How do you create a design brief? Particularly after a traumatic event such as losing your home to bushfire?
Your home design brief is an important communication tool. Yet, when recovering after losing your home to bushfire, you can overlook creating one.
Learning how to write a design brief will help you in any renovation or building project, especially when rebuilding after bushfire. It will help establish the vision, and keep everyone on track towards the project outcome you desire.
In this interview, I speak with Chris Clarke, Builder and Director of SWALE Modular.
After losing his home in the 2009 Victorian fires in the Gippsland region, Chris embarked on the process of rebuilding on the same site.
His home Callignee II was featured in the first episode of Grand Designs Australia Season One.
Chris has an incredible story to share, and a lot of insights that are both practical and mindset related to really help anyone who is rebuilding or building in a bushfire prone area.
In this video, Chris talks with me about how to write a design brief, and how his home design brief helped with rebuilding his home.
So let’s dive in.
Amelia Lee + Chris Clarke (Builder and SWALE Modular)
[Amelia Lee]: Can I just touch on that brief?
Because I tell the Undercover Architect community how important it is to create a brief for your project. And some of the briefs, best briefs that I’ve read, actually almost treat the home like an extended family member. And tell the story of how the home is going to be, and what kind of life it’s going to create for them.
How did you go about writing your brief, particularly after such a traumatic event of losing your home on that site?
[Chris Clarke]: I think that your brief becomes your plan, doesn’t it? You know, you don’t achieve too many things until we can visualise them. So I really needed to get that brief right, and connect to it, you’ve got to put so much energy into. So, the other thing, you know, the great saying that ‘if you’re sailing west, you have to tell everyone where you’re sailing’. Because no one wants to be on board unless you’re going to somewhere that has some nice stops along the way.
So, that to me, it was a bit like: here’s the course. This is where we’re going. This is what’s going to happen amongst it. And this is where we’re going to end up. And Sean Hamilton used to always say ‘I’ve never met someone who holds the brief so well’. So that’s where you connect to your passion, that’s what you’ve got to achieve.
[Amelia Lee]: Yes, I think the power of the brief is to give you a place to come back to and ensure that you’re getting clarity around the decisions. That they’re always in alignment with that holistic vision that you had at the beginning. But so many people write it and then shelve it, and don’t remember to revisit it as they’re traveling their journey.
[Chris Clarke]: Probably a bit of it is robbed as well along the way. So many people have, for their own, probably, self interests and whatnot, steer people in directions that they don’t really want to go. It’s not so easy to hold your brief.
[Amelia Lee]: Did you find it difficult to stay committed to your vision? Particularly with a TV crew following you, and a bunch of well meaning people offering advice along the way? Did you find that you had to fight for your vision on the project?
[Chris Clarke]: I think in the industry, people offer advice all the time and I think it’s then working out whether it’s good advice or bad advice. It’s a big one. And so many people have opinions. And so many people like … (e.g.) even with the driveway in. And this driveway used to meander through and you would see the home from a different angle. And then it would actually take you away and then you’ll come back and it would bring you up to the house.
I remember a good friend of mine, who actually was a surveyor, saying, ‘why don’t you just put a driveway that just went straight?’ It’s like … because I didn’t want a straight driveway! So it, you know, we are who we are. So we build, and I think that the beautiful part is that we need to build, art, style properties that reflect who we are.
[Amelia Lee]: That’s music to my ears, Chris. I think it’s having … I think, if anything, for me … I see really strongly demonstrated in you and this project is that you got really clear on what you wanted to create. And you held really fast to that vision, and had courage in your decisions as you moved along the way.
So many people would question their judgment in certain ways and would have straightened the driveway or, you know, and lost that opportunity … Or being talked out of things that they thought that they were convinced by.
But I think it’s quite amazing to see, that particularly off the back of such a traumatic event, like losing your house for the first time, that you were still able to hold on to that sense of self. And that sense of connection with who you are, to deliver the home in a way that really reflected who you are. So it’s, yes, total kudos to you that you were able to do that.
[Chris Clarke]: Thank you. To me, it’s all about connection. It’s connecting to the environment. It’s connecting to what you want this place to be, and how you want it to actually look after you. Instead of being something that you’ve got to look after for the rest of your life.
This interview is part of our Rebuild + Build Better series.
Be sure to stay tuned as we share more information and expertise in helping you rebuild after bushfires, or build homes more resilient to climate conditions and in bushfire prone areas.
Resources mentioned in this video:
Lifestyle >>> LEARN MORE ABOUT CALLIGNEE II HERE
Grand Designs | Season 1, Episode 1 >>> WATCH THE EPISODE HERE
Swale Links and Resources