The architect’s brief and action items

After the selection of our architect, Duncan Firth from Solarei, I supplied him with the following information to start the discussion about what we’d like to achieve with and envision for the house:

  1. All the information we had on our section i.e. title, easements, convenants, geotech reports, information on stormwater lines
  2. A presentation with inspirational pictures of homes, design styles and interiors. See blog
  3. A document with our sustainability goals. See blog
  4. A document with the specification of our section, our requirements and wish list for lay-outs, functionality and design style and possible dilemmas for the design. See below.

Here is our modest, short list of our requirements 🙂 :

Our Pahi brief & requirements list

“A small affordable, comfortable, sustainable, contemporary home with a less is more design attitude built with quality materials that inspire a sense of place and change in building methodologies, a lot of natural light, unobstructed broad views and a great outdoor area.”


  • $ NZ 300,000.- (€ 190,000.-) for about 70-80 m²

Specs of site:

  • 12 Emay Crescent, Pahi, Northland
  • Size: 2000 m². Width 33m x 60m deep on steep hill with Western view
  • Electricity and phone cable at site
  • No water or sewage connection
  • Public driveway to site

Design dilemmas:

  • Preferred easy access 1 level building versus 2 levels with more rooms with views and less footprint
  • Design for passive solar gain to North versus design for privacy and views West
  • Parking/carport/garage out of sight close to home on a steep plot
  • Close connection of house to land versus minimal impact and excavation of site
  • Preferred open pitched angle of roof to West difficult with overheating in summer and solar panels/heater
  • Need for sheltered terrace that doesn’t feel like it is at the back of the house

Sustainability goals:

  • See our separate blog with 10 goals and sub criteria
  • Summarized the most important ones are:
    • “Let your house work for you”. Low operational cost, low environmental impact, affordable
    • “Begin with the end in mind”. Design for disassembly, reuse and end of life value.
    • “Inspire change”  in sustainable, quality and affordable home building

House requirements list interior:


  • Quality
  • Lots of light in living spaces, day-light in every room, especially bathroom
  • Big full height glass windows for view, unobstructed full broad view (straight line)
  • Less is more, simplicity in design but not ordinary
  • Modern yet warm feel (not the industrial cold look)
  • Outside area important aspect of the house

Must have’s inside:

  • Good indoor climate
  • Natural ventilation


  • Open floor plan
  • 3 (small) bedrooms (or 2 in house and one in sleepout shed or loft in house)
  • Semi separable small office/desk, preferably attached to living room and with a view
  • Seamless connection between inside and outside flooring, good indoor outdoor flow
  • Practical use of indoor space, all space used
  • Fire place / wood stove
  • Clever storage space
  • Storage general, food, vacuum cleaner, cleaning stuff, dry rack , bags
  • Space for washing machine
  • Space for climate installations etc.

Wish list inside:

  • Kitchen bench or cooking in direction of view
  • Everything easy accessible, compact
  • Full height doors and windows
  • Separate bath and shower in bathroom
  • Shower with a view
  • Smart monitoring and operation (keys, lights , energy)
  • Is bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside

House requirements list exterior/outdoor:


  • Low maintenance
  • Low material impact
  • Shed or flat roof (or at least no gable roof)
  • Leaning towards dark vertical wood panels, warm look
  • Possibly corten steel, tiles, stones or small part concrete
  • To be decided

Must Haves Outside:

  • Privacy from neighbouring plot
  • Space for 2 cars,
  • Deck/outside area important feature of the house
  • Endless deck where view is from house
  • Sheltered terrace from Southern winds in winter and Western uphill winds
  • Partly covered terrace with views in summer
  • Space for BBQ
  • Not child unfriendly
  • Good use of plot area

Wish list

  • Integrated into land, easy access or good connection to land
  • Watertank out of sight
  • Outdoor shower
  • Parking/Garage/carport out of sight
  • Garage/carport
  • Workshop area
  • Space to store boat / or more cars
  • Storage outdoor gear and tools (canoes and other stuff)
  • Space for extra fridge and/or freezer
  • Flat area where kids can play outside (grass patch or part of deck, mini playground children)
  • Flexibility for change in function or expansion (eg bathroom, work/bed, extra space or room)
  • Possibility to walk around house

Soon we will find out how much of the must-haves and wish list is really achievable.

After the first brief we had some more homework to do: order a LIM (Land Information Memorandum) report and get a survey done on the section to map all the altitudes and boundaries of our steep site.


Margriet Geesink



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