Design & Build Budget – Building To Your Budget

Developing an understanding of the costs involved in building a new home is a process not that different from the one involved in completing the design and build process. It is highly unlikely that a single brochure or conversation will answer all your questions or give you options however with the application of a process you will likely get the best result.

Box™ believes in developing this understanding in co-operation with our clients, make no mistake, we are deeply experienced in the nuances of construction and have decades of experience in the industry across not only New Zealand but in the UK, Canada, France and the US however even with this experience and a deep desire we do not have a silver bullet to supply a budget without a process.

We like to break our thinking into six main elements:

  • Pre-construction (Design fees, Specialist engineering, Council consents, Land and Geo-Technical surveyors and the groundwork to establish an accessible, stable and level building platform)
  • Unique Site Features (Features that need to be managed on this particular site)
  • Unique Design Features (Client requested design features)
  • Labour (Builders on site)
  • Sub-Trades and Materials
  • External construction (driveway, decks, hard landscaping – paths etc)

Each of these elements will affect how a budget is both created and spent, imagine that you really, absolutely, positively must have that platinum plated fountain in the entrance but have an absolutely fixed budget. Well this is no problem for us to design and build but we will be asking you to compromise in other areas like making the bedrooms smaller or paring back the kitchen.

Of course I am being extreme in this example, we’ve never put a fountain in one of our homes! But the point is, if you want to build on a sloping site that is expensive to establish then we’ll be pulling back on the house in other ways to meet a budget.

The house design will have a large cost impact – a cube is easier to build than an ‘L’ or ‘H’ shape. The list goes on and the conversation is complex so lets consider a simple example:

Lets say you feel the right investment on a site is $900K inclusive of GST, a ‘typical’ project might look something like this:

  • Pre-construction: $110K
  • Site Features: moderately sloping, services provided at boundary, urban site: $60k
  • External construction: this you have more control over, but 8% to 10% is typical ($65k – $80k)

This leaves you with around $665k for the Labour, Materials and your Design features to build a dream home.

This is where we fall back into the measure that we love to hate, despite all our thinking sessions in rooms filled with smart people and lots of head scratching we cannot avoid at this starting stage the dreaded words of cost per square meter.

When looking at a cost per square meter rate always ask what is included and what is excluded, we’ve seen proposals filled with cost per square meter rates that excluded foundations……..pretty hard to build a home on thin air in our opinion! Just be clear on what is being discussed, believe no-one, not even us but we welcome the questions!

If we say dwelling construction has a rates of between $3500 and $5500 you would be looking at 120sqm to 190sqm of stunning designer home. It is a large difference, but much depends on the style of design, specifications and ease of working on site.

Remember that there is nothing wrong with having a wish-list or brief that is out of whack with the budget. It is our job to take you through the budget process so you can  build the budget up from scratch based on your site and brief.

It is one of those strange things – whether the budget is $500k or $2m, the brief very seldom fits the budget! So there are always compromises to make on size, specification or style.

By Box

More Design Bites


Our 5-part series covers the essentials of designing and building your new home. It aims to save you time, stress and potentially $$$ if you are considering a home design & build project.