The 20/20 House Part 20

The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream from an energy efficient home into a reality.

Build Over Easement Approval

Hallelujah. We finally have the approval to build over the easement. What a nightmare this has been. You might remember, my last blog post early in November I had already mentioned that we were having some issues on getting the approval from Yarra Valley Water, and I had anticipated another 2-3 weeks to get the approval from council to build over, or I should rather say against the easement.

Well we just got the approval in the second week of January. But we finally made it.

It turned out the stormwater was just at the edge of the easement. Requiring us to stay away a further 600mm from the edge of the easement. Which meant we had to cut off / taper the back of the house. Shrinking the entire house by the required 600mm was just not an option for us.

Now that we have this approval and amended our plans accordingly (which also did require further engineering changes leading to additional costs, again) we have to contact our neighbours. We have to get a report and consent to reduce the front setback. This means council is sending our plans to the neighbours and they have to sign (hopefully) that they are happy for us to do so. We are actually not reducing the front setback. We are proposing our new house to be built exactly where the existing house sits. But the existing house has a 6 m setback. Whereas both of our neighbours have 9 or more meters. Which means we would need to move back to 9 metres also. 

However, in our case this would be a massive restriction. As our site tapers towards the back, so does the easement, and we would need to decrease the width of the house significantly. So, fingers crossed this won’t happen. Wish us luck!

We also had a first meeting with our builder towards the end of last year to look over his first estimate. And I want to be honest, the figure was much more than what we had in mind. I guess our journey is no different to other people’s experiences. Firstly the builder had used his quantity surveyor, so everything that was scheduled was estimated, rather than proper trade quotes.

Luckily, we found quite a few areas where we could save some money. For instance, there was an allowance for $45,000 for the kitchen cabinets. Whereas, if we are going with Ikea, or some other sort of flat back, that will rather sit around $10,000 – $15,000. There was also a big allowance for other built-in elements and robes. Which we know we can reduce quite a lot. However, given that the design of our house is fairly simple, there isn’t much scope on changing big things. By that I mean, the house is designed in a way that walls sit on top of each other, that there are no crazy or overly complicated detail points that we could potentially change. The house is pretty much as simple as it gets. The main scope in reducing the cost is to be really mindful with our selections. All the little bits that go into the house. $1000 here, $2000 there, that quickly adds up.

One of the first things that is going is the underfloor heating for our 3 bathrooms. A little bit sad about that but it will save us a few thousand dollars.

As I am allergic to dust mites most of our house will have timber floors.  Therefore we won’t have any carpet, resulting in a lot of timber. And we do want to find something that we like, that is sustainable and cost effective. Not an easy challenge….

We are still hopeful to start building in March.

Stay tuned.