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The Design Professional to avoid

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

Last month we talked about what you must research when looking for a designer. There are also things you MUST avoid!

The Designer “avoid” list:

Standard Plans: I don’t know how many times I’ve seen good people, with great sites miss their goal by a country mile by using a standard building plan on that site. The only way a standard building plan could work, is if all the sites in the country were the same size, same shape, same contour, same positioning for the sun, views, wind, temperature, and most importantly – the end users, that’s you! Are you the same person as every other one of their clients? No - then this approach will always fail!

Free Design: There are several companies out there providing free designs if you choose and build one of their buildings. Now I know you are not stupid, there is no such thing as a “free lunch” anywhere, let alone in the NZ building trade. You will eventually pay for this work somewhere down the line, but the costs are not necessarily that obvious at first glance. They are often hidden in the end building cost, lack of design processing time or minimum standard high maintenance materials. All resulting in not so free design, with inferior design results, questionable quality buildings and high maintenance materials which are less cost initially to build, but horrendously more expensive to own, operate and maintain, than the appropriate solution. But all guaranteed for 10 years – whoopee!

Cheap Design Fees: Although there are some very good Designers who are charging too little for their work, they are very few and far between. After all good Designers are sort after because they are good and their fees reflect the quality they provide. Most governing bodies ADNZ/NZIA etc, have fee estimate indicators to give you the client a measuring stick, in respect to the appropriate fees that should be budgeted for any particular project. If you can’t find these ask the Designer to provide these tools or links to those tools. Most Designers who sell their Design services as a cheap service, are in fact providing just that, a cheap service. Often they are not engaged in the project and see the client as just another income stream to their business and your new building is just another item on their virtual shelf to sell to you that kinda works for your site if you squint your eyes a little, or just turn a blind eye! If you are not passionate about your project and care nothing for quality and maintenance on the building, these are the people for you, and the both of you can contribute to the piles of terribly designed, unhealthy and high maintenance buildings, that make up most of this countries building stock.


Quote: "There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little cheaper. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey." Quote: John Ruskin

Example: We have knowledge of an elderly couple who have built their “final home” in a lovely coastal (but exposed) climate using timber bevelled back weather boards that are paint finished. A very traditional finish and style historically for the last 100 years or so. They chose this cladding as the Designer/Building Company claimed it was the cheapest way to clad the house. That in its self was true, for the first part of the story anyway.

However what the Designer/Building Company failed to mention is that in this specific location, to maintain the cladding warranty of 15 years (which is not really very long) the weather boards would require painting every 5 years (or at least twice within the warranty period). They themselves are too old to paint the building as its two storey on a hill, so they would have to hire a painter to do this at an estimated price of $25k each time (based on today’s rates) plus washing every year at $300 per time.

As it happens, we were involved with a new house a few doors down from them. We specified and used an aluminium weather board cladding with a powder coated finish and it looks identical. The warranty on this product is 100 years and requires washing down once a year at $300 per wash. The cost difference between the timber weather board cladding and the aluminium weather board cladding was $10k extra for the aluminium at the time of installation. So it was definitely more expensive initially.

However, after 15 years the timber cladding would be outside warranty and have cost the client $54.5k at least in maintenance by then and now looking at spending more money making the current cladding last longer or replacing it. On the other hand the Aluminium weather boards cost the client $10 more plus $300 per year for washing maintenance = so a total of $14.5k for the same period and the cladding still has another 85 years of warranty left for themselves and their family or to pass onto the next owner as a real life sales advantage over the timber house. That would be over 2 million in savings to the owners in maintenance over that same 85 year period of time.

It’s a no brainer and that was just the cladding costs! But the initial practice keeps happening in NZ over and over again! Then you have all the other main building systems, roofing and structure, not to mention insulation! Seriously it just gets worse!


Next Month……

We’ll talk about building system basics and the costs that will affect your pocket now and the huge potential savings in the future! And why just doing what everyone else does in building, is possibly the biggest scam in the building industry in New Zealand.


So that’s all for this month……remember art for living

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