PART II – LIFECYCLE COSTS
The cost of living in a house is a major expense over a long period of time which can often be overlooked by those building their own homes. A key difference which can set a custom home apart from a project home is the potentially much cheaper cost of living in and maintaining your home.
Energy consumption is a major cost of living in a home, but this can be minimised through great design. Correctly orientating your house in order to use the sun’s solar energy to your advantage is one way to achieve this. A great designer will develop the best floor plan for the site, taking advantage of passive heating and cooling techniques and lowering your energy consumption. At its most basic, this involves locating windows, shades & structural materials in order to take advantage of solar heat in winter, and minimise heat gains in summer.
Project home floorplans are not designed for a specific site, so minimising heater and air-conditioner use through passive solar design can be very hard to achieve. Simple window or room changes to a project house can increase energy efficiency somewhat. In order to provide a volume builder’s design with maximum energy efficiency, you may require a great many changes, which will have a major effect on the build cost. Instead, if energy efficiency was an integral part of your design process, building a custom home could be a much better financial decision.
Minimising consumption is not the only way to save energy costs. Solar panels or wind turbines can be included or added to both construction processes to provide additional cheaper energy. A custom home will provide more scope to incorporate these items in a more aesthetically pleasing or functional way. For example, a correctly designed roof slope and orientation will negate the need for large frames to support your solar panels.
Using materials which require less maintenance will also save you money. This can be achieved through both building processes, but if a volume builder does not include these materials as standard, there is potential for extra expenses to be incurred during construction.
When comparing a basic project home to a custom designed home, the custom home can have significantly lower lifecycle costs. The degree of savings will depend on the quality of your designer or architect. If you are likely to customise your house to suit your lifestyle an architecturally designed house could have a similar overall cost to a volume builder. If you have many changes in mind it can even be cheaper to design a custom home.