Us Versus Them!


My neighbour is just completing a ‘project home’ by one of the very well known ‘volume builders’. It has been interesting following the progress of his new home which is only a few doors up. I can’t help but provide my thoughts to him and his wife about aspects of the design, methods of construction and finish. That’s ok to them (I hope) as they have always been comfortable with the overall (relatively low) cost of the product they purchased and from the beginning they have accepted that it comes with obvious compromises.

But when he said that “compared to an architect designed house we are much better off…!”

It got me thinking…well YES you are financially better off in terms of expenditure; no doubt. BUT is that the ‘right’ amount to spend to maximize your investment?


With land in that area costing around $2,800-$3,500/sqm my argument was that an architect would have been able to design a more spatially efficient house – giving you the feeling of the same size house; with the same accommodation; but on a smaller footprint; therefore reducing the (custom) building costs and increasing your available garden space.

An extra 20sqm of ‘efficiency’ at the land rates above and you could already pay for your (full services) architect!

I have assisted many clients find the right sites to build on. So thinking of this from the other direction, this important factor above then directly translates into us searching for sites that are not as large as you would need for a ‘project home’. We focus on well orientated sites with efficient building envelope size opportunities (to satisfy the relevant codes) and a myriad of other smaller factors that all matter in such a significant outlay.

Powell Combined copy

As an example of this, the Powell House (above) I designed is built on a relatively small 12m x 20m site! It includes an off street car space; generous rear courtyard and a comfortable 4 bedroom/3 bathroom house (including another room partially underground).

What that hopefully shows is that with the right site (and most importantly the right ‘design nous’) a lot can be (efficiently) achieved!

So although the ‘Us Versus Them’ heading is a little provocative, hopefully it promotes a broader perspective and discussion around the ‘best’ design outcome rather than the ‘cheapest’.