3 Tips to Create a Sustainable Home

Want 3 tips to create a sustainable home? 

Sustainable design and construction can feel like a minefield at times, but doesn’t have to be. So here’s my tips.

Are you wanting to create a sustainable home that improves your health, and the health of the planet?

Having the goal to create a sustainable home can start out well. Lots of excitement about how your design and decisions are going to enable you to live in a home that supports your health and well-being, is lower cost to heat and cool, and takes care of the planet.

However, as many homeowners tell me, it can be a bit of a battle.

Sometimes that involves hunting and hunting for the right builder (because many will tell you it’s simply more expensive to create a sustainable home).

Sometimes it can feel like getting a university degree in sustainability, so you can dig through all the greenwash as you do your research.

And sometimes it can simply mean that you have to stick to your goals and your dreams, and keep pushing to get the right team, the right approach, and the right outcome.

Here’s my 3 tips to create a sustainable home.

#1 A sustainable home doesn’t have to be more expensive

Inside my ‘Happy Home Design’ mini-course, I share a series of videos with my six ‘S’ of sustainable design.

The first of these is Site – and getting your design to suit the unique conditions of your site, its orientation and it’s other natural assets – goes a LONG way to creating a sustainable outcome.

Doing this shouldn’t cost anymore than stuffing it up. Because you’re building the walls anyway. It’s simply about understanding how you’ll put those walls in the right place to suit the specifics of your site. (Season 1 of the podcast is perfect for this).

Beyond passive solar design itself, there are schemes and processes to help you navigate this even further, such as GreenSmart and others (Josh Byrne’s 10 star home in Perth is an example of a home that used this). This includes Passive House too (check out the podcast episodes on Passive House if you’re interested).

#2 You’ll need to work out your priorities

I’m yet to find a material or product that ticks ALL the sustainability boxes. (Because – and this may be cheeky – but if we’re really frank about sustainability and using less – we probably wouldn’t be building or renovating at all).

There are, however, a lot of ways you can make more sustainable choices when it comes to building and renovating. And so, if you can work out what’s important to you, what is aligned with your values, or your family’s needs, then you’ll have better clarity for the criteria to use, to assess your selections.

It may be that all materials need to improve the indoor air quality of your home, and be low tox. Perhaps you want to source local products only, and lower your carbon footprint. Maybe it’s that you want to ensure all materials can be recycled at their end of life (like Joost Bakker’s Fed Square project).

There are LOADS of metrics when it comes to sustainability. 

I discuss some of the terminology you’ll hear in this podcast episode, to help you understand it better. However, think about what you hold as your priorities, and it will help you navigate the journey more simply.

#3 You’ll most likely need to dig deeper than the rating systems

You only have to dive into the food industry and learn a bit about the “Heart tick” or the star rating on foods, to know that rating systems have their flaws.

The construction industry rating systems can have similar challenges. And so, it’s essential you interrogate the way that products have been rated and ranked, and understand the metrics being measured.

Having someone on your team who dives deep into this information all the time can be super helpful. 

It may be a sustainably focussed architect or interior designer, a specialist consultant, or a building biologist. This will vary based on your needs, your budget, and the help you need.

If you want to go it alone, be prepared to do a lot of digging and research, and ask lots of questions. It really is the only way to find out the truth of materials and products, and whether they’re what they seem.

Why isn’t it easier?

It can be.

However, accessing expert help can be critical in simplifying things for you. This may be through hiring a specific consultant for your project, or through researching via an up-to-date resource written by someone who is SUPER passionate about this work, and has done the legwork for you.

Kate Hamblet’s ‘Healthy Home Guide’ is great for US-based homeowners. Melissa Wittig’s ‘The Smart Living Handbook’ is a resource for Aussie-based homeowners. 

And there’s publications such as Sanctuary Magazine and the Renew website. 

Plus, you can visit homes during Sustainable House Open Day or International Passive House Open Day. There’s lots of resources and opportunities like this that can be incredibly helpful.

What’s really important, is to choose a team that’s aligned with your sustainability goals, because then you won’t have to fight for your choices and beliefs in your own project.

Many homeowners make the mistake of choosing a builder or designer who doesn’t prioritise sustainability, and then they’re having to convince them of why these considerations are important.

Architects Declare and Builders Declare can be a good place to find architects and builders making a public declaration of their commitment to sustainability.

And hubs like The Conscious Space and Planitree are gaining membership and momentum with likeminded businesses signing up.

