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Smart guide

Efficient land use

A clever choice of house position and landscaping will make the most of the natural site features.

Location, location, location

It all starts with the selection of your section. Although the quarter acre block is our traditional aspiration it may be more suitable for your lifestyle to choose a smaller section that will require less landscaping and maintenance and cost less.

House position

When locating the building on your site try to reduce dead spaces. If you can, for example, locate your garage close to the road then the driveway is minimised. This will not only increase your recreational outdoor space but also reduce the cost and the risk of runoff from too many hard surfaces.

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.

Natural features

Integrate your home and garden into the existing site features. Rather than trying to flatten the whole site and spending a lot of money on earth works, you may be able to use slopes as an opportunity to build a multi-storey house with lots of access to natural light and ventilation. Changing the natural landscape always carries the risk of increased silt run-off, flooding and erosion. Remember that earthworks may require a resource consent – check with your local council.

Can you build around existing vegetation such as significant native trees or areas of bush? Removal of native trees over a certain size or age may require permission from your local council. In some cases they may have to stay. Retaining vegetation protects your site from erosion and flooding, as well as potentially adding to its visual appeal.

It may not be the first thing on your mind right now, but you may want to have a rainwater tank or space for landscaping, a garden or outdoor living in the future. Make sure that you leave these options open to you when positioning the house on the site. Even if you may never get around installing these it may become a selling point if you move on.

Design with regard to your site

A good architectural designer or architect will be able to design a home that makes great use of a small site. A two-storey home would have a smaller footprint, be inherently more energy efficient because it is more compact and may also offer you better views.

Note that this document is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Chief Executive as Guidance under Section 175 of the Building Act 2004. This is a guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case.