What to think about before building a home


The Brief – the foundation of your project

The brief to your designer is an important step. This sets out what you want and need in your house, your budget, the style you want: all these items need to be communicated well so you get the best response to your brief.

When the Pope briefed Michelangelo, he didn’t just say, “please paint the ceiling”; he didn’t tell Michelangelo to paint biblical scenes to cover the cracks in the ceiling. Instead, he asked him to “Please paint our ceiling for the greater glory of God and as an inspiration and a lesson to his people.”

And look at the result.

Before you meet with an architect or designer, here are some things to think about. 


Style of design

The style or aesthetics of a house are very personal, and it can be hard to describe what you like until you see it. Look at houses near your site and make a scrapbook of images you like from magazine cuttings.

Think about:

  • What materials you like: low maintenance brick and tile; characterful timbers and stone; or semi-industrial corrugated iron?
  • What forms you like: traditional gable with deep overhangs and verandas; or a modern glass pavilion with a direct connection with the outdoors?
  • What kind of spaces you like: open plan or a more formal arrangement of rooms?
  • And the character of your neighbourhood: what styles, materials and scales are providing the context in your street?


Lifestyle/family needs

  • How many in your family? Do they all need separate bedrooms? Will you want separate living areas?
  • Do you have extended family members (perhaps older parents or teenagers) who may need/want their own facilities?
  • How long do you intend living here? Incorporate design elements to cater for your future needs as you grow older using Lifemark Design principles.
  • Where will children play? Incorporate sight lines into your design so you can see them outside while you’re inside.
  • How many bathrooms do you need? Where will they be located?
  • Ensure adequate storage for each component of your home and lifestyle – kitchen, clothing, sporting equipment, tools and gardening equipment, laundry, extra items not needed but wanted to be kept, etc.
  • What are your audio-visual needs? Music outside and in different rooms within the house? Home Theatre – in a specific room or incorporated into your living spaces? Internet and Satellite TV access?


Features of your site

  • Where is the sun?
  • Where does water flow through your property?
  • Where are neighbours situated and what kind of privacy do you have from them?
  • How do you gain access to your house?
  • How steep is it? Do you need to level any areas for living/car parking/garden areas?


Project Management

It’s easy to underestimate the complexity of building a house. Even a small budget project has hundreds of products and a multitude of tradespeople to coordinate and purchase, not to mention check on the workmanship to ensure it’s up to standard.

Using a Project Manager can help bring your building project in on time, within budget (they can often help you save considerable amounts of money) and with a much reduced chance of nasty surprises occurring.


This article first appeared in the New Zealand Building Guide. Read more about building your dream home at buildingguide.co.nz. 

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