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Natural Affinity

Linea™ Weatherboard and Titan® Façade Panel to the fore as an Albany garage goes camouflage.

With the housing boom over the last 15 years, the 'spec house' has become an increasingly common sight. They're called spec houses because they are speculative, built without a buyer to showcase a 'design and build' service or similar.

Affinity Homes definitely fit into the 'or similar' category. While they are technically a design and build service, they pride themselves on being a boutique company, offering architecturally designed solutions to one-off projects. Affinity Homes and architect Alistair Dodds created this project as a spec house for Affinity's services, intending to sell it, but in the end Mark Wilkinson from Affinity moved into the house with his family.

The design and build team decided on James Hardie Linea Weatherboard and Titan Façade Panel because of their durability and suitability to one of the key design tenets: negative detailing. What makes this house special, at least on the outside, is that it has a two-car garage that is virtually invisible from the street.

Mark says he didn't want the garage to be a feature from the road. "When we briefed the architect, we said we wanted to hide the garage and he came up with a design that utilised negative detailing to do this. The design was not without challenges though - the extra weight of the fibre cement face panels meant the door weighed around 280kgs. We had to install anti-sags and a heavy duty motor to cope with the load,"he says.

The negative detailing of the Titan Façade Panels also serves to break up the front wall of the home. Because of the desire to make the most of the height-to-boundary restrictions, the house is as tall as it can be. The subtle negative detailing of the Titan Façade Panels ensures that the building looks linear without being monolithic.

Mark Wilkinson and the team at Affinity worked very closely with James Hardie's technical team to make sure they installed everything correctly. Mark says that whenever there was doubt about the installation procedure, a James Hardie technical advisor would consult and even come to the site where necessary. "With an out-of-the-ordinary design like this garage door, there are always going to be design anomalies - joins that aren't in the manual. To ensure the future owner of this home doesn't run into any trouble down the road, we double-checked every detail to make sure the design still conforms to the James Hardie 15-year product warranty," Mark says.

With spec homes, there are essentially two ways of doing them. One is the bare essentials approach, where you build a shell and let the buyer personalise it. The second is the one Affinity likes to call their turn-key approach – deliver a house with all the bells and whistles ready for living, or as Mark jokes, a house you wouldn't mind living in yourself. The house has under-floor heating, top of the line joinery and a high degree of automation. Mark believes that this premium housing model is beginning to take hold in New Zealand, with New Zealanders beginning to see the value in not just investing in property, but quality housing on that property.

While Mark and his family are still living there at the moment, they intend to sell it in the near future. When they do, prospective buyers can be sure Affinity's futuristic design has been well implemented by durable and stylish James Hardie fibre cement products.

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