Winning the House of the Year national category for “Kowhai House”

I hopped in my truck and drove 45 minutes out of Christchurch into the beautiful hills of Ashley Gorge. The clients, who had been introduced to me by an architect we work closely with, were lovely. I felt I could work well with them. First meetings with clients are really important – they help me to get a sense of who the clients are and what matters to them. These meetings often establish the tone of the project and how we’ll work together. 

The clients had a sample piece of bright yellow colour steel and told me it was the cladding for the house … I must admit I went away thinking, what on earth would you want a bright yellow house for?

The clients were getting a couple of prices for the job so I wasn’t guaranteed to get it. I was keen – a hill site, lined in plywood with curved walls and with such a beautiful backdrop … I knew it would be a special project.

Although we weren’t the cheapest price, we got the job. The contract was awarded a few days before the Christmas holidays – a great way to end 2017 with an exciting project to start in the new year.

I’d always wanted to enter the Registered Master Builders House of the Year and to be judged against my peers in such a prestigious competition. We planned to enter this project in the competition from the outset. The building crew needed to share my passion for this project and go the extra mile where required. Every single contractor on the job was handpicked along with the staff. They exceeded mine and the clients’ expectations – have a read of the client testimonial.

We were well into the project when the clients explained that the design was inspired by kōwhai tree. The polished concrete floor, the yellow cladding and the plywood linings were all parts of the tree – it all made a lot more sense.

In every architectural build there’s the odd hiccup, but because of our great relationship with the clients and the architect – combined with our experience – we were able to work out the best solutions and keep all parties happy. We handed the house over in March 2019 and had to wait until the following year to enter the competition.

In early 2020, we geared up to complete minor works prior to competition judging. Then COVID 19 hit, sending the whole country into lockdown. I was gutted, convinced the competition would be cancelled.

Thankfully lockdown ended and we were full steam ahead preparing for competition judging. We went all out making sure everything was perfect: The painting, cleaning, presentation … I was at a loss as to what more to do to score points.

Judging day went well but the judges never give much away. We had a long four months to wait until the regional results would be revealed, with the national awards following a few weeks later.

I invited the architect and the clients to the regional awards night in Christchurch … no pressure!  The clients were so passionate about the project  and were expecting to do well. I reminded them it was just a competition and the house was a winner regardless.

I don’t usually get nervous, but I was feeling tight in the stomach as this was D-day. We won not just a gold award but the category too – we were the highest scoring gold award winner in our category for the region. All the blood, sweat and tears were worth it – and now had a shot at the national title.

To do so, we needed to make it into the top 100 gold award winners in New Zealand. We were stoked to make the cut. Due to Covid restrictions, the national gala was a live virtual event so we got the team together,  had drinks and nibbles and waited for the result.

I watched the announcement come through for our category and saw we were up against some very impressive projects. I remember feeling a little bit nervous, then saw the words.  Winner: LM Built.  

I jumped up with a scream of joy, I couldn’t believe we had just won the national title. It took some time for it to sink in and even now writing this blog, it doesn’t seem real. We are so proud of the amazing effort from our team, after eight years of hard slog we managed to add a Master Builders House of the Year national category title to our resume.

Ultimately, most satisfying part of all is seeing the joy and satisfaction our clients have with their home.