Lastly, remember the power you have – it’s in your pocket $$

The more we demand to know where our products come from, how they’re made, what they’re like to live with, and what happens at their end of life – and make our spending decisions based on that information – the more the industry will change.

It will have to. Our dollar, and what we spend it on, can drive HUGE change.

Your home can create big change for you – and for all of us. I’m super excited about that – and I hope you are too.

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN
The post 3 Tips to Create a Sustainable Home appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Renovating and repairing a coastal home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Linda was renovating a coastal home. With leaks and other issues, she wanted to ensure she could get it right.

Listen as Linda shares more about her renovating and repairing journey, how she was able to work better with her builder, and the help she’s been able to access through her membership in Undercover Architect’s online courses.

My name is Linda. I live in Kiama, New South Wales in Australia, which is a small coastal town, about two hours south of Sydney. I undertook some home renovations last year. 

Tell us a bit about your project

So I live in a relatively new house, so it was only five years old. But it had a significant issue with leaking from the upstairs, down into the main bit of the house. And because I live so close to the coast, it’s quite windy, the weather is quite wild. And when it rains, it rains quite heavily. So this was a really big problem.

So the renovation was about covering in the balcony to extend it to be part of the house. And because of the problems that I’d had with the leaking, I wanted to make sure it was absolutely watertight, and gale proof and all those sorts of things, because the weather is pretty wild, right here. But at the worst of it, I’d say look, I got 100mm outside and 40 litres inside. You know, just to help explain the context. 

What concerns did you have before you started?

So I had – you can appreciate because of my experience, I had thought I’d bought a new house, and therefore it would be solid. And you know, I wouldn’t have to worry about major repairs or even a renovation to be fair. And that whole experience made me incredibly nervous, because the builder that originally built the house denied any responsibility for the leak. And I had to go through Fair Trading, and I just felt I snookered every time.

And I just didn’t have confidence in many of the tradespeople or in myself, to ensure that that same thing didn’t happen again. That I’d get snowballed or, you know, somebody would … I just felt it’s stuff I don’t know enough about to feel confident.

And given the significant asset that a home is, you want to make sure you you know what you’re entering into, because if it comes unstuck, you’re unstuck in a very big way. Not just in terms of having insecure housing, but then you know, your finances, everything is tied up.

So I just needed that – I needed to feel more confident and knowledgeable about what I was entering into, because I’d had a series of unfortunate experiences leading up to that. So I wanted to start afresh.

Getting over that psychological barrier of being able to trust, again, because of what had happened, it’s it started with, well #1, I had to find a builder that I felt comfortable with. And I went through quite a process.

I must have interviewed about 20 or so different builders. And that was partly to do with once they heard that I’d had problems with the house originally, they were anxious about also being held liable. So people weren’t interested in that.

But also because the area where I live, there’s a lot, like it’s, there’s a lot of building going on. So builders were in high demand, so, it was really hard to find a good builder that was able to do the job because most of them had waiting lists for years.

Then came the contract negotiations. And I had some legal advice. And there are a couple of clauses where my solicitor was saying you really need to negotiate on this or that. And the builder was actually coming back saying “no, that’s unreasonable”, etc. But they were really basic causes like Liquidated Damages.

So there were a few things like that. And I thought, ‘Ah, here we go’. Anyway, so I was in a tizz about it. Because the builder and the architect were both sort of saying ‘you’re being unreasonable, you know, this is pretty common practice’ and all that sort of stuff.

And I, in my gut, I just, it didn’t feel right. And the solicitor was saying, “please don’t sign unless those particular clauses are in there”. And I just thought, I don’t know who to trust because my trust has been breached before. 

How did you first find Undercover Architect?

Anyway, I just was googling and I thought, how do you learn or how do you find out what’s a reasonable thing without paying hundreds of dollars an hour from another solicitor to find out.

Anyway, I just googled and found this Undercover Architect and I thought, “Oh, this sounds perfect”. And I listened to one of the free webinars. So I participated in one of those.

And I just liked Amelia’s no nonsense style. And she actually spoke to things that actually were real for me. Like she clearly knew what she was talking about. Or she understood the whole process and understood how you as a client can feel. So I think sometimes, when you hear other professionals talk about the building process, they’re talking about it from their perspective. But the way Amelia spoke, I thought she really understands. And I don’t feel so silly in being anxious about this contract issue, for example.

What made you decide to join Undercover Architect’s course?

And she gave that confidence and then I ultimately signed up for the Manage Your Build course (which is inside the HOME Method). And then I must have watched everything within about three or four days, like I just because I was in such a tizz, I just thought ‘Linda, you’ve got to get on top of this, you’ve got to get, you’ve got to feel confident’.

