local councils had links to it!!).

It sets common "Acceptable Solutions" and "Performance Criteria" for six key areas:
  • Setback from frontage for single dwellings
  • Site coverage and rear setback
  • Building envelope (incorporating height)
  • Frontage setback and width of garages and carports
  • Privacy for single dwellings
  • Frontage fences for single dwellings 
Which local council planning zones it applies to can be found in Attachment 2, generally it has been applied to most residential zones.

Basically, if you meet the "Acceptable Solutions" criteria you skip through the planning permit process.  If you have to resort to trying to meet the "Performance criteria" then it is classed as a Discretionary development and you have to go through the planning permit process.

Up until now, I've been working to the Clarence Planning Scheme.  Now with the Planning Directive No overriding it, it is a bit of a mixed bag.

From what I can work out at this stage:
  • We are on a corner block with two road frontages so the Clarence road setback of 4.5 metres changes to 4.5 metres in the "Primary Frontage" (which is defined as the shorter side) and 3m on the other frontage.  Overall, a plus for us, we could potentially move the whole house up the block a bit.
  • Clarence allowed us a 2.5 metre setback from the side and rear boundary.  The planning directive allows for 1.5 metres from the side boundary but increases the rear setback to 4 metres.  On the plus side the Clarence height setback of 7m has increased to 8.5m (but they don't make it easy ... it starts at 3m on the boundary/front/rear setback and goes up to 8.5m on a 45 degree angle from there).
On balance ... We've gained a metre on the street side and lost 1.5m at the opposing "rear" (which I actually think of as the front as it looks down the street at the view).  On the other hand we've gained a metre in length. 

So, is length better than width?  In our case, with the current design it pretty much balances out,  everything just shuffles SW a metre.  Overall, I think it probably makes a more flexible site (but I'm loath to start re-exploring other possibilities).

Anyway, what are your thoughts?  Is length better than width?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Another version

It has been a good week in DestinationTranmere land. 

I was introduced to a designer / structural engineer through an old friend (who I'll affectionately call "Pirate").  I haven't settled on a name for the designer.  He is shaping up to be my "saviour" so that will do for now!

He had some great suggestions and seemed to be able to anticipate most of my questions.  A modified version 12 (If I really counted from the beginning I'm sure we would be up to over 100 by now) is the result. 

This version has a few pretty major changes thanks to the "Saviours" great ideas, downstairs these include:
  • The separate powder room adjoining the scullery has gone.  Given advice that with every extra room you add plumbing too you can potentially kiss goodbye to $10k we decided that it was excessive, especially after relocating the main bathroom closer to the living.
  • With the powder room gone, we've moved the main bathroom closer to the living area.  In doing so we've reduced the plumbing runs and lots of wasted water waiting for it to get hot.   We've still got a sink outside the bathroom so the two kids can get ready at the same time and you don't need to go in to the bathroom to use the loo and wash your hands.   
  • We've changed the laundry / garage access.  Although this added a metre or two of floor space, it actually reduced outside wall dimensions and is probably cheaper to build.  It certainly makes the entry more practical and makes both walls of the laundry usable.  Wins all around! 
  • We've opened up the entry and are planning on the stairs going up being open risers, hopefully adding to the open feel of the entry and giving a glimpse of that spectacular view as soon as you enter.  This also affected the alignment of the living / kitchen wing which has all moved back about 600.  While that has taken away a little space in front of the island bench, it has the benefit of adding some length to the end kitchen wall so that we can now fit an 1800 sliding door in there instead of 1450 that always felt too small to me. 
  • With the new bathroom location eliminating some storage and the kids study nook at the back of the rumpus, we have widened the hall and included a study nook there along with some storage.  I think this actually works better.  It makes the rumpus/kids study separate and makes an otherwise boring hall an extra living space.  Ideally I would make it a little wider but I'm already terrified by the 10 extra square metres I've added in this revision.  I try to reassure myself with the hope that I've made it easier to build but I dare not creep that wall out any further ...
Here is a picture of the new ground floor layout (you can see the old one in The Design section). 

