Design prep for the new home buyer

In my role as an architectural designer I am often approached by people who are building their home for the first time, this usually means they are also having a go at designing their dream home for the first time.

It is very easy to feel overwhelmed with this task and consequently a little threatened by it as well.

Over the last 20 years I have built as many as 80 dwelling structures, of these homes I have designed, project managed and built as many as 50 of them. In this time I have had the responsibility of guiding many first homeowners through their first experience of design development. In my experience I have found that the initial approach to design is crucial as it will make or break the projects feasibility.

Our design philosophy in Terra Firma is to initiate an approach to design that encompasses individual needs and wants, construction efficiency / buildability, structural integrity and possibly the most important (and often most compromising factor) – affordability.

I will focus here on affordability.

When I get approached with a request to start design development of a new home it’s very important to me to that you have as much involvement in the design process as they are comfortable with. Firstly so that things can get underway I will give you some homework. This homework comes in the form of three questions that you will need to research so as to make a sensible start to the concept plan;

  • How many rooms / spaces are required.
  • What each space / room is for.
  • The minimum size requirement for each room that you would comfortably be prepared to live with.

The first two tasks are relatively simple exercises, it is the third task that needs the most consideration and therefore research.

The reasoning behind the minimum size requirement is obviously cost driven (which is also a sustainability issue). Here at Terra Firma our aim is to facilitate an enjoyable project experience, if we can develop a plan that, with the most economical use of use of floor area, can fulfil your needs and most of your wants, then we will know emphatically the question of design feasibility. Also what this approach means as far as design development is, is that once we have gone through the initial exercise and then come up with a cohesive concept plan then we can do a first cost estimate. If this first cost estimate comes well within your proposed budget then we can look at incorporating more of your wants / special features etc into the design, or conversely have the pleasant reality of having money left over (yay). This design development theory hopefully will have the effect of creating a more enjoyable process – it is always a much more pleasant experience to be able to increase the size of a project rather than having to make cuts that you may have set your heart on.

Happy home designing.


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