Home owners save by building up

Jack O’Kane in the attic bedroom his father, Jamie, built recently. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER Textile artist and teacher Fiona McKay in the artspace that was once an unused area under her Mangerton home. Picture: ROBERT PEET

A house under construction at Keiraville that has a multi-purpose garage with a room on top. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Home owners could help their bank balance and the environment by using existing space around the house rather than extending or moving, a Wollongong architect said yesterday.

Architect Andrew Conacher said creating rooms in roof and foundation cavities or garages saved money, and had the potential to minimise the urban sprawl that was robbing cities like Wollongong and Sydney of productive farming land.

“Using this type of space is a growing trend and should be encouraged,” Mr Conacher said.

“It’s one of the ways to reduce the housing footprint that is already encroaching on previously good farming land at places like West Dapto and Gerringong.

“I cringe when I travel through Gerringong and see the urban sprawl, which makes me wonder what artist Lloyd Rees would think of the landscape he once painted.”

Mr Conacher said many major cities – Wollongong included – knew land was running out 25 years ago, and it was time they started using existing residential developments more creatively.

He converted the empty space under his house at Mangerton into an art room for his wife four years ago. It was a success, and as a spare bedroom saved “significantly” on an extension.

Jamie O’Kane from Corrimal recently turned roof space in his duplex into a third bedroom for his two-year-old son, Jack.

“My wife, Bree, is having our second baby, so I was lying awake at night worrying about either moving or putting on an extra room, and we can’t really afford either at the moment,” he said.

He built a bedroom, a small office for his wife and a set of permanent stairs to safety specifications for his young son.

“We are really pleased because it came in at about $6000 compared to a major renovation of about $100,000 or the cost involved in moving to a bigger house,” Mr O’Kane said.

A Wollongong City Council spokesman said any conversion of roof or underfloor space would need to comply with the Building Code of Australia in terms of issues such as head clearance, light, ventilation, access and exits.

Development applications would be needed in some but not all conversions of this type.

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