HOUGHTON HEALTHY HOME | PUKAUKA ROAD
Richard came into my life way back in 2019, He wanted a SIP house, but it was a locally unfamiliar premium product, so it was redesigned in light timber frame and got building consent.
Then once the foundations started to go down, Richard had a change of heart and we redesigned it in NZSIP. Auckland Council thought the product was from Mars, but we got there in the end and in the middle of 2022, Richard and his family moved from their portacom home to their very own Superhome!
Richard's story is a super example of the saying "Don't give up - ever!" Please read the trials and tribulations of this build in Richard's own words below.
To hear the journey in Richard’s own words, listen to this podcast.
In Sept 2019 we sold our beautiful big old 1890 2 storey Villa on 2.3ha which we had re-sited in 5 pieces from Greenlane Hospital to our lifestyle block in Wainui and spent 14 years restoring. It was a lovely house in the summer, nice and cool but freezing in the winter. This was in spite of it being North facing and tucked into the side of the hills that protected us from the S & SW prevailing winds. My wife wanted a property where she could have her horses at home so our steep property, complete with its own waterfall went on the market.
We bought 15ha in Mahurangi West, beautiful gently sloping land but exposed to every wind direction. I was adamant I did not want to do another re-site as I had already done four, but wanted to build a new warm healthy home. None of the “Group Housing” plans, layouts or specifications appealed and why shoot for the minimum. I have never gone for the worst performing car I could find or to find a job that would only ever pay the minimum wage so why would I want to build a house that shot for the absolute minimum building standard.
After a bit of research, I found information on SIPs panels, thermal bridging, Insulated floor slabs, mechanical ventilation and so the list go on. The brief from my wife was a feel of industrial, agricultural and not generic looking – all on a budget. I am a construction planner by trade having worked on the construction of heavy industrial, nuclear power, petro-chem to hospitals, apartments and superyachts. Time is money and normally there is a smarter way of doing things
I was very clear in my mind how I wanted our new home to look & function. We worked with the same architect I have used over the years. SIPs, Passive homes, Insulated Slabs, Heat Recovery Mechanical Ventilation etc were all pretty new to him. Together we came up with a SIP’s designed home that my wife and I were happy with and was pretty well optimized for the foot print we had.
Then we spoke to some reputed builders who said they could save us thousands of dollars if we went for a fully RAB sealed stick build. The drawings were all redone, specified and submitted to council for building consent while the builders worked up their prices. We took this route as we had already lost so much time, and the builders wanted to price the consented detail. The consenting consultant struggled to get his head around the details of minimal thermal bridging and an airtight building so this was expense and then the builders came back with prices 50% higher than expected because of all the labour for details like fixing all the RAB & taping etc. We were also in the middle of the first lockdown and entering our first winter in freezing portacoms.
By this time my wife was completely against a new build and had reverted to the idea of a Villa. Our other challenge was that our resource consent meant it had a max size of 120m2. With little Villa almost as rare as hen’s teeth, prices heading towards $2k / m2 and then still they need almost a total rebuild, in my mind this was digging an even deeper whole. The unknowns were huge for taking on a pretty bastardised little Villa.
I knew we could build a new healthy home for $3.5k to $4k/m2 if I could maintain the same foot print / layout, revert to the SIP’s, change from gables to mono-pitch and do a self-managed build. The bank had said yes to a self-managed re-sited Villa, so surely a self-managed new build with considerably lower risks (far fewer unknowns) should be possible. It took a further 3 months to get my wife to even look at the revised plans. By the time she did, I had lump sum prices for many elements of the new build.
Here lay the next challenge – because the layout for the revised design was identical and the wall almost the same, while the slab was being piled, the Quickset insulated slab prepared & laid, inspections by council as long as the revised consent drawing weren’t submitted. Plan was, as soon as the slab was signed off, submit the revised SIP’s plans with the mono-pitch and while this was being consented the SIP’s panels could be manufactured. Unfortunately, the Consenting Consultant that was delegated to our plans had never dealt with SIP’s panels before, liked 3 dots on every I and 3 crosses on every t. Again, I was into a battle with Auckland Council that took months. Fortunately for Damien McGill was hugely supportive and helped me get it across the line. The Slab was poured in March 2021. Finally, the consent popped out in August 2021. Within a week of that the walls were being stood. On day 1, half the walls were stood, day 2 we went back into lockdown. The timber framing due to be delivered on day 1 never arrived. Though numerous phone calls, letters to MBIE, pleading with timber yards, we were able to secure enough timber for internal framing (basically 10 sticks at a time) to stand the rest of the walls and have the roof panels in place 5 days after lockdown finished.
The build was challenged by material deliveries due to Covid (or is that really a convenient excuse), but through patience, pleading, pestering & persistence we have got there.
We have now been living in our new home for 3 weeks. It’s wonderful.
My wife was talking to one of her workmates a week ago and the question was “Don’t you feel robbed not getting your little Villa” so my wife replied by asking a question “What do you do when you home from work (to your little Villa)?” The response from her friend was “I put on a thick jumper, light the fire and try and warm the house”. My wife responded “I get home, walk in the door, to a beautifully warm house, walk round in a tee shirt. No, I don’t miss the Villa”. While we both love the character of the old Villa’s, we love the ease and comfort and living in a healthy home. We no longer battle the black mold. Our youngest son (14) is already feeling healthier. We have built a very low maintenance home, with polished concrete floors, colour steel cladding, recessed windows. The whole home just hunkers down into rural landscape.
Yes, we still have the concrete paths to lay and the decks to build. The paths would be great given it’s the middle of winter but the deck would probably be getting limited use at this time of the year. They will happen soon but in the meantime we will all take a little breather and relax from what has been a long journey of 2 years and 8 months in Portacoms.
In my view, there is absolutely no question, the healthy homes formula is the way to go.
Working with John Twigg from Plan:It Architecture and the NZSIP team in Cromwell an affordable healthy home has been created. The Healthy Home Cooperation provided structural design services for the SIP panel superstructure and worked through the Council concerns with Richard.
A Cupolex slab with Quickset permanent formwork, 115mm NZSIP walls and a 165 NZSIP roof provides ample insulation in Auckland environs. Recessed windows and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, were still a fairly novel idea when Richard got started, but they are becoming mainstream now.
Just read the section above. Nothing more needs to be said!