Key Activities

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Refine needs and define requirements
In the Outline Brief, broad user and space requirements were defined, especially in terms of quality. At this stage you should review, refine and, where possible, quantify them. Some requirements may now not seem so important and can be removed from the document, while others will become more specific.

For example:
  • If the Outline Brief stated open-plan living for socialising and entertaining was important, the requirement at this stage might be as follows: An open-plan kitchen integrated with lounge area; island bench allowing room for some stools for casual family dining; room for a large oven, dishwasher and French door fridge.
  • Or, if the Outline Brief had stated no heating was wanted in the winter, you could now define targets around comfort and health such as the ideal temperature range for different areas of the house (e.g. living areas between 19°C and 21°C all year round).
Balance cost, quality and time

The design should find a balance between quality (including the design and functionality​ of the house), cost and how long the house will take to build.

Communicating these in the Design Brief involves listing the requirements for each. Try to define your priorities and understand the relationships between each. A more complicated design may cost more, or take longer to build - but could be a better design outcome for your site.

It is important not to undervalue the concept of 'delight', or how happy your new house will make you. Sometimes what makes the design special can be lost in the face of time or cost pressure. This is why a vision statement is important, and should be a reference point at each stage of the design.

Think about the long term cost of living in your house

​Initial decisions about the design and construction of your house can have a big impact on how much your house costs to run. Designing your house to be naturally warmed and cooled by the sun and wind (called passive solar design) should not have any additional cost. Other measures, such as increasing the amount of insulation or adding solar hot water; will have an up front cost but will save money in the long term. 

Lifecycle costing approaches the project from a wide perspective that includes the costs of operating and maintaining your home over its lifetime. Setting objectives around lifecycle costs can facilitate decision making and result in a house that both meets your initial budget and is affordable to run in the future.

See ‘Lifecycle Costs’ in the Sustainability hub for guidance on how to set objectives in this area. ​
Decide if a rating system might help to achieve objectives
Rating tools are mechanisms that can inform design and help you set objectives and targets around sustainability. See ‘Approaches to Sustainability’ in the Sustainability hub for more information on the most relevant tools for the New Zealand context and the way objectives and targets around areas such as energy, water and comfort and health​ are addressed. If you decide to pursue any of these certifications, remember to include the standard and its key objectives within the brief (e.g. 8 Homestar rating, Zero Energy, Passive House).​

Recognised ratings tools can also be used to communicate the sustainable performance of your home to potential buyers, potentially resulting in a higher resale price.
Decide how important accessibility and future-proofing is to you 
Consider how your requirements will evolve over time, for example as you have children or retire. Universal design involves creating a space that anyone can use regardless of age, size or ability. Taking this approach ensures your home will meet your needs as your situation or abilities change. If you are developing a house to sell it also means it will be attractive to a wider range of buyers, possibly resulting in a higher sale price.

Defined by a set of design standards, the Lifemark​ is an independent seal of approval indicating adaptable and accessible home design, making it safe and easy for New Zealanders to live in their own home for as long as they want.
Understand the consequences of changes in future stages
Making changes to the design requirements becomes more difficult and has more consequences as the project advances. During the early stages you can change your mind about things like the way the house will look or the number of rooms it will have without many implications. However, doing so in later stages once the design team has been engaged and the design process is underway is more complicated and will affect time and budget.

It is therefore important to have an honest review of the Design Brief before continuing the process, making sure it clearly reflects what is wanted and that there are no gaps or missing elements that may lead to future misunderstandings.

When additional team members are involved, key stages will require sign-off. Changes made to the design after these moments will incur additional charges and delays that can be easily avoided if time and effort are devoted to these early stages.​