Budgeting for a renovation or new home is essential.
Yet when rebuilding a house after bushfire, budgeting for your project can be complex and challenging, especially if your funds are not enough.
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.
So let’s dive in.
Amelia Lee + Chris Clarke (Builder and SWALE Modular)
[Amelia Lee:] You also had financial challenges, of course to tackle. Because, you know … many people when they’re rebuilding might find that they’re under insured, or that their insurance policy doesn’t cover the extent that they thought it would.
You personally talk about the fact that your insurance was covering the end of the build rather than the value of the project as a completed home. And so you had a smaller budget to work with, then probably would have been ideal for that area and dealing with a BAL Flame Zone.
How did you go about mapping out that budget to get the result that you did? You know, in terms of juggling where you would invest and what you would spend money on and tackling all of those kinds of additional requirements?
[Chris Clarke]: I guess I’m a very practical person. So to me it was virtually taking the whole project often, and working out what I wanted amongst it, and reducing it in size and, and trying to, as I say, put two hands around it … and not let it escape.
And in order to do that we were actually lucky to have it insured. So I was working with a budget that we needed to control and, of course, if you need to control those sort of things, you need to provide your own backup plans in every situation.
Of course when it’s your own project, and it’s a design-construct, you can do that. It makes it a lot harder when you’ve got a camera waving around you all the time. And in some cases, it would have been a hell of a lot nicer actually not to have a camera and you can, you know … do things whenever you liked and wanted to do, and whenever the funds allowed you to do things.
I’ve always said in life that you need to have so many backup plans behind you. So, we would just say okay, what do we want to spend the money on? And sum what’s more important. And if that was very passionate about that and close to your heart, boom. You would push more money over there and less somewhere else.
[Amelia Lee:] It would have been interesting having the crew from Grand Designs there. I mean, it’s pretty typical for the episodes that somebody blows out their budget and it always costs more than they anticipated. But did you find that there was a level of accountability for you to a) get the project finished and b) to be measuring it and tracking it against your budget? And demonstrating that, you know, that that was part of your process?
[Chris Clarke]: It was an interesting process, because the premise … I was the last one on two grand is virtually one of the first ones finished and … They said to me, do you want to actually build a house for Grand Designs or go to Europe? And I said both. So I hopped on a plane and went to Europe and they tried to put a lot of pressure on us, because of course they had a lot of pressure.
It was the first series, so we were sort of pushed into really trying to finish. And now you’ve got an idea of this. We’re still putting paintings up and standing on the kitchen table and I’m trying to work out what we’ve spent. They were really wanting to actually get this to Sydney, to, I think to get another series, and get the whole shooting match organised. Because they were losing homes as well pretty quickly, in amongst it.
But yes, it does add a lot of extra pressure and financial pressure. One of the guys that I was speaking to from Grand Designs … he had a place and I don’t know how he ever got through it, because he was trying to find money under every rock.
[Amelia Lee:] It looked like you all had it completely in hand. So, very calm, cool and collected! Although I did note that your team had a lot of pleasure attacking you in paintball so I thought there must have been some behind the scenes argy-bargy happening in the background!
[Chris Clarke]: There’s always a little bit of argy-bargy in building isn’t there? Oh, we need someone on the client side, you know? That’s where I love what you’re doing. And I say it’s a very confusing space out there for homeowners. I need all the assistance they can get.
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