My Backyard Subdivision – Part 4: Building

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In the fourth of our six-part Backyard Subdivision series we discuss the ins and outs of the building process and how to manage compliance.

You’ve conducted a feasibility study, found the right property, made a plan, and you’re ready to build! This article outlines the essential members of your building team and things you need to consider to manage compliance while you build.

Your core team

To build profitably, you need the right team around you.

  • Designer– The designer needs to be familiar with the myriad of rules regarding what is allowed and not get carried away with their own creativity! 
  • Surveyor – deals with matters like creating access, turning circles, setting out the building platform, establishing correct level for construction level, drawing necessary easement areas.
  • Earthworks– completing earth-moving, compacting, adding metal and retaining walls.
  • Quantity Surveyor– Works out the cost of all materials. Alternatively, you can use the rule of thumb of $1,800 per square metre for a standard house (at time of writing). 
  • Engineer – Works out attenuation requirements, certifies good ground, retaining walls and other required works. 
  • Contractors– For connections to public sewer water, power, internet, gas and utility contractors, plumbing, electricity, concrete (driveway), roofing, kitchen, painting, plastering, tiling and flooring, suppliers.

Risks to manage

Risks with building projects such as disputes with contractors, price rises and regulation changes increase over time. Making sure all the pieces move together in the right order and without delay is key to your project’s success.

Tony’s Backyard Subdivision: construction on the new house is well underway

Building options

There are three general options for building, each with its own pros and cons.

Group builder• Bank will lend more readily
• All specs decided at start
• Bulk buying ability
• Project managed – generally better timing for components e.g. joinery
• Fixed finish date and cost
• Guarantee and warranties
• Front load costs – pay more than actual work done
• Paying for the building company overheads, e.g. salespeople, show homes
• Variations can be costly
• Quality of contractors
Hybrid• Can decide which supplies builder to use and which you supply
• More flexible
• Unclear communication about who is doing what
• Construction loan with bank restrictive
Labour only• Choose all your own contractors
• Obtain own trade discount
• Can tell builder exactly what you want
• Ability to do some work yourself, not restricted work (foundations, floors, walls, roof, bracing etc.) (not subject to LBP rules)
• No guarantee
• Have to manage all dates
• Pay for any waste or mistakes
• More liability
• Banks may be reluctant to lend because of the fear of cost overruns unless you have an established track record with them

Compliance during the building process

The Building Act

The Building Act regulates things such as: responsibilities of the builder, designer, owner, building consents, where you can build and where you cannot. The Building Act also sets out required builder warranties. Code compliance and unconsented work are  important elements to consider from the outset; certain work can only be carried out by licensed building practitioners, so be aware of what work you can do yourself, and avoid problems at inspection time. A new house cannot be sold without final code compliance unless a purchaser agrees in writing.

Council rules

The Council sets rules such as how close to the boundary you can build, or requirements for turning circles (including how they are to be calculated and how to comply). Council will assess your application and address topics such as:

  • Hazards
  • Telecommunications and power supply
  • Earthworks
  • Roading, on-site parking and manoeuvring
  • Wastewater
  • Water supply
  • Fire-fighting, and
  • Storm water.

Whangarei District Council’s Standard Operating Procedure for Environmental Engineering Standards contains further information.

Environment rules

These rules govern how much space can actually be built on within your section. For example, the zoning in a particular area may mean the section size can go down to 300 sqm. The zoning also sets out rules about trees, rock walls, natural features, etc. These rules are about maintaining the characteristics that influence and enhance people’s appreciation of a particular area. These values are derived from the pleasantness, aesthetic coherence and cultural and recreational attributes of an area. The District Plan contains further information.

Rules, covenants, consent notices on the title

This includes building requirements (size, type), where the title can be subdivided and where it can be built on in the section. Covenants can include all types of rules and prohibitions.

Many developers take early advantage of plan changes. For example, a number of recent subdivisions have taken advantage of the UTE zone – a zone between town and country. Another is the Kamo Walkability zone which allows more density and changes to the size of subdivisions in rural areas. Plan changes can be found here.

Further information about building consents can be found here:

In part five of our Backyard Subdivision series, we discuss banking and finance.

Our thanks to Tony Savage for writing this article.