Grant Lucas Architect
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ARCHITECT FOR OWNER BUILDERS



My Adelaide Architectural Practice has now produced Plans and Documentation for Owner-Builders for more than 10 years.
Owner-Builders are often the most time-consuming clients and as they usually also have limited budgets many Architects would rather not take them on.
The up-side of producing Architecture for Owner builders is that these jobs can also be the most rewarding. Owner Builders often love novel solutions, recycling, energy efficiency, natural materials, up-cycling and sustainability.  A typical time-frame from concept to Development Approval is often well over a year for Owner Builder projects. This is a long time to try and realise someone else's dream. The relationship between Architect and Client can evolve into a long-term friendship as each successive challenge is met and mastered together.

Owner Builder House at Taperoo
Energy Efficient Owner Builder House: Taperoo SA:
This Owner-Builder project was started at the end of 2015 and should be finished construction by mid 2019.  Luxury features such as rectified sandstone blocks, Jarrah windows,  Jarrah weatherboards and skirting, Jarrah and steel fishbone stair, marble wet areas, as well as a 10 Kw PV system were included in the build.
 
Construction costs are typically cheaper for Owner builders as the Builders profit (somewhere between 10 to 20 percent) is saved. This Owner-Builder undertook most of the physical labouring for the contractors and so even bigger savings were made. An Architecturally designed, luxury finish, 2 storey house such as this would normally cost well over $2000 per square meter to build. Currently this house's cost
is coming in well under $1000 per square meter, which equates to the cost of a single storey project home with standard finishes. 


Energy Efficient PV cells on Owner Builder House at Taperoo
Energy Efficient Owner Builder House: Taperoo SA:
A 10KW system of PV cells split between the East and West roof planes makes this house fairly energy-neutral. An East-West orientation is unusual, as traditionally most PV roofs are designed facing true North. This Owner builder has proved that an East-West system results in  a more uniform energy gain throughout the day as the Eastern aspect works at maximum in the morning and the Western aspect then takes over during the afternoon, with between 7 to 8kw typically being produced from 8am through to 7pm in mid summer. The external walls are made from 100mm thick Polyurethane sandwich panels with a render finish. The low thermal mass of these walls means that they do not transfer much heat internally even on the hottest days. 


Jarrah and CHS steel Fishbone Stair:
Costs saved by being an Owner builder can be put back into the build with Custom detailing such as this fish-bone staircase

 
Bookcase to hidden Room:
Having some basic carpentry skills can save a lot of money. Custom milled Jarrah skirtings line the hallway to the gymnasium on the left. The surprise here is the Custom Silky-Oak Bookcase which swings back to reveal a lobby leading to a 40 sq m acoustically modified Home Theatre room. Details like this are typically the domain of either Owner builders or the very wealthy. Champagne on a beer budget springs to mind.... 

 

OWNER BUILDER PLANS


Architectural Documentation specifically created for Owner Builders is often more complex.  A little more cost spent up-front on the drawings will save money during the build.
Generic plans and details can lead to mistakes in both costing and construction. By being specific and detailed there is less chance of time and cost over-runs. Owner Builders who also wish to take on some of the construction tasks themselves will benefit by a good set of drawings


As I have dealt with many Owner Builders over the years I am used to producing Documentation fit for purpose. Although every client, job and budget is different there is a pattern of needs that Owner Builders require over and above those undertaking the standard Builder route. I have learnt to produce Documents for Owner Builders that maximise their chance of attaining both an easy and cost efficient build.