I stress this is a highly subjective account, based on opinions formed
over a few months of househunting/living. It is far from scientific
and I am no expert. Most houses are fairly new by british standards
and my experience of the houses is looking at and renting houses
new-15 years old.
Here new build is not predominately monoculture estates. Typically,
people buy the land then select a builder (although land and build
packages are becoming more common). Consequently there is a much
broader mix of appearance. Also, you pick your builder based on
designs and cost, not area, so the competition is much stronger and
in general (possibly controversial here) the quality seems to be
somewhat higher. I really, really like this system.
I’ve checked the houses we’ve looked at carefully. Walls are square,
floors flat and the doors are all hung properly (unlike most new
builds by the big companies in the UK i’ve looked at over the last few
years). Quality of all the finishing is in general much higher than in
the UK for the equivalent standard of house. Irather suspect this is
due to the separate procurement of land and builder – in the UK my
experience is you pick the area and are pretty much stuck with the
builder or else buy an older property.
Plumbing. Joy – so much better than the UK. Why is british plumbing so
crap? Here I have decent water pressure from every tap. No cold tank
in the loft. Shower (fully tiled) isn’t regarded by the builders as a
luxury. New houses all seem to have combi boilers – pretty much
instantaneous hot water at very high pressure from any tap even if
running bath, shower and dishwasher all at once. It is very common,
given the climate, to have solar hot water, I believe it is required
in Sydney for most new houses now. Cuts the running costs here to next
to nothing if using an evacuated tube system and to very inexpensive
for any flat panel system or heat pump (40-50% saving on fuel bill
with these). Water is scarce here by UK standards with water
restrictions every day but they manage without the storage tank and
can get the pressure right. Why can’t we, especially in new build
Double glazing is pretty much unheard off. This strikes me as a
mistake. It gets really hot here and this would help keep the heat
out. Roof insulation is pretty much as per the UK for this reason (any
uninsulated house is an oven by lunchtime in summer). Instead windows
that open fully and that have integral insect screens are de rigeur to
allow the air to circulate and keep the (interesting and varied and
occasionally dangerous) wildlife out. No reason you couldn’t manage
both (except cost of course). Our house gets hot by 3-4. I reckon with
DG we’d probably stay cool and save on the aircon except for the very
hottest days – you can feel the heat from the windows on a 40 oC day.
No central heating whatsoever – might get a dual cycle aircon if lucky
but this costs a fortune to run. However, tend to have bayonet
fittings in living areas for gas fires (and often outside for the
barbie too). Coming into autumn now and I think I’ll miss the old
flame effect gas fire in a firplace in winter.
Air con is getting more common, particularly in new build. However,
I’m rather surprised to see they don’t do this that well. Most of the
systems are overpriced and underspecced. Typically they can’t cool the
whole house, the valves for switching air between zones tend to stick
and they only put temperature sensors in one room. This is a pain –
when using at night I’d like to keep the bedrooms cool but don’t care
about the lounge – it keeps cool with noone in and the TV off. The
only way to achieve this though is to set the temperature for the
lounge to be arctic so the aircon doesn’t cut out. Still only used it
a dozen times over summer (see next para) – must cost the folk using
it every day a fortune.
Older houses here tend to have large eave overhangs to shade the
windows from the high angle summer sun but allow the low angle winter
sun in. A lot of new houses rely on just aircon which is a waste –
we’ve both and hardly use the aircon. Without the overhang it would be
on all summer rather than just the 40+ days.
Leccy. The only thing significantly poorer than the UK. Domestic
circuit is 10 amps rather than 13 (out went the kettle and microwave).
All the fittings are generally more lightweight and less robust. Leccy
work here has to be by a qualified electician – diy is in principle
out for all but the most trivial of work. Same for gas. Sorry guys!
Reticulation is common in gardens. This is an automatic sprinkler
system. Great in theory but my experience is that it is prone to
faults, might just be ours. Pretty much necessary here – limited to
watering the garden twice a week. Some encouragement to move to
recycling greywater to the garden but not much takeup (pretty
expensive to fit new let alone retrofit and water isn’t that
expensive). However storage tanks for rainwater getting more and more
popular (but still far from common outside the beard and sandals
brigade/yuppieville). Whopping great tanks fitted to the downpipe to
take in the rainwater over winter for use in summer.