Clients: Lara and Terence Stevens-Prior
Project: 4-bedroom house, with pool, in Mission Bay
In this series, we take a fly-on-the-wall look at the progressive stages of a Box™ build
We’re out of the mud and doing a rain-dance. That’s how Dan Heyworth, co-founder of Box™, sums up the current status quo at this project. He means that, while the in-ground pieces of the gigantic puzzle that is a house build are complete (a huge positive), the stop-start dodging of the showers that have characterised the Auckland winter continues. To keep the process on the go-forward, the construction team has set up a cutting tent: a canvas shelter where they can tweak the timber pieces needed to complete the framework.
Why, you might ask, has Box™ not chosen to protect the site with a big old shrink-wrap installation? The answer, as in most issues that surface within the industry, is not clear-cut. Up til now, of course, the project has required several cranes lifting heavy bits of steel into place, so wrapping has not been an option. Even so, the benefits of a fluid, continuous schedule, unplagued by the vagaries of the weather gods, are offset by the costs. To wrap such a significant job (taking into account the engineered scaffolding that would be needed too) would be in the region of $40K. That’s a lot of wages right there. But there’s another significant factor. The planet. Although the manufacturers guarantee that the plastic can be recycled, if it is contaminated by concrete or silicon dust, or paint, or any of the plethora of products that populate a building site, it’s deemed to be spoilt – and destined for landfill.
Having passed the winter solstice, spirits are now high. Days are incrementally longer, and the site is lovely and elevated which means it can grab the sun from noon to night (when it’s out). This month, the builders are committed to sketching the outline of rooms, which is an artful way of saying they’re focussed on the framing. And what a lot of framing it is. As Dan points out, old villas featured minimal framing but now, for many reasons, including the complexity of designs, the standard of the timbers (kauri was super strong) and regulatory requirements, houses such as these virtually require a forest. The impact on costs is exponential. Each stick of timber needs to be grown, cut, milled, treated and transported.
In theory, when the pre-cut/pre-formed pieces of timber arrive, they should slot together like Lego. That’s not always the case. Sometimes an intervention is required. That means either cutting out niches from the planks, nibbling out a stud or, in the event of the interplay between steel and timber, the welding gun comes out. Pre-cut timber does deliver economies of scale from the suppliers and require fewer labour hours, but one downside is that fewer people have the skills to start from scratch. Concerns about a decline in traditional craftsmanship aside, we’re super pleased with our progress. Today one of the team is shaping up the fibre-cement sheet in the ground-floor en suite into a triangular wedge: it’s where the freestanding bath will sit with a leafy view out the window. Everything’s on track. Despite Mother Nature’s mercuriality, we’re sticking to the schedule. In the next week, all the walls will be ‘sketched’, and the roof framing will begin. Once the rafters are up, the ‘colouring in’ of the canvas can start. Then we won’t be doing a rain-dance, but a little jig of excitement.