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Homepacks Build with Merylese & Joe Mercieca

We recently spoke with Merylese from Blue Eco Homes, based in New South Wales, Australia about using Homepacks and one of their latest, concept plan builds...
It's Australia's first home to be built to both the highest bushfire rating (BAL-FZ) and Certified Passive!

What’s your background?

Joe and I have been in the building industry for over thirty years, but we've been our own company for fifteen years and done sustainable homes for that whole period of time.

We've got eleven staff, including ourselves. We also have a team of local subcontractors that we call in.

What type of homes do you build?

Because we're based in the Blue Mountains, most of our builds have what they call BAL ratings (Bushfire Attack Level), which is the degree of fire rating we need to build too, according to the decided risk. A BAL rating ranges from not needing to add anything right through to the 'flame zone', which is essentially inside the line of fire.

Why did you choose our concept plans for your business?

Part of the challenge was, we had people coming to us saying, have you got some designs we could look at? ...So partly it was market request and us finding the right designs.

We'd seen some something come through from you guys at some point on an email I think or somewhere and had a look and then had a chat with you and we said, "that's going to work, that's what we're looking for!"

The reason we are using your designs is to try and make things a bit more affordable because we're a traditionally custom home builders. Every home prior to Homepacks plans were all individually done. It speeds up our process.

Over the years we've had a lot of people say to us,
"We want to build sustainably; we'd love to build with you guys...Do you have a plan or do you have something we can start with or we can look at?"

So it's a good starting point for people. We use the designs as a base and let people customise them.

What benefits do you see with our customisable, pre-designed plans as opposed to starting from scratch?

Definitely the time factor! Being able to show clients who don't have plans to being able to show them something is awesome!

We've actually got something already to be able sit down with people and say keep some smaller designs. Let's start working with these ones.

We had a deadline to get the plans for this build into council, so we were able to get them in much quicker than we would have normally!

Have you found having concepts help draw more inquiries and leads?

Definitely, certainly the lead process. Because people come to us and because we can say, "yes, we have got a design, here have a look." People are then following through.

Since launching our plans about ten weeks ago, we've already got three that are actually with the designer just tweaking at the moment.

We've actually been able to streamline our process where we normally would have had a much bigger lead time. Essentially by the time you sort of worked out what client want, got the design brief,  got the design, all of that. We've streamlined that first half of the design process.

How many weeks are you saving?

I'm talking months! I would say two or three months.

...Being custom builders, we tend to have a fairly long lead time, and we haven't had that.

We've had these inquiries that have come in within our first ten weeks in a row already, sort of almost ready to go to council point which is unheard of! ...Normally it takes three to six months to do design before it goes to council. We've streamlined that first half of the design process.

What reservations did you have about purchasing our concept plans?

Probably the only reservation was that the designs were from New Zealand, and it wasn't Australian design. And you sort of go, are the designs going to fit for our Australian market? So I guess there was that one. But being able to customise them fixed that problem, (e.g. "let me put a different roofline on or whatever").


Here's a Homepacks plan Merylese, Joe & their team built:

The original artist impression
The finished version Merylese, Joe and their team built with a different roofline.
It's Australia's first home to be built to the highest bushfire rating (BAL-FZ) and Certified Passive!
The changed roofline allows for highlight windows to be installed.
The home is positioned to provide shade over the outdoor living where temperatures average 29°C during the summer months

What custom changes did you make to the original concept plan?

The roofline is probably the only thing that changed. We changed the roofline so they're skillion roofs and we put highlight windows in to get the north sun in.

The floor plan pretty much stayed the same. We did make little changes to the sizes of windows to meet the certified passive calculations.

What's the value of this build?

To build it to certified passive and with a BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) flame zone rating, it comes in at about eight hundred thousand.

Do you recommend Homepacks?

Definitely, Yes!  We have actually recommended Homepacks already to others, particularly in the passive house zone, people who are doing passive house calculations.

Who would you recommend Homepacks too?

Builders either starting out or trying to grow their business. I think that's where it's got the most value!

Sam
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Founder/ Designer
November 19, 2019

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