By designing in harmony with your site, you can reduce building costs and protect your investment in your home.
Exterior design includes your home's size and shape, how it fits into the surrounding neighbourhood and streetscape, and the impact it has on its site.
While home design is a matter of personal taste, there are practical benefits from designing a home or renovation that:
- is in harmony with your neighbourhood
- minimises its impact on your site's landforms and other natural features.
Your local council's district plan will contain regulations covering the height, form, distance from boundaries and other features of any building in your area.
The regulations might be flexible, or - in the case of a heritage area, for example - they might be quite specific.
If you're planning a new home or renovation, check the district plan or talk with your designer or council planners about any special requirements. Some councils offer pre-application meetings for advice and assessment of your proposed design.
Fitting in with your neighbourhood
Every neighbourhood has a distinct character. By designing a home or renovation that's sympathetic to its surroundings, you'll help preserve this character. This may enhance property value and may help to preserve good relations with your neighbours.
- your home's shape, especially its roof
- your home's size and height in relation to neighbouring homes
- the materials you're using
- the colours you're using
- glazing styles and other design details.
Also consider the impact of any proposed new home or renovation on neighbouring properties. Will your planned building block someone else's views or sun? Will it interfere with privacy?
Screens, vegetation and window design can all be used to protect neighbours' privacy without blocking your views.
For security reasons, and to make your home appear welcoming, make sure your front entrance is clearly visible from the street. This means avoiding high fences around your front yard.
Your home will appear more friendly if the house, not the garage, dominates the front facade.
If you minimise the impact of your home on your site's landforms, waterways and vegetation, you'll benefit in several ways.
Earthworks are expensive, and add to the risk of erosion, ground instability and flooding through stormwater runoff. They also increase the risk of silt running off and getting into waterways. Removing vegetation also adds to the risk of erosion. Interfering with existing drainage patterns increases the risk of flooding by stormwater runoff.
All of these problems can be minimised by designing a home that's in harmony with your site's existing natural features.
A smaller home is likely to have less impact on its site and will cost you less to run in a future. Choosing an appropriate size for your home is the most important step in controlling the economic and environmental cost.
Each square metre may cost up to $1800 to build (2011 costs), followed by annual costs to run and maintain, so it's worth thinking carefully about the space you need and how it will be used.
House size will need to be balanced against your family's needs for comfortable living space both now and as your family size changes in the future (also see Making your home adaptable).
Footprint and foundations
How big does your home's footprint need to be? A multi-level home has less impact on its site than a single-level home of the same size. A multi-level home will also be easier to keep warm (because it has less roof surface through which to lose heat).
On a sloping site, a pole house or one with pile footings will minimise earthworks and reduce impact on existing vegetation and waterways. Some hill sites may be highly visible, in which case setting the house back into the slope (rather than using poles) may be considered to reduce the visual impact of a building on the site.
Consider retaining a slope instead of excavating it away - you may benefit through better views and better access to the sun.
Large earthworks need a resource consent. But regardless of the size of the earthworks, measures need to be taken to prevent soil loss and erosion. Most councils have written guidelines on erosion and sediment control - ask them for information about your area.
Can you build around existing vegetation such as significant native trees or areas of bush? Retaining vegetation protects your site from erosion and flooding, as well as potentially adding to its visual appeal.
The more your site is covered with buildings, concrete and other hard surfaces, the more risk there is of runoff. This risk can be reduced by:
- keeping your home and its footprint compact
- retaining vegetation
- using mowable blocks (Gobi bricks) and paths made of grass, shell, gravel or timber decking instead of concrete or impermeable paving stones.
Build your home well above historic flood levels. A Land Information Memorandum from your local council should contain information about floods and any natural hazards that the local council knows about. See Landforms and waterways for more.
From Smarter Homes
- Understanding your property
- Landforms and waterways
- Managing stormwater
- Planting and landscaping
- Making your home adaptable
From other sites
Information about the Resource Management Act can be found at www.rma.govt.nz.
For information about zoning and planning requirements in your area, contact your local council. Links to council websites can be found on the Local Government website.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Building and Housing website has an estimated building cost calculator to help you work out the cost for a project.
Try the Homeowners Building Guide website for advice on designing, building and renovating your home. It offers ideas, checklists and tips for the design and building processes.