Understanding the characteristics and the environment of the site plays a major role in the design of our home. Although we have an architect whose job it is to make sure all of this is taken into account, I think it is valuable to understand it myself as well, in the process of designing and living in the home. So what are we looking at?
An obvious but very important one. The app Solartracker shows you all the different angles and locations of the sun but this information is also available from the site www.sunearthtools.com where you can download graphs.
Wind and rain direction
Most of the wind is coming up the hill according to our neighbours. This makes sense since from the South we are sheltered by a pine forest and on the East by a hill. On www.windfinder.com you can download statistics on wind directions. In the winter the cold Southern (Western) winds are dominant and in in summer more North Easterlies. Wind from the North West from the tropics is said to bring rain as well.
Specs of the site:
- Pahi, looking over the Kaipara Harbour
- 2000 m2 of 33 wide x 60 meter deep
- Electricity and phone cable at site
- No water or sewage connection
- Public driveway to site
Topography & soil
As mentioned before we are on a very steep hill ranging in elevation from 53 m in height to 24 m in height which brings some challenges in building but at the same time gives us very nice views. Below 90 cm of clay the soil consists of broken limestone. Most of the site has previously been used as farmland and was covered in grass.
The focal point of our view is looking down the hill over the water with distant hills and the sunset in the West. The Southern view is a pine forest and Northern view looks onto the neighboring section and house so needs some protection for privacy but needs to be open enough to get the solar gain.
Temperatures / humidity
Temperatures are fairly mild in Pahi and Northland is referred to as the winterless North. Average temperatures range from 10°C in winter to 19 º in summer. Living in an uninsulated house is however not very winterless but cold and damp. Day temperatures seem to vary a lot with chilly mornings but hot afternoons. Humidity is also fairly high at 80%.
Northland has a rich history in Maori culture. Water and coastlines are of high value to Maori and all the
waterlines of the Kaipara Harbour inlet have been marked as “area of significance to Maori”. The bottom of our section is just overlapping with this area. We are not building in this area but I am interested to know if we could do anything to pay tribute to it’s significance.
Flora and Fauna
Although most of the site is shrubby grass our section has some pine trees which have low biodiversity value, some shrubby bush and we have a few natives like a Totara tree and some cabbage trees. Generally not a section high in value for flora and fauna so it would be good if we can plant more natives and create a better environment for wildlife. Especially since the Kaipara Harbour is a large migratory bird habitat. Land habitats adjacent to the harbour support some rare botanical species, including native orchids, the king fern, and the endangered kaka beak.
The Pahi area is mostly a weekend and tourist destination with a 2 hour drive from Auckland. The hill at the end of the peninsula where our section is consists mostly of baches (vacation homes) and a campground. Pahi is a big launching spot for boats and fishing on the Kaipara Harbour. There is no public transport or shops in Pahi.
The qualities of our site :
- Beautiful view over the Kaipara Harbour and distant hills
- Sunsets over the water and hills
- Pretty private spot next to forest, no builds in front of house and view
- Recreational activities like fishing, sailing, kayaking on the doorstep
- A few native trees
Non qualities of the site:
- Farmland and pine trees have a low biodiversity value
- No public transport or shops in the area