For the moment anyway, the Minimalist Monument to Moi is stalled while we assess its viability in the face of mounting costs. These aren’t necessarily costs associated with the house itself. We’re parked here while we work out how to dig a hole for a garage. It’s turned out to be a bit of a money pit.
The potential for a money pit was brought to light by a recent geotechnical investigation of the site that was done at the request of the engineer, Rod Bligh. When Rod initially inspected the plans and the site and then looked at the preliminary soil report he felt a cautious approach with further investigation was warranted, particularly since we had planned to excavate a deep cut where the garage was to go, into the foot of the slope that the house was to be built over. Rod’s gut feel was confirmed. The geotechnical guys from Soil Surveys Engineering Pty Limited drilled some investigative pits deep into the hill, revealing it to be a mix of loose fill and soft, weathered rock. We all kind of knew that, but they agreed with Rod that to excavate where we had planned could potentially unsettle the fill that resided loosely on the slope and that it would require some pretty major retaining works to safely secure the section where the cut was to be made.
I’m told these hidden retaining works could add another 30% to the cost of the build. All so I can park my car undercover.
Cars are expensive. You can waste a lot of money on cars. I already know this. I have a history of burning money on cars. In just under 30 years I’ve driven 18 vehicles. I’ve changed over my vehicle once every 2 years, or every year in a couple of cases. Here’s a little snapshot of the vehicles I’ve owned in that time, mostly consecutively, sometimes simultaneously.
There’s no real rhyme or reason to my choice of vehicle. I’ve swung wildly, purchased on whim, followed trends as well as bucked them, responded to whatever calling I felt at the time. Looking back, I can see now how fickle my tastes have been. If cars are a representation of your personality, I’ve had multiple personalities. Call me Sybil. Even so all of these personalities have all required a carport as a constant.
These days I’m Steve Minonimal and I’m gonna need a carport here too, on Hamilton Hill, even if I have to shore up the entire base of the hill to build one. I’m hoping however that hiring clever people like Rod Bligh and Phorm Architecture and people like Yo Shimada from Tato Architects Japan has put a brains trust at my disposal to design and innovate my way around this money pit. So that’s what we’re currently doing. We’re now looking at ways to re-orient the garage to minimise the size of the cut that we will need to make into the slope. Potentially, we’ll move the garage closer to the boundary of the site to achieve this, but that means going back to Council to apply for a relaxation.
In the meantime, we are also looking at ways to cut down on building costs of the actual house to help accommodate the mounting cost of the car accommodation and the retaining wall works that will provide a solid foundation on which to build this Minimalist Monument to Moi. That means changing some of Shimada san’s construction methods from Japanese style steel construction to Australian methods like lightweight timber infill wall construction.
I’m pushing hard for this, not just to save money, but because there’s an irony at play here. My original plan was to build modestly on a block of land that would typically house an over priced McMansion. I didn’t want to build a McMansion and though I’m still building modestly in spirit, it seems that the actual cost of securing the foundations of a house on a slope, any house, no matter how modest could still turn out to be anything but modest. Even though these costs won’t manifest themselves in the form of travertine marble floors or gold taps, they’re still obscene.
Those cars of mine are a constant reminder that more is not more and that somewhere, sometime the consuming has got to stop. It may have to stop anyway if these costs keep mounting. I may even have to turn my garage into a bus stop.