And I’ve believe I’ve got a brain in my head. And I felt like I needed to use it. And I just didn’t want to be snowed, I suppose, by somebody telling me you don’t know what you’re talking about little girl, forget about it. 

What did you enjoy most about the Undercover Architect course?

So anyway, it was really good to hear both Amelia and Duayne, the builder fellow that features and she also had a solicitor. And they just went through all the very things that I had not been sure about, or were struggling with, and spoke about them in a plain English way that I understood.

And I thought, ‘Okay, this is normal, it’s normal for there to be a little bit of tension about these things, you’re quite within your rights to ask for more clarity’.

And she had just really practical tips on, you know, even like templates for how to keep notes of the meetings that you have with the builder and with the architect, and what have you, to make sure there’s no room for misunderstanding.

Because I’d been made to feel, you know, I was being a bit neurotic, or, you know, overly anxious, but the way she spoke, it made me realise what I was talking about was quite reasonable. 

What were the benefits of the Undercover Architect course?

So that was the benefit of the course. And I did, it gave me the confidence to hold my ground.

And originally, when I gave the feedback back to the builder, and the the builder, and a little, to a lesser degree, the architect, I just said, ‘Actually, I’m going to walk away, like if you’re not going to agree to liquidated damages, and to a reasonable interest rate and all those sorts of things. Let’s hope we never have to utilise those clauses. But it’s important to me that they’re there’.

And so I walked away, and I said, ‘Look, I’m happy to find someone else. You know, I don’t have to do this. There’s there’s no urgency in it. I said, I can sit here with my buckets for as long as I don’t want to go ahead with something that I’m not confident of’.

So we both went our ways for a couple of weeks.

And then the builder actually got back to me. And he said, ‘Look, I’ve been thinking that I’ve been a bit pig-headed in a way, on principle, and what you’re saying is quite reasonable, and let’s do business’.

And, and in the end we did and it was a terrific build, I’ve got no hesitation recommending him. He did a wonderful job. I can’t tell you how much doing that Manage Your Build course just took my stress levels right down.

And I just thought, okay, I can do this. I felt confident to negotiate. So it was great. 

What have you done differently because of the Undercover Architect course?

And I think then the other thing was once the build was underway, well actually, just before the build commenced, I’d done that course. And then I realised there were things like the specifications around the windows and the insulation and stuff like that, that I hadn’t paid so much attention to I hadn’t realised the significance of those things.

But having done the course, I thought, oh, gee, I better triple check this.

And anyway, I did end up upgrading the windows and the insulation. And again, the initial thing was, Why do you need that? And I said, Well, you know, we get 120 kilometre an hour winds up here on a regular basis. And when it does rain, it’s hundreds of millilitres at a time. It’s not vertical, right? Like it’s, it’s wind and rain.

And I said, so if I’m going to spend all this money, I just want to make sure I’ve got the right insulation and the right, the type of thing.

And my house is also in a bushfire zone. So there’s certain glass that you need to have in that situation. So again, I, you know, listened very closely to the course around those sorts of things.

And in fact, I participated in a live Facebook session with Amelia and asked questions in that around the windows and the outdoor covering the Colorbond (we have regular Q & A sessions for members inside HOME Method). Because again, because I’m so close to the sea, there’s only there’s certain sort of Colorbond that you have to use that doesn’t wear as quickly as the normal.

So it was just those sorts of things that I would never have probably thought about, I wouldn’t have even known that you had to think about them. And no one drew them to my attention, until I did the course, are, yes, that’s, I need to focus on that. And, and I’ve got a good result. As I said, really thrilled.

Was it worthwhile doing the Undercover Architect course?

It was worth every penny, and every hour I spent on those webinars. Saving my sanity was a major benefit. Yeah, I think I just once I got over that hump, it just made it the whole thing doable.

And, you know, I had a constructive relationship with the builder and with the architect, as a consequence.

And I just felt confident, so it just saved – the fact that my anxiety levels dropped so much meant you could just get on with it and make it happen. And it did, it went like a dream.

And it’s still going strong. And you know, we had pretty wild winds last night, and the house is still here. So that’s all good. 

What would you say to others thinking of joining an Undercover Architect course?

I just think you’ve got a responsibility to yourself.

If you’re going to invest so much, you know, like your house is usually your biggest asset, in financial terms, you owe it to yourself to be confident and knowledgeable about what it is exactly you’re entering into. Because it’s going, more often than not, it has a lifelong impact.

