a r c h i t e c t u r e  


Up till February 2011 Moira and I lived in both Christchurch and Dunedin and shuttled between the two as our architectural design and photography businesses required.

The February 2011 quake destroyed our Christchurch house and studio. We had no TV, power, phone, water or sewage and severe liquifaction. It sounded and felt like a B-train crashing in to the house with Moira and I both thrown violently across the room. Then just silence except for the sound of burglar alarms going off, gushing water from liquifaction, and the roar of aftershocks. Our car had to be supported on concrete pavers to stop it sinking, and the neighbours SUV almost went rear end down a sinkhole in her carport.

All local garages and shops were out of action, and roads badly damaged.  We had about 1/4 of a tank of petrol, and luckily heard on the radio a petrol station 8km away was still working so a 2hour "dash"  across town got us a tankful. We had to head immediately for Dunedin for a Homeshow we were both doing as part of our marketing. Any way the house was uninhabitable so we decided to stay in Dunedin in the interim.

After a long battle with EQC  we decided to rebuild in Dunedin rather than replace the Christchurch building, as with modern technology we can handle work over the internet between client visits, and have found it works very well.Southern Response (ex AMI) our insurance company were brilliant.

After looking carefully at sections we chose a small but very sunny section in Grandvista, with a 270 degree rural outlook. Rebuilding has been a challenge, as we have purchased a section as well as building a house within the insurance budget. The design of the house is very simple, but makes maximum use of passive solar gain, sun and view....in spite of reputation Dunedin is actually quite sunny.  

We have built only 2 bedrooms with a large studio space for Moira which doubles the space of the living area, and can easily be turned in to a third bedroom if we on sell. Only one garage is provided, which suits our lifestyle. A second can be added if required.

With a limited insurance budget every square metre counts, so we have made the layout of this place very flexible and set by a strict sense of priorities. Design is our business. We wanted to avoid the "rice pudding" appearance of tract housing. So the house is a simple rectangle with an arrowhead cross section, emphasised by the gable ends. We have avoided cutting material as much as possible to reduce waste and labor (only one trailer load of debris from the whole project), and rooms are sized to fit material sheet lengths. It's a work in progress and has verandah posts, a deck, and pond to be added in the near future.

The house has raised a few eyebrows. As soon as you do something a little different you will start to polarise people's reaction. Four young carpenters came over from other houses under construction one day and commented they loved it. "It's a very sharp house". We used a ribraft foundation (it sits on the ground and in the event of a quake will slide a little to remove the sting from a quake....even here we have active faultlines within a few km). The building has been designed to take a quake equal to being on the Alpine fault (Zone 4) and wind load Extra High. Ribraft proved less costly than a traditional concrete slab....the downside is meeting the B-train on site in a howling winter rainstorm before dawn to unload the pods!

Designing to higher loads for quake and wind amounted to $2-300, but we know in the event of a major natural event we can sleep more comfortably at night! Construction above slab is bog standard Kiwi light timber, and in our experience is as fast and cost effective as any of the more exotic construction systems being promoted.

It's insulated above the normal requirement...the ribraft helps with that. Passive solar gain does work, although the double glazing reduces heat uptake a little.  A 1.2m soffit on the northweast side allows winter sun under but shades summer day sun. On a cold winters day the 8kw heat pump can heat the whole house from a standing start to 20 degrees within 8 minutes.

We looked at Solar hot water and power,  they certainly work, but in our situation were not cost effective. We have designed for future installation though.

The house has featured in the Press (Christchurch newspaper) to show how you can rebuild at about 60% of the going rate for construction without sacrificing quality or design. The recipe is simple, eliminate the ticket clippers, shop around, employ a designer and builder who respond to your needs, be strict about your needs as distinct from wants, don't be influenced by current fashions, and KISS (old Army saying Keep It Simple, Stupid!). Several Press readers want to clone it.

It's been a family affair, with Ken's brothers and their wives (Gordon and Marilyn, and Ross and Anne-Marie) pitching in to help pack and transport a houselot of belongings to Dunedin. Moira's younger son Nathan has pitched in doing all the internal painting. Placies (Placemakers nickname) have pitched in, and special thanks to Nigel Croot our agent there for his patience and support. A big thanks also to Greg Mackenzie and Ritch for their work in doing the actual building, and going the extra mile. A sculpture made from recycled glass insulators kindly supplied and transported by Keith Clark (Moira's son) in his little Daihatsu Sirion from Wellington will grace the entrance.

We have written this page as proof that a house can be individually designed and built at less than the going square metre rate and giving a better outcome by following the techniques we have outlined.