Exploring Renovation and Build Costs with Matt Carland, Carland Construction

Meet Matt Carland, an expert builder hailing from Carland Constructions. He specialises in constructing passive houses, but there’s more to him than his construction prowess. Matt is a passionate advocate for positive change within the construction industry, known for his straightforward approach and commitment to dispelling industry misconceptions.

A proud builder who loves his job, Matt has found his niche in the construction world. He’s come to see himself as an expert in his field. Yet, he’s fully aware of the misconceptions that continue to plague the construction industry. Media headlines frequently highlight negative stories of dodgy builders and problematic projects, but Carland is on a mission to debunk these stereotypes.

With a network of like-minded builders, Matt strives to change the perception of builders as a whole. He passionately believes that builders, at their core, are good people who are committed to delivering exceptional projects and achieving outstanding outcomes. The negative portrayals in the media do not accurately represent the majority of builders.

Even though he’s a seasoned builder of passive houses, he continually seeks fresh challenges. Recently, he embarked on a project involving the retrofit of an old, original Burbank volume builder house, transforming it into a certified passive house. This venture excites him because it’s a new experience, and he thrives on tackling the unfamiliar.

Matthew delves into the perception of cost versus actual cost, shedding light on the distinction between short-term and long-term expenses. He also highlights an often-overlooked aspect, the unseen cost on one’s health. The essence of this discussion lies in deciphering what it truly costs to build a house.

Beginning underlining a common reality—a budget. In most cases, individuals have a predetermined budget, but few possess the luxury of an endless money tree. A budget, he asserts, is not the actual cost of building, but what a client hopes to spend on a project. The eventual cost may differ significantly, depending on the decisions that the client makes along the way.


Forrest Street (Passive House) – Altereco Design and Photos by Jade Cantwell

The process of understanding the actual cost of a build is far from simplistic. It entails a meticulous evaluation that can’t be achieved through a cursory glance at a plan. Numerous factors come into play—site-specific constraints, foundation requirements, soil conditions, and many other intricate details. This process takes substantial time and effort, and only after careful consideration can an accurate estimate be reached.

Transparency is crucial, according to Matt. All parties involved must openly communicate their budget constraints. Being honest about the financial limits allows architects and building designers to craft a plan that aligns with the client’s goals – it’s the difference between a successful project and one that falls short of expectations. The better architects and designers excel in hitting budget targets, ensuring clients aren’t left with daunting financial gaps.

Matthew acknowledges the further challenging landscape created by lending institutions. Banks play a significant role, yet their stringent lending policies can often complicate the process of financing a construction project, adding another layer of complexity to the already intricate process of cost assessment.

An important revelation emerges from this discussion — the cost of constructing energy-efficient and high-performance houses, such as passive houses, is often perceived as higher than conventional builds. But Matthew offers a compelling perspective, emphasising that comparing these custom designs to volume or spec-built homes is akin to comparing two distinct industries. These differing approaches necessitate separate considerations, making direct cost comparisons futile.

Chatfield Street – Altereco Design and Photos by Jade Cantwell

Lets consider the costs associated with building a bespoke home, exploring the various cost components involved in the process. The breakdown reveals percentages for different elements of the construction cost:

Performance Matters: A key point that Matthew underscores is that constructing an energy-efficient or healthy home doesn’t significantly inflate the overall cost of a build. The performance aspect, which constitutes 16.1% of the cost, includes features like insulation and energy-efficient design. It’s essential to debunk the myth that such houses cost exorbitantly more.

Understanding the Details: Breaking down the cost structure further reveals the role of various components. Site costs, often underestimated, contribute 7.9% to the overall cost. These include expenses related to demolition, site preparation, temporary services, and scaffolding, which can accumulate and impact the budget significantly.

Cladding and Finishing Items: Cladding and finishing items represent a substantial portion of the budget, accounting for 16.9% and 25.3%, respectively. While cladding costs may seem high, the use of premium materials and architectural preferences can drive these numbers up. Finishing items include features like wall linings, tiling, joinery, and more. These are often areas where clients have a significant say, making it essential for clients to be mindful of their choices.

The Impact of Client Choices: A significant factor that influences the cost is the choices clients make during the design and construction process. Opting for luxurious materials or including non-essential features like butler’s pantries, extra bedrooms, and multiple ensuites can drive up the overall cost. It’s crucial for clients to consider their actual needs versus their aspirations when making these choices.

Scaling Back and Efficient Design: To manage costs effectively, it’s important to focus on areas that can lead to significant savings. Instead of reducing bedroom sizes by a square meter or two, consider stripping back on the scale of non-essential spaces. Rationalising the need for larger butler’s pantries, laundries, and mudrooms can have a more substantial impact on costs.

Tailoring the Home: Tailoring a home to meet the specific needs and lifestyle of the occupants is crucial. Building a house that serves your unique requirements and preferences is more important than trying to keep up with trends or hypothetical resale values.

Value and Ethical Considerations: Ethical considerations come into play when assessing the value provided for the cost. Matthew highlights the importance of transparency and ensuring that clients receive genuine value for their investment. This approach aligns with a duty of care to clients and ethical practices within the construction industry.

Paying for Quality: Quality often comes at a price, and it’s essential to remember that you get what you pay for in the construction industry. Consistency and quality tradespeople can significantly influence the outcome of a project.

Geometrica and Photos by Jade Cantwell

Building strong relationships with tradespeople and fostering a collaborative team culture that prioritizes quality over cost-cutting is of paramount importance in construction. Here’s why:

Consistency and Reliability: Working with a consistent team of trusted tradespeople ensures reliability. You know what to expect from them, and they understand your expectations, reducing surprises and complications during the construction process.

Efficiency: A well-coordinated team works efficiently. Tradespeople who are familiar with each other’s work styles and expectations can seamlessly integrate their tasks, leading to quicker project timelines and fewer delays.

Quality Assurance: A team that values quality over cost-cutting is committed to delivering the best work. They take pride in their craftsmanship and ensure that every aspect of the project meets or exceeds the required standards.

Effective Problem-Solving: Strong relationships foster effective communication. When issues or challenges arise, the team can work together to find solutions promptly, minimizing disruptions and costly revisions.

Cost-Effective: Paradoxically, focusing on quality over cost-cutting can be more cost-effective in the long run. High-quality work is less likely to require costly repairs or corrections, saving money and time over the life of the building.

Client Satisfaction: Clients benefit from a collaborative team dedicated to quality. They receive a well-constructed, durable, and aesthetically pleasing end product, which enhances their satisfaction and the reputation of everyone involved in the project.

Yarraville – Circle Studio Architect and Martina                                              Gemmola Robinson Street – Photos by Jade Cantwell

Exploring the various facets of construction, underlining the significance of making well-informed choices regarding construction materials and design aspects in order to optimise project expenses and performance. Mathew underscores the importance of clients grasping the value associated with specific construction components, such as high-performance windows and energy-efficient systems. The discussion brings to light the misconception that an emphasis on energy efficiency in construction is often unjustly held responsible for cost escalations, despite these expenditures being justifiable due to long-term savings and enhanced well-being. Matt also underscores that the construction industry has been making strides in improvement and is expected to continue doing so in the future – the pivotal roles of education, transparency, and collaborative efforts are propelling positive transformations within the construction sector. The increasing inclination toward quality and sustainability in construction is evident, with builders and tradespeople keen to exhibit their expertise and enhance service quality.

Thanks Matt! Listen to more from Matt in this week’s podcast here

Interested in diving deep into property development and becoming a DevelopHer? Book a call HERE, to discover how you too can renovate or build for profit, and change your life!

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