You know, even if you choose to sell, you know, some other poor sucker may inherit a problem.

And having been the recipient of some poor quality building, you don’t want to wish that on anybody else. So, you know, I suppose it’s just do yourself a favour, feel confident, and then you can actually enjoy the process.

It doesn’t have to be as stressful as what it might be otherwise, and there is no barrier to you understanding what’s going on. You don’t have to be blinded by building talk or architect talk or tradie talk. You know, it is possible to talk about it in plain English, and have a sensible conversation and get the outcome that you want.

So yeah, I just, I just think the money is minor, compared to how much you could easily waste just choosing the wrong thing.

I have been recommending the course to friends, anybody that is about to embark on this whole thing because I’ve come to learn that my experience is not unusual and that lots of people worry about it, but they seem to just focus on reading, you know, Home Beautiful magazines or whatever and get their their wisdom from there.

And it’s the detail that you really need to understand. It’s not the look so much, it’s the fine print and the legalities and just the technical specifications. It’s really hard to get that information from a neutral party. Having it broken down in the way that Amelia does, in a plain English way that an everyday person can understand … it was just, Oh, I can’t tell you how that helped me to just take a deep breath and have the confidence to progress.
The post Renovating and repairing a coastal home | Undercover Architect Member Review appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Do you need a designer’s drawings to build a home?

Do you need a designer’s drawings to build a home? 

Well, this builder told their homeowner they didn’t. And if the homeowner had believed them, they would have made a big mistake. 

Fortunately, they asked this question instead. Read more here.

When we first launched the mini-course, Happy Home Design, we had a fantastic live Q & A session.

I’m always blown away by the quality of questions I receive from the UA Community, and how you’re thinking about your project, the future home you’re creating, and the way you’re going to make that happen. It’s awesome.

I want to take a minute in this blog post, to talk about one of the questions I received during the Q & A.

Because, for me, it speaks VOLUMES about what can go wrong when building or renovating – but maybe not for the reasons you think.

This was the question:

“One of the builders I’ve spoken to has said that I shouldn’t need to spend a lot on designers’ plans and drawings as they are not used once the external walls are built. Is this true if the builder has experience in interior design?

Now, in the moment, when I first read that question out loud on the Q & A, my reaction was this: “Oh.My.Gosh” and I laughed.

I wasn’t laughing at the person asking the question. Not at all!

In fact – I was actually really shocked. 

Shocked that the builder even expressed that point of view so brazenly (and are running their business and projects that way).

I want to talk more about that in a minute, but first, let me share the answer to that question. It’s this:

Drawings matter. 

Good quality drawings are an asset in any project. 

When things are not drawn or described in your contract documentation, they are assumed in your contract.

And when something is assumed, it means it is subject to change and variation – which translates to money and time in your project.

Drawings are the most significant way to control outcomes on your project. Creating drawings for your home’s interiors (especially for your kitchen and bathroom areas) means:

You’ll bring forward your decision-making about those areas (rather than leaving it until during construction)You can achieve accurate pricing (pre-contract) based on what you actually wantLimiting the number of PC items and Provisional sumsWhich reduces the number of variations during the build

If instead, you do what this builder suggests, what will most likely happen is this:

You’ll get a contract sum that includes a large range of allowances (Provisional Sums and PC Items)During construction, the builder will send you to meet with suppliers and subcontractors to make selections and finalise the design on areas (tiling, kitchen joinery, lighting, etc)And then you can discover that what has been allowed does not match what you envisaged, and you’ll be charged a variation (with a higher margin) to have it included

The challenge with this scenario is:

The builder gets paid for the cost of the build regardless (including the variations)You may not get what you want because it’s not in your budget (because you started the contract with incorrect assumptions) or because you find out too late what you’re actually gettingConstruction is a more stressful experience due to having to make decisions under time and cost pressureEven if the builder is great at interior design, if it’s not drawn before you sign the contract, you have no way of knowing what you’re actually getting – or holding them accountable to itAnd your floor plans only say so much. For example, a wall hung vanity looks the same as a floor mounted one in a floor plan – but will require different construction, different plumbing and have a different cost.

However, what has really been mulling over in my mind since last night, however, is this:

What if this homeowner believed this builder? 

What if they didn’t ask me that question? 

What if they just trusted the builder was right, dived into their project, and then dealt with the consequences. 

What would have happened then??

So, thank you Daniel, for asking this question. And I thank you for forgiving me for laughing too – I was so worried I had offended you, but I was just so shocked a builder would actually say this!!

