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


As I had mentioned in the previous post. We were lucky to be successful at an auction and have bought land, or I should rather say  a house with land in Bayswater North. Not as close to the school as we had wanted. Yet, we had made the decision based on the financial merits of this particular house. Due to an unusual shape, combined with a large easement, we were able to buy around $100,000 cheaper than we had originally budgeted for. Which will help us keep the mortgage lower and take financial stress of us as a family.

After buying there are all sorts of legal and financial things you have to sort and go through. Engaging a conveyancer to look after the legal side of things and the transferal of the title. Providing your bank or mortgage broker with all the information and documents they need to finalise the finance for your new home. Making sure you have the required equity or cash available when settlement comes. And in our case, starting to look for tenants also. And we had to decide wherever we would only want to pay interest rates, while renting out the house, or if we would opt for principle and interest. If opting for interest only the actual interest rate would be higher, than if we would also pay principles. Which basically means the bank gets more money from you. Which we don’t want. Consequently, we have decided to rather pay principles and interest. Even though the principles will obviously not be tax deductible.

The land we bought has a 3 bedroom/ 2 bathroom house on it. Our plan is to rent out the house for 1 to 1,5 years while we get the design and all the required drawings and permits together. Hence we engaged a real estate agency to already look for tenants even prior to settlement. With the plan to have tenants moving in straight away, to help with the mortgage repayments.

Our 20/20 house site has a bit of an odd shape. It is wider at the front then it is at the back. And has a 2.7m wide easement along the long east side. Furthermore the site is located in a NEIGHBOURHOOD RESIDENTIAL ZONE – SCHEDULE 3 (NRZ3). This means we have stricter setback requirements. Our first floor will need to be set back 2.1-2.3m from the western boundary. Since we do want the first floor walls to sit on the ground floor walls this leaves us with only 6.5-7m width for the actual house. Meaning we will have to design a long/skinny house, that also follows the slope of the land. We are currently thinking about a split level scenario.

The site also has a SIGNIFICANT LANDSCAPE OVERLAY – SCHEDULE 3 (SLO3). Luckily in our case this won’t trigger the need for a planning permit, as we don’t have any significant trees on site. All we will have to do is getting a building permit. However, there are like 15 or more palm trees in the middle of the land, which block the solar access and we are intending to remove some of them. We yet have to find out if we need a permit to do so.

One other thing that we are facing is a bit of a struggle with is the front setback. The existing house has a smaller setback than the direct neighbours. This means if we demolish the house and build a new house we have to comply with their setback, meaning we would lose 2,5m on the small building envelope we already have. Therefore we have to actually call it a renovation, and keep the front wall of the house.

So now that the property has settled and we have had a site and feature survey done we can start with the design. And we have to make sure that our design brief is clear and that we know what we need (and can afford). Really excited.

More about the design brief and how to establish it next time.