Tips for designing a bed and breakfast in New Zealand

Tips for designing a bed and breakfast in New Zealand

(Picture by Daniel Barnes on Unsplash)

People think that any building can be turned into Airbnb. However, it is not like that if architects and planners opinions are anything to go by. The plan and design have to be exquisite to prevent complaints from neighbours, comply with the regulations, and maximise the space and number of guests. 

Corner and front site would be the best location
How to choose an appropriate location for bed and breakfast? Wayne Wang, a planner with GUC Consultants, told Yiju New Zealand that quiet, convenience and safety are the most important factors. 

Generally speaking, he would recommend front or corner site in an urban zone, which will minimise interruption to neighbours. Comparatively speaking, a front site will have less interruption to those dwellers at back site. 

Meanwhile, front site is better for public surveillance to ensure community safety in the long term. No one would like to stay at a bed and breakfast on a hidden or closed back site. After all, safety is the top priority for a tourist in an unfamiliar city. 

If the bed and breakfast is more focused on customers who like to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the owner should be more careful if they operate a cottage by the sea, mountain or forest, which are often located at a remote rural area. The landlord should install outdoor lighting system to ensure safe traffic at night since there is no public lighting system in most rural areas in New Zealand. Outdoor lighting is especially important for tourists, unfamiliar with local road condition, to drive on the narrow private path without guardrails. 

If it is outdoor parking, the owner should consider providing solid parking spot, such as a formed driveway or pavement.  The outdoor of New Zealand is usually wet and slippery due to rainy weather. Formed driveway or pavement will reduce the chance of accident significantly. Same is the case for sidewalks. 

Consider the flexibility of housing purpose
Before construction, many elements determining the performance of the bed and breakfast have already been embedded. Above all, the architect needs to consider how to reflect the flexibility of a house’s purpose, and build a house that can accommodate the needs of various customer group and housing purpose. 

Generally speaking, a house built for Airbnb may be sold or switched to owner-occupation later on. If the owner has a similar plan, the kitchen should be designed as normal size to accommodate the owner-occupation needs later on. 

In addition, Robben Han, Design Manager of Vikon – an Auckland based architectural design company, told Yiju New Zealand that consideration should be taken for the future owner-occupation purpose from design to material. Such as using lighter clap-board for exterior walls. Brick not only take longer to be installed, but also are harder to be remove. 

Be cautious about number of kitchens to prevent excessive compliance cost
In Wayne's opinion, the criteria for a house for rent should be stricter than owner-occupied ones. Firstly, factors like house condition, structure, fire-proofing, damp-proofing and insulation should comply with the New Zealand Building Code. Secondly, both the interior and exterior construction should meet the local authority's planning standard. 

He emphasised the principle of "one kitchen one house". Landlords should not build several illegal kitchens aiming to rent the house to different guests. Meanwhile, they should consult with local authority or planning consulting firm for any alteration. Any additional kitchen should be reviewed to meet urban planning regulations. The landlord needs to apply for resource consent and pay for development contribution fee for anything beyond permission already given. 

He reminds investors never to breach regulations for immediate interest. Otherwise, they may have to pay a significant fine later, and restore the property as per local authority's order. Furthermore, the insurance company will not settle the claim for a property without proper consent. 

Enhance the usage of living space
Under certain circumstances, a living room can be converted into a bedroom, which will attract families or groups with more people. 

Unlike residential properties, interior space of an Airbnb house needs to be fully used. Robben indicated that maximisation of living space usually means detached garage rather than an attached one, to make space for a room. 

Additionally, one living room could be shared by two independent bedrooms subject to reasonable design.  Robben advised living room could be put in the middle with two to three bedrooms on both sides equipped with sliding doors. The entire space for one group of guests or separate space for two groups of guest could be switched back and forth with the sliding door. 

