Tuesday, 22 September 2015 04:33

7 Fantastic modern home designs

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What makes a home Modern? Not necessary the location, but more the design style.

Modern home qualities could be described as sophisticated, elegant and stylish.

Architecture has evolved for centuries resulting in a very high quality design and

construction method that has passed  the test of time.

The homes could be described as having the following qualities; clean lines, solid,

warm, comfortable, functional and timeless. Below I have listed 7 examples of great

Modern homes.



This smart home is very transparent. This glass on the sunny side is frameless

floor to ceiling allowing uninterrupted views and solar gains. Parking garage

underneath in basement doing away with clutter on the ground floor. The exposed

concrete walls anchor the house down to the site.




This contemporary home is designed by Stephan Meijer Architect and is located

in Nelson New Zealand. The house is situated on a very steep slope and has 2

split levels to accommodate for the car garage access. This house is a great

example of a Modern style, passive solar home suitable for the Nelson Climate.

Typical details that define a Modern style house are: Internal gutters, Solid

construction, high specification in finish and very warm and comfortable.





This very sculptural house is located in Switzerland near Lake Geneva. It is designed

by SAOTA from Cape Town, South Africa. The sandstone and the dark steel form

a nice contrast. Parking in basement below. Landscaping is a big part of the design

of this house.



Like most modern houses, the colour of the house is mainly white. White is a

timeless color and reflects the mood of the surroundings so the color of the

house is always different. It also reflects the sunlight and the paint will be more

durable. This house is nicely built into a hill and has as most modern houses have,

windows from floor to ceiling and integrated balustrading to the balconies.




This is a very interesting looking German house. Almost a sculpture. I would love

to have a look inside this house. The use of blinds might be difficult, but the use

of modern glass can address issues like privacy and solar gain.




A typical modern house using exposed concrete blocks to provide an anchor for

the lighter white and glass elements of the house. Again floor to ceiling windows

and white stucco. The steel balcony and roof parapet complement the hous.



This house must be well insulated. Lots of modern homes have flat roofs and so

does this one. The windows are made of timber. Clean lines and simple forms

make this a great house.


For more information on modern passive solar homes:

Please download our free design guide:

Modern Passive solar house design guide

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 01:56

Why I would never build a standard home.

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Many home building companies use standard plans as a starting point for the design of new homes.


Houses are treated as commodities that are interchangeable and independent of location and users. I guess standard lot sizes and a flat section can give the impression that this is a valid process, but unfortunately this is not the case. Conditions will be very different on each site even if this may not look like it to the untrained eye. The biggest issue however is not even the site conditions, but the requirements of the people who are going to live in these houses. We are all from different backgrounds and have different priorities and desires.

To design a site appropriate house specially designed for each individual client, will not only enhance the living standards, but also reduce heating costs, increase comfort, express clients creativity, increase comfort, but will also increase the quality of each subdivision as a whole.

An argument to go for a standard house plans I hear often is that the client knows from the start how much the house is going to cost. This is hardly ever true. Any change in layout and materials usually incur hefty markups and lots of items are not included or of very basic standard. This lack of flexibility means that lots of compromises will have to be made resulting in a compromised end-result.

By the time the clients move in, the total building cost is often much higher compared to the price advertised.

So what is a better alternative? I have designed many houses for clients who have been to a homebuilder initially but were unable to find the plans they liked was unsuitable for their section due to slope, size or other matters.

The following simple steps will result in a great house exactly designed to the clients requirements.

  • Fill out a detailed brief so you are clear about what you want without anyone talking you into something.

  • Get a concept design done. This is a great start to your individual designed house. You get an good idea of the design options and pricing. A concept design is very affordable and provides you with high value plans and information.

  • develop the plans to a standard to be able to get a pricing done by a trusted builder and materials supplier.

  • Check pricing against budget. Adjust the design where needed and get building consent.


The whole process is really simple and efficient. Especially if you work with a selected builder. We work with some very competitive great builders in the area that will look after you. You will not be tied to one home building company but are free to choose the best one for your project..


Friday, 17 July 2015 03:47

Choosing a hillside section

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Choosing a section for your new house is difficult enough, but choosing a sloping section can be a challenge. I have listed below the main issues to consider that will be helpful when choosing a hilly section.





The most important aspect of a hillside section is the slope. The steeper the slope, the more difficult it will be to build on  and the more expensive. Building a concrete slab on the ground is cheaper below appr. 7 degrees slope. Above that, using a timber floor is cheaper.


cost comparison of a 8.7x17.4 meter slab.