Ground Floor - V12
Changing the ground floor inevitably means that what sits on top has to change too.  The major change is the location of the En Suite.  It now sits directly on top of the main bathroom, again shortening and simplifying the plumbing.  Although it is less private, it is also makes it more accessible.  It means if the study was used as a guest bedroom they have easy bathroom access.  Although I still wonder if I would prefer it adjoining the WIR I've been told by a few people that I would regret it because the steam from the bathroom leads to damp clothes.  Of all the changes in this version, this is the one I still question.  As I stare at it now though, I am beginning to fall in love with the simplicity of the new En suite layout.  I can imagine that luxurious double shower, glass with a central opening.   For those of you that have questioned the third shower head, its a handheld to share.  Although on the plan the other shower heads are wall mounted, we're planning on them being ceiling mounted, big square ones!  All perfectly innocent (for once)!
The other issue I currently ponder is whether or not to push out the hall wall even with the front of the master bedroom.  This would allow me to fit a day bed in there which I can't help thinking might make an otherwise corridor space a nice place to hide.  However, The square metre conscience who is always sitting on my shoulder says it is space you don't need and wont use.
Here is a picture of the new upstairs layout (you can see the old one in The Design section). 
First Floor - V12
I am really interested to hear peoples thoughts on the changes!  Please comment!
  • What do you think of the changes we've made?
  • What else would you change?
  • What looks crazy to you!  Don't hold back
  • What advice would you give?
  • What advice that we've already been given would your contradict?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Decisions Decisions

If you haven't checked it out already, have a look at the house design here.


 If you aren’t good at making decisions then building a house is definitely not for you!

I spend my days making lots of decisions, managing 20+ staff and a multi-million dollar budget, and I would like to think that generally I'm pretty pragmatic and decisive. Either I'm delusional about my decision making ability at work or I'm unable to apply the same skills when it comes to the house. I get bogged down in levels of detail (that send my poor wife mad, she is amazing putting up with it all!) and toss and turn back and forth on SO many issues.

My current one feels like a major turning point. No doubt one of many!  So far all those hard decisions and turning points have been in the virtual world, just one of many hundreds of versions and tweaks of the plan, which although a 3D model is really only a glorified floor plan due to my non-existent design expertise.

For a long time that was an endless loop. Night after night churning out endless versions. The exit came when my wife and I went and staked out the then favourite version on the block. That settled quite a few things:
  • The living needed to be at the NW corner of the block, for solar efficiency, privacy and to maximise the outdoor space (with two outdoor spaces, one at the front and one at side/rear, hopefully at least one will be useable in most conditions)
  • Our previous decision to give up on trying to utilise the existing driveway crossover was validated (Thanks Pop). Driving straight in on the flat was looking 1000% times better than driving over the current cliff!
  • If we wanted Mt Wellington views we needed to rotate as far West as practical/efficient (another compromise decision coming!)
  • A $30 investment in some garden stakes and fluoro builder’s line is very worthwhile! We should have staked it out much sooner! (although I'm not sure how many times my wife would have tolerated staking out variations)
Anyway, I started this post intending to relate my current decision dilemma …
Do we go with a draftsperson … do we go with a designer … or do we go with an architect?  As I’m sure you can well imagine, each step up comes at a cost!  If you start at 5k and double with each step you are probably not far off the mark (maybe add a little more at the architect end). 
The professional in me says respect the expertise, use it and don’t resent paying for it.  Respect that an architect will deliver a better looking more efficient, sustainable and liveable home.
The risk mitigator goes the middle ground.  With the draftsperson I am no doubt at more risk of being crucified by the builder with “extras”.  Leverage the work I’ve put into the design and find a draftsperson with design aesthetics and material selection skills and environmental performance knowledge.
The budget conscious me says go with the draftsperson.  You’ve done the hard work.  Do a bit more on material selection and roof design and get an experienced draftsperson and structural engineer to polish it off, that’s all you need!
What do you think?  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions! (and thank you for bothering to read this far!)