Also, the space superiority of yard could be exerted to some degree . Dylan Huang, founder of Archiland and Secretary General of New Zealand Chinese Building Industry Association (NZCBIA) told Yiju New Zealand that a prefabricated tiny house of 10m2 can accommodate a double bed, living room, writing desk, pantry (without water). Larger trailer cabin will accommodate a double bed, dining room, kitchen, and toilet. "As long as the yard is to a certain size, professional architects will be able to avoid the approval procedure in accordance with regulations to meet local authority's requirement."  

"More bedrooms do not guarantee considerable revenue for the bed and breakfast. The owner needs a balance to ensure residential quality and comply with authority's regulations". 

Wayne pointed out that adequate and warm outdoor living area, optimal distance between houses, standard bedroom will instantly enhance the overall residential quality of the bed and breakfast. It will then bring the owner considerable revenue and returning guests. 

As per the standard of Auckland Unitary Plan, the smallest two-person bedroom must have a dimension of 3m in depth and 3m in width, Wayne informed. He adds, “The outdoor living area must have a minimum dimension of 4m in depth and 5m in width, and must not be located to the south of the house. A principal living room must have an outlook space with a minimum dimension of 6m in depth and 4m in width. Where the room has two or more external faces with windows the outlook space must be provided from the face with the largest area of glazing. A principal bedroom must have an outlook space with a minimum dimension of 3m in depth and 3m in width.” 

Cost reduction
Meanwhile, Robben noted that some Airbnb investors have started using prefabrication to reduce construction time and cost. Nowadays, there are manufactures producing standardised bathrooms and walls to be assembled on the construction site. 

Prefabrication is an emerging construction practice. How much will it save in cost? 

Dylan, who has researched and harnessed prefabrication for a long time, compared the costs of building a house with four bedrooms and one living, using both conventional construction practice, and prefabrication. 

The cost of conventional construction practice is minimum $350,000 and it will take nine months from design to finish. Nevertheless, the cost of a prefabricated tiny house is maximum $150,000 and the residents can move in after 2-4 weeks of assembly. 

Dylan has a backyard of 200m2, and he plans to build a property of four bedrooms and one living room on it using two trailer cabins and three prefabricated tiny houses of 10m2, including a suite. At present, the components are being manufactured. 

Moreover, if an older house is being converted into a bed and breakfast, Prefinish should be considered. 

The conventional way of building a partition in New Zealand includes "timber frame + plaster wood + plastering + paint". Prefinish is made up of wall assembly like Lego and colourful paint-free panels with various patterns, which will accelerate the construction speed 3-5 times. 

In the field of prefabrication, use of modular technology can further reduce the assembly time.  

Care about guests feeling
An ordinary living space will differentiate the master bedroom and other bedrooms with size. 

Robben noted that an Airbnb house should be designed with equal size, and each room should have as many windows as possible for daylight. Guests will have a comparison if there are huge differences in size and daylight between two rooms at the same price. 

If the owner wants to put writing desk and sofa in the room, the unit size of Airbnb room will be bigger than an ordinary residence. The smallest two-person room of ordinary residence is 10-12 m2, and such an Airbnb room will have to be 15 m2, according to Robben. 

In addition, the number of bathrooms should match the number of bedrooms. An Airbnb house will have more bathrooms than ordinary residence, according to Robben. Taking cost into consideration, there should be a reasonable ratio between guests and bathroom. If the bathroom is to be shared by guests, then the shower room and toilet should be designed separately. 

Usually, people living in Airbnb houses are strangers. That’s why Robben suggested that each room should be equipped with an outswing door, or be connected through a corridor. An interior or exterior stair could be utilised if it is a two-floor house. Nevertheless, an interior stair can hardly achieve perfect separation. 

"All these practices are to enhance guests’ privacy and comfort,” he concludes.  

- by Xiuyue Chen, first published in the Chinese property magazine Yiju New Zealand

Disclosure - Yiju New Zealand is owned by Pauline Gao, who also sits on the Advisory Board of Multicultural Times.

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