Good design

By - , Build 141

With residential construction sites all over our two major cities, it’s important that new homes are built to good design principles with quality materials and workmanship.

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HOW DO YOU DEFINE GOOD DESIGN? To do that, it is important to differentiate between how something looks from the street and actual good design practices. In my book, good design hasn’t changed for generations, and it’s about excellent decision-making during every step of the process. To achieve this on site requires quality workmanship.

What’s fashionable may have changed, but now, more than ever, importance must be placed on building new homes that will stay the course.

An opportunity not to be lost

At present, Christchurch and Auckland have unusually high numbers of new homes being built and homeowners investing in substantial renovations to existing homes.

This is an amazing opportunity and one that mustn’t be squandered. We have the opportunity to raise the quality of our housing stock by using quality appropriate building materials, the best techniques and design practices and improving the aesthetic and sense of community of emerging subdivisions. Here is our chance to make sure that houses are built to the highest level of design, comfort, convenience and efficiency.

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Designing for purpose

Back to the question of how to define good design. There are many books on the definition of good design and how to achieve it, but I believe good design is about designing for purpose. It is about designing homes that reflect function and the environment, using quality materials that are sustainable, taking care to interpret and cater to client’s requirements and reflecting the relationship between the building and the community.

A rule of thumb is to build smaller and better, north-facing, well insulated and heated, using quality materials and close to transport and other community amenities. These rules will ensure a home relevant today and into the future.

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Doing better

Ultimately, good design is subjective, but some practices can clearly lead to bad or mediocre design.

First, a plan that is not specific to a site and as such overlooks orientation, location or client requirements, will probably deliver mediocrity.

Building a house that conforms to but doesn’t exceed the requirements of the New Zealand Building Code is a missed opportunity. The Code sets minimums but not necessarily desirable standards.

The use of materials and fixtures that have a low initial cost but high maintenance costs or result in early replacement is not a good longterm outcome for homeowners.

Design gimmicks and ornamentation borrowed from another time but that have no relevance to our modern day environment, climate or life can also be a reflection of poor design.

Finally, good residential design should incorporate or accommodate the needs of those with limited mobility. Accessibility for all should be a consideration, even if it’s not a requirement of the Building Code.

Using a member of a recognised professional organisation that operates under a code of ethics gives the assurance that any recommendations are fit for purpose. Money spent on good advice rather than a discounted build with poor materials makes sense.

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Legacy for the future

Time is of the essence, and the need is great. Good design, and the basic principles of building a home for a lifetime, shouldn’t be sidestepped in order to meet immediate demand. The legacy of our cities and communities depends on it.

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