Finding a builder

In Chapter 1, we'd found and acquired our lovely block in Lilli Pilli NSW.  Step two - find a builder.  But first, some new discoveries ....

Um, just where was that again?

Well, surprise, surprise, when we got our paperwork back from the Eurobodalla Shire Council, we found we were listed as Bunderra Court, Malua Bay - no mention of Lilli Pilli.  And after some enquiry, we found it confirmed - our new block was just south of the Lilli Pilli - Malua Bay border, in Malua Bay!  The confusion seemed to arise because you access this part of Malua Bay via Lilli Pilli estate.  Oh well, we haven't moved - just the border!  And so here I am, right back where my parents build their house back in the 1980's.  That seems auspicious.

The name "Malua Bay"

Needless to say, we were interested to find out the origins and history of the name Malua Bay.  No real luck so far with the history, but it's probably pretty significant that the word "Malua" is known in Polynesia - Perhaps "Malua Bay" in Vanuatu provided the precedent for our Malua Bay.  The Malua was "a wind, often so dry that it sucked up the moisture from the land and destroyed the tender vegetation".  Interestingly, the wind coming in off the sea at Malua Surf Beach has caused some of the small trees near the beach to assume stunted windblown shapes.  Fortunately, by the time it reaches our block it has calmed to a pleasant sea breeze. 

Eurobodalla Shire

Zooming out from Malua Bay then, we find ourselves at the northern end of the Shire of Eurobodalla, literally "Land of Many Waters".  There's a good guide to the area at, or click on any of the names on the map to the right.  On that map, we're just below Bateman's Bay, where the coastline straightens out on leaving the Bay.

The population of the whole shire is about 35,000 - about one tenth the population of the city of Canberra - and only half of them live at our end of the shire.  It is going to be different living in a region where only 10% of land is used for habitation, 40% is enshrined in National Parks, 30% in state forests and 20% in farmland.  But hey, I can be brave!

Eeek, we're a Marine Park!

Well, surprise upon surprise, we suddenly find that the coast we have chosen to move into is being declared a marine park.  From about 24km (15 miles) north of us to about 45km (28 miles) south.  How cool is that?!  To quote from the press release "The Batemans Marine Park will occupy 85,000 hectares of coastal and estuarine waters from the northern end of Murramarang Beach to Wallaga Lake, including some of the South Coast’s most outstanding natural features."  Nice!  (Much more information in the brochure.)

Seems like not everyone thinks it's so cool - there is concern among some local fishermen that their favourite spots will be locked away forever.  But it appears the Marine Park will permit fishing in all but important nursery areas, so that seems pretty fair.  It's really good news for us, as we were attracted to the area by its natural beauty, and the combination of the Marine Park, six National Parks and a Flora Reserve seems just the way to preserve that in perpetuity!

5 builders, and 1000 variants of 1 design

So, just a matter of finding a builder and slapping up a house, eh?  Hmmm, not so easy, as we were about to find out!  It turned out that there were about 5 project home companies working in the Batemans Bay area, so we started by visiting their show homes.  (A project home builder is one who offers a range of house models from a catalogue.  Much cheaper than engaging an architect to design the home, and then a builder to build it.)  All very nice, it's looking good.  And prices we could probably afford.  So then we started looking through their catalogues of designs. 

The first thing we noted is that all the houses had a strange similarity, and further, that none of them suited the block we had bought.  We wanted the living areas to face to the north, to capture the sun in winter and the lovely views of the forest all year round.  We wanted our garage and rarely populated rooms to be on the west, to take the brunt of the summer afternoon sun, and we wanted our main bedroom to be on the east, for a cheery wake-up call from the rising sun, and a pleasant sea breeze on those warm summer nights.  All the houses we saw seemed to assume the outlook would be on the side of the block, not the back, and didn't seem to see the need for passive solar design at all!  The exact same houses were being marketed all around the country, from chilly Tasmania to sweltering Darwin!

And we wanted some understory space at the northern end of the block, where the ground slopes down towards the forest.  Oh no, the builders' representatives shook their heads sadly.  Far too expensive, they chorused, and trotted out improbable idea after improbable idea to avoid any significant change to their designs.  So that's when we saw the difficulty of dealing with a project home builder - you have to find a design that pretty much meets your needs - OK to make small changes but nothing wholesale.  And none of the designs seemed to suit our needs.  Weeks and then months went by while we searched through seemingly thousands of designs.

At last!

Until finally we stumbled across Hotondo Homes - their Capricorn design was by far the very best we'd seen for our purposes.  Everything in its right place and it would fit on our block perfectly.  Hey, and my star sign too (not that I believe in astrology, but it couldn't hurt, could it?).  And the builder perfectly happy to make the changes that will suit us.  What's more, he hopes to have us in by Christmas 2006.  Yee-hah!

McKenzies Beach, just another of the myriad of lovely beaches near us.

Energy saved while we wait

And all this takes us beyond the deadline for a change in compulsory environmental improvements.  Now we have to save 40% of energy used by previous homes, 40% of water use and make sure the house passes a "thermal comfort" test for both summer and winter.  Builders often present these as draconian requirements of government, but we see them as not only good for sustainability and in the battle against greenhouse gases, but a good investment in our comfort and finances.  Oil and gas are running out, Australia has plenty of coal reserves, but the pressure will be on to liquefy this for automotive use in the future.  Whatever happens, energy costs are on the rise, and steeply.  Better to spend the money now to make a low-energy home that we can continue to enjoy when we don't have the money!  So what sort of environmentally conscious features will our new home include?

  • a 10,000 litre (2500 gallon) rainwater tank, plumbed to toilet, garden and laundry and fed by at least 90% of the roof area;

  • efficient showerheads, toilets and tap fittings,

  • light coloured roof and bricks to reflect summer heat

  • skylights

  • use of drought-tolerant indigenous garden species,

  • solar hot water system

  • recirculating valves on the hot water system to stop the waste of water and energy as you wait for the hot water to come through

  • perfect solar orientation to bring in warm winter sun

  • cross ventilation to bring in that cool sea breeze

  • generous insulation in walls, ceilings and underfloor

  • carefully calculated external shading

  • big windows to North, small to the other vectors

  • double glazing and high performance glazing for large glazed areas

  • reversible, speed controlled ceiling fans

  • high efficiency air conditioning

  • energy efficient lighting, and

  • undercover and outdoor clothes drying lines

Now some readers, perhaps in Scandinavia or other harsh climates, might say, big deal - we've had all that for years.  But in this easy-going society and temperate climate, these are real innovations.  My parent's house in Malua Bay, built in the eighties, boasted no insulation but no heating or cooling either.  So we're looking forward to being extra snug without much cost.

But no Grey Water recycling!

We had expected that grey water recycling would have been on the agenda - it certainly is part of New South Wales Government policy.  But not in Eurobodalla shire, it turns out - the Council has not determined a policy on it.  I imagine that they would not encourage us to contribute soapy water to the creek in our reserve that runs down to the sea!

Waiting, nervously ...

So, here we are in early August 06.  The plans are in with Council for their approval.  We think they'll like it, but who knows - they're the experts.  And our minds are turning to other matters - preparing our Canberra house for sale, for example.  I wonder what happens next .....



On to Chapter 3 - Building, or

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