When you’re silent and not asking the questions, or being worried about looking silly about something you think you should know … 

That’s what enables the industry to get away with sub-standard project experiences, and sub-standard homes.

Many homeowners on the other side of a terrible situation have said to me “we were just too naive and trusting”.

So don’t be silent.

Keep asking questions until the people you’re working with have demonstrated the authority, expertise, and respect to earn your trust.

And to learn more about the drawings you do need for your new build or renovation project, I’ve got these resources:

What drawings do I need to build or renovate? >>> READ THIS BLOGHow to check your design drawings >>> PODCAST EPISODE 212How to check your construction drawings >>> PODCAST EPISODE 213

The Q & A session inside Happy Home Design is epic. If you’d like to jump into Happy Home Design, and access all the awesome info in there (including the recording of the Q & A session) you can do so here.

And if you’d like to learn how to choose the right builder, and learn how the specific checks to do, and questions to ask, when interviewing builders for your project >>> CHOOSE YOUR BUILDER
The post Do you need a designer’s drawings to build a home? appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Getting started on a renovation or new build project

What’s really stopping you from getting started on your renovation or new build project?

Learn how to get started, with some simple steps you can do now.

I want to share something with you that was really brought home to me recently … because it came from a few different angles!

A homeowner messaged me with concerns about a consultant they’d been working with who unexpectedly needed to pull out of their project. 

They were right towards the end of that person’s work, and yet it wasn’t finished. 

It’s necessary work for their project, so they’ve hit this hurdle, and she was really frustrated because “we’re trying to do everything right and just keep having setbacks”.

At the same time, I’d been having an ‘interesting’ week with my kids, all pushing back on specific activities and goals being set at school: “It’s too cold, it’s too hard, I don’t want to, etc etc etc”.

And recently, I’ve also received a few emails presenting fantastic opportunities for Undercover Architect, that will require me to wrap my brain around and get up to speed on some really specific industry information, in order to be involved. 

I noticed myself pushing back and wanting to say ‘not right now’.

What do these things have to do with each other? 

And why am I sharing this with you?

Well, whilst all of this was going on, I was editing one of the sessions we’ve created for our Live Life Build members (my other business, where we work with residential builders). 

It’s a session called “Recalibrate in times of uncertainty and challenge” that we created with an amazing executive coach, Belinda Brosnan.

In it, she said: “There’s only 2 reasons for resistance: Fear, and lack of information.”

This is the thing:

I have a front-row seat to homeowners experiencing resistance.

My response is often to suggest ideas and next steps that make it simpler to move forward. 

And that’s super helpful, because as someone who is experienced at this, ‘next steps’ is definitely something I can give.

That deals with the ‘lack of information’ part.

However, whilst my suggestion of ideas and next steps is super helpful, sometimes there’s a much bigger MINDSET at play which needs to be dealt with.

Because the fear is also there. And very real and understandable.

You make a mistake in renovating or building, it can have BIG ramifications for your money and lifestyle, long-term.

So, if you’re feeling resistance in your project, is it due to fear or lack of information?

Because the ‘lack of information’ part is easily sorted (just keep reading the information here on Undercover Architect for starters LOL!)

But the fear will require something else.

What I know is that homeowners can have ALL THE INFO in the world, and still be fearful (or ‘overwhelmed’ is how they’ll often say it).

For the homeowner who contacted me with her fears and frustrations, I gave her a suggested next step, and I also suggested she be solutions-focussed.

Because renovating, building, (life), is like this …

Things happen, hiccups and hurdles present themselves, and resistance will crop up. 

So when you can flip your mindset to be solutions-focussed, it definitely helps tackle the fear.

I could keep talking about this so much … because there’s also a whole conversation about the fear being due to stories, and anticipated situations that haven’t even occurred, etc etc (listen to my chat with Lisa for more on that).

However, this is meant to be a short blog post, to help you get started on investigating this for yourself.

So, whilst you’re looking for steps and tactics and strategies … all of which you can find here in bucketloads, get curious with yourself and the resistance you might be feeling.

Because I just know a lightbulb went off in my brain when I heard that statement: “There’s only 2 reasons for resistance: Fear, and lack of information.” 

And it generated a bunch of curious thoughts about where it’s been showing up for me, for my family … and where I see it showing up for you in your projects.

Can you get curious about any resistance you’re feeling?

Is it due to fear?

Or a lack of information? 

Or a bit of both?

And so, what will you do next?

I hope that’s helpful for you

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN
The post Getting started on a renovation or new build project appeared first on Undercover Architect.

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