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14 October 2019

The Recipe Of A Well Thought Out Design

Two beef paddies’, lettuce, onion, mayo on a sesame seed bun – A relatively small number of ingredients comprising what is probably one of the most popular burgers throughout history.

Is it these individual ingredients we think of when we give into our cravings?

No. We want a burger, dammit (Maybe some fries & a milkshake too if we are feeling extra indulgent)! It is the precise measured and tested combinations of ingredients that elegantly come together to form the singular item that we crave - all acting in harmony and complimenting each other to form what we know as the burger itself.

Balanced. Elegant? Maybe… It depends on how into burgers you are.

A Well Balanced Burger

My unhealthy ‘’Startup founder’’ lifestyle aside; This analogy can be applied to practically anything, particularly when planning & designing a building project – The well-balanced combination of things that come together to form our structure / project.

How do we find that balance, that all-important ‘’Feng Shui’’ we need to create a practical and eye pleasing renovation or building project that suits our taste, style, while not completely destroying our resale value, bank account & sanity in the process?

Unlike a relatively simple item like a burger, which has maybe 5-7 ingredients, a house or even a relatively small building project can have hundreds of crucial options, of which one or two poor choices may ruin the flavor of the entire project.

Hilarious Case in point; The Westminster bridge, London.

At first glance, nothing really stands out as unusual, let alone stunning about this bridge…It’s nice, I guess, but not amazing in comparison to some of its neighboring masterpieces.

However, as observed by generations of immature locals and tourists (myself unapologetically included), at certain times of day when the sun light is just right (on a rare sunny day in London), the shadows cast by the side rail project what could be interpreted as a number of large male appendages onto the walkway for all of London to see. Charming!

Westminster Bridge, London

A small and un-obvious design oversight which now dominates my immature thought process whenever I think of ye olde Limey.

When designing, it is important to think outside of the box about every minor detail and how it could have an unintended side effects on other seemingly unrelated aspects.

Throughout my career I have been a former structural Draftsman, Architect, Geotechnical analysis, as well as dabbling in Structural & Geo engineering along the way, and have recently made the shift into the tech industry, building and designing software to simplify the building industry for everyone (See uDrew Australia).

Plugs aside, Importantly I have been hands on involved with several construction projects and managed to get my hands dirty on the way. This has given me plenty of time to develop a broad ranging view of the entire build process, from initial design to finish, and even more importantly learn from my mistakes on the way – which for the record would take up a whole other article by themselves!

Mistakes are certainly an efficient way to learn quickly. This is especially true when undertaking a building project, which can mean $1000’s of dollars down the drain in the blink of an eye, or being reminded every day when you leave for work that you should have spent the extra $150 for larger size front door which catches your shoulder every morning.

Thinking About Starting Your Building Project?

Here are my top few hints and tips to make sure you get your recipe right from the start until the finish of your building process, as learnt from my mistakes & experience;

1) Do Your Homework - Your Design (And Tradies) Will Thank You!

Have a look while driving around, check out your friends’ pads, read (TILT) magazine, take clippings of what you like / take a picture on your phone and begin a collection of stuff that suits your taste, and importantly take a mental note the stuff you don’t like.

Your Tradies / builders / architects will thank you for it! It can be very challenging designing / building something when the person does not quite know what they want. This will often end in cost blowout and an unhappy everybody.

2) However, If You Get Stuck: ASK!

Most trades and building professionals are happy to give you their two cents if asked politely, or if beer is involved. After all, this is their job and they see this type of stuff every day and generally have a good grasp on many aspects and have seen first hand what works and what does not.

Worst case and for whatever reason you feel you are not getting good advice – google it! Chances are someone in this world of ours has faced a similar crisis and has found their solution.

3) Foresight: How Can I Best Future Proof My Design?

Try to think long term.

  • Will this purple feature wall still be in fashion in 10 years’ time? (You know who you are!)
  • Will I need an electric charger point in my garage for my future Tesla sports car? (I can dream).
  • How hard / expensive may it be in the future to alter X decision if for whatever reason it needs to be changed or removed completely?
  • Whatever number of power points you specify - double it… Trust me.
  • Natural light & shadows – Will this window allow the sun to blind me while cooking? Will this species of tree provide both shade in summer and block crucial winter sun, or should I plant a deciduous tree? Or will there be countless shadows resembling male appendage?

Taking a moment to think and plan out your design will save you a bomb in bills as well as change the whole vibe of your structure.

4) Serviceability; (Similar To Above)

Will my design be easy / affordable enough to maintain?

For example – Do I put in a beautiful jarrah outdoor deck and oil / sand it every year for eternity, or do I spend 15% extra and get composite decking which requires zero maintenance? There is no right or wrong answer - this comes down to personal taste versus practicality & costs. (FYI – I went with the composite!)

Case in point; I chose these great designer downlights for my house when I was renovating. Problem is, you can only change the globe from inside the 40cm of clearance from within my roof space. I now own a lot of lamps.

5) Don’t skimp out on the Geotechnical!

Mostly relevant if you extending / building a larger project, however, this is often an afterthought as it is generally something we never think about until it is too late, or unless you have an avid green thumb. For every dollar you spend on Geotechnical it is said you save $50.

You can get a decent residential Geo report for around $300-$1000, which could potentially save you $50K in future works such as fixing cracks, moisture damage, concrete costs, sand pad costs or even worse structural failures.

6) Maths

Largely overlooked by the average person planning a design and generally disliked due to emotional scars obtained in high school.

“When will this ever be applicable in real life?” said Everyone ever.

Well my friends, it’s applicable now so dust off that Casio! Like it or not, Maths in fundamental to every good design – and not just from an Engineering standpoint & calculating quantities, but importantly for overall aesthetics (There’s that Feng Shui again!)

Fact: Us human-folks have a funny natural subconscious preference towards mathematically pleasing shapes and complex structures.

When designing an entire house it is commonly used to work out proportions, symmetry & spaces, which then sets the undertone for the rest of the build.

If you want to see a great example of Maths in nature & architecture, check out the Golden Ration - its mind blowing.

7) Go With Your Gut / Heart

Assuming your project is your ‘’forever’’ house; Spend that extra $10 per square meter for the tiles (or whatever else it may be) that you REALLY love and don’t settle for the okay ones that look nice enough and will do the job. The short-term higher cost is well worth it for the long run. Do it once and do it properly without regrets - You will be reminded of this every day for the rest of your life when you shower.

Like cooking a new recipe, it is hard to get it 100% right on your first go, however, these points above can really help you increase the chances of a tasty build through a well thought out design.

There is nothing quite as rewarding as finishing a build in which you designed and picked every small detail. I lost a lot of sleep with every minor aspect I had to choose, but it was well worth it!

All this writing is making me hungry…Off to get a burger now.

Ciao and good luck!

Tom Young

About uDrew

uDrew is a cloud platform for home owners & contractors without any technical skills to design, engineer and manage their own custom-building project from start to finish, for 70% less cost and receive potential instant council approval for their small construction projects.

All designs are checked and assessed against all local and national building regulations in real time while materials are quantified as they are drawn, meaning you can order every component with the click of a button.

This means you can begin construction of your own project in minutes – not months.