  1. Orientation


A north facing would be prefered as you can build a house with good solar gain. Second best would be West facing. The afternoon sun is much warmer compared to the morning sun so you can still get good solar gain, but you will need good shading as in the summer your house might get overheated. Third best option would be East facing. Morning sun will be nice, but you will lose the sun early in the day. The worst option would be a South facing block esp. when the land is steep. A low sloped South facing lot may be OK, as you can still get some solar gains for most of the year. Another factor will be the views. The best sites have the best views towards the sun.


  1. Access


If you build on a slope you usually end up with a multi story house. Most people prefer to live on the top story because of better views. So from access point of view it is better park the car on the same level as the living areas. Which means it is better to have access from the top of the section. However from a cost perspective it would be cheaper to build the garage under the house, but you will have to walk upstairs every time you want to enter the house. You have to decide what is most important to you. Especially older people would prefer level access.(from the top) A split level home can be a great option as only half a flight of stairs will need to be taken.

  1. Price


As discussed at (1), building on a sloped site is more expensive compared to building on the flat. When you build a house on poles, you usually also have to build the outdoor areas on poles and the this will require balustrading, resulting in extra costs. If you prefer to retain the site and have a bottom story under the house, you will have to pay for retaining walls and engineering. These are usually expensive. Steep sections are usually cheaper to purchase and the steepness can be used as a bargaining tool. Building on a slope also take longer compared to flat land as the site access is more difficult. If the site is not too steep you may want to consider building a split level home. This can be cheaper as earthworks will be less compared to 2 full stories.


  1. Geotechnical issues


Geotechnical issues are the site conditions relating to site stability. Land in New Zealand can be unstable due to the nature of the land and the exposure to earthquakes.

Stormwater runoff can also be a big issue on slopes. Running water can undercut foundations or cause slips. So called "No building zones" can apply as they are unable to provide a safe foundation. These issues need to be looked at by a professional.


slope block diagram.jpg


6. Covenants/planning/easements


Every building site is subject to council planning rules. A restricting rule can be the “Daylight angle” rule. This rule can restrict you from building over a certain height without approval from the neighbours. This rule can force you to excavate the house into the ground. Other rules may apply like front yard. This rule restrict you how close you can build the garage to the front yard boundary. Private covenants can also be in place restricting your options. Easements may be present on site so its pays to check on the title before buying the section.



Car parking may have to be provided for a new house by council law. Providing these carparks can be expensive because you may have to build car decks or retain the land to provide flat car parking.  This will add extra costs to your house. Usually you have to provide at least 2 car parking spots.




Not every site is so clear defined and there could be other issues not listed here.So it would be wise to involve an expert early on in the (pre)design process as mistakes can be very costly later. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I am happy with any feedback or looking forward to helping you to find the right hillside section.


Kind regards,

Stephan Meijer, Modern Passive solar architect

Friday, 17 July 2015 03:36

Benefits of SIP panels

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New Zealand is blessed with a moderate maritime climate. This means the temperature swings are modest compared to a land climate. You would think it is not too hard to design a house in NZ that is comfortable all year round without having to spend lots of money on heating and cooling?

Still most of the houses in New Zealand are either too hot in summer and/or too cold in winter due to a number of factors. The main ones being:


  1. Orientation of the house and glass openings.
  2. Poor insulation
  3. Thermal bridging of building elements. (eg. un insulated steel beams protruding to outside or no foundation perimeter insulation)
  4. Lack of thermal mass
  5. Air leakage from outside to inside
  6. Poor heating system


All these factors can be addressed during the design phase to create a house that uses Zero Energy for heating or cooling. SIP panels are a great product create a Zero energy house as they have a very high insulation value, prevent thermal bridging and are air tight ones in place for floors, walls and roofs.


Combined with the right placement of glass and orientation of the house, a SIP panel house will be very warm and comfortable.

The panels allow for great design freedom without structural restrictions relating to the house design. These houses perform really well in an earthquake and in high wind zones. Building a SIP panels house is not only faster, but does not cost more compared to a stick framed house. The choice is easy if you compare a SIP panel house with a traditional stick framed house.

Sip panels outperform traditional building methods on every aspect.

We, as sought after modern Passive solar architects, recommend the use of SIP panels for our passive solar eco homes to achieve the highest standard for comfort and quality as well as reducing the cost for heating.

Kind regards, Stephan Meijer, Modern Passive solar architect.

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