Grand Designs New Zealand's nod to the past

Grand Designs is going back in time.

Grand Designs is going back in time.

Grand Designs New Zealand takes a step or two back in time for its third season.

"One of the things that is certainly coming to the fore this time round is the sense of time or timelessness," says host and Wellington architect Chris Moller, of the series' third season. "There are several projects that are exploring construction techniques which are really, really ancient."

This is New Zealand so don't expect castles. Instead, think log houses and 19th-century villas – old and new.

Architect Chris Moller is hosting Grand Designs New Zealand's third season.

Architect Chris Moller is hosting Grand Designs New Zealand's third season.

"First up is a woman who is trying to recreate her childhood dream to build an old villa from scratch for her huge family," Moller says. "That's what we're kicking off with – the imitation villa and how to do that from square one. Can you actually do it? What does it take?"

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Then there's the Queenstown couple who went shopping for a staircase and ended up with a house. Horrified at the number of earthquake-damaged Christchurch colonial villas being demolished and thrown in the tip, the couple decided to save as many as they could.

"They've done several but we follow them saving one. They start out with the idea that they're just trying to get a staircase and they end up with a whole house (and the challenge of) how to move it from Christchurch to Queenstown," Moller says. 

"I suppose what this raises is it's not just simply about cost. It's about understanding in a much broader way what the real value is of the stuff that we have and recycling it or reusing it or repurposing it."

Moller says he is continually amazed at the lengths to which so many Kiwis are prepared to go in an attempt to build their dream home.

"The code compliance to get building consent is getting tougher and tougher and for good reason, with all the challenges of leaky buildings, earthquakes, floods, fires – you name it," he says. "On top of that, construction is becoming more expensive. Materials end up for all sorts of reasons costing a lot more and labour is going up too. You add all that in the mix and it is extraordinary really."

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However, while cost is always a factor, previous series have shown it does not stop people from trying to bring their building dream to fruition. 

"These are people who are doing things that either haven't been done before or, if they have, not in the kind of circumstances. 

"They're things that are out of the ordinary. It's certainly not just straightforward stuff," Moller says. 

"For those pursuing a big dream, usually cost is not the first thing that is in the back of their minds. They've been saving or working towards realising something that's really exceptional." 

Some projects have budgets in the millions but there are also those that are done on a building shoestring.

"The budgets vary. Last season there were a couple that were around $2.5 million to $3 million but, at the bottom end, was the Wellington stilt house at $165,000," he says. "And not a cent (of that) was borrowed and those guys built it themselves. I would be surprised if there were any houses on Grand Designs in either the UK or Australia that were anywhere near close to that kind of budget."

That said, he wants anyone who is building a home to consider more than just money.

"I think often what happens in New Zealand is that people tend to focus on just the build cost and not a longer, bigger idea about real costs which are running costs, maintenance costs, the overall value that you are getting from the investment that you make.

"Take the log house, which you don't see very often here. What's intriguing about that is, of course, it's not the same cost as a standard timber frame, 4 by 2 stick build. It's the opposite end. However, something like a log house is exceptionally durable so that will be around for a long, long time."

Grand Designs New Zealand, Three, starts Tuesday September 19, 7.30pm.

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 - TV Guide

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