Living on a Construction Site

When we are preparing a design for Additions and Alterations to a residence, we are often asked if we can accommodate the family to live through the construction period.

Having done this myself I can offer advice from my own experiences.

My experience in the building industry goes well beyond the 33 years as an Architect (yes, I am that old)

As a child we never lived in a ‘finished’ house. You see – my father was a builder; he is officially retired, but he just can’t help himself and always has some small job on the go. Dad couldn’t help himself, when he found the next  opportunity to upgrade the living standards of his young family.

My parents couldn’t afford to keep living in the old house whilst the new one was being built. The old house was always sold to fund the new one. So as soon as settlement happened, we began our camping adventure.

It was like camping, usually one room was sealed off – often the garage, and we set up house whilst the rest of the home was completed. The garage would have a small, rather rough bathroom, sink, and a camp stove. The fridge and washing machine where also there. We slept on camping beds, and I do remember in one particular place, there was an old sheet hanging from the ceiling dividing mum and dad’s beds and us kids. When not at school, we had jobs to do to help with the new house. In the early stages my favourite was helping layout the floor boards- and trying to use the clamp that tightens the tongues and grooves, but cleaning up after trades is what I remember most. It was fun, and we learnt how to walk across the floor joists with confidence, and where to engrave our initials in the concrete, so no one noticed until it was too late.

It wasn’t just living on site whilst under construction, school holidays often involved working with Dad – there was always a manual job for us to do, we were very good at stacking bricks, and collecting the timber off cuts. My sister and I became a very competent team at the final cleaning before a project was handed over.

I look back on those days with fondness, and amazed how much I already understood about domestic building construction once I was studying architecture.

I’m also amazed that none of us siblings had a serious accident on any of the building sites. Oh, there was the occasional fall and scraping of the knees, hammered fingers, and once I recall my brother managed to miss aim with the nail gun and almost get it into his knee, it caused some major bruising and luckily nothing was broken

This sort of ‘fun’ isn’t allowed any more, and with good reason. Our Occupational Health and Safety regulations prevent children form being on building sites.

Since 2006–07, construction sites have had the fifth highest incidence rate of serious claims of all industries. With this in mind, the The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 is in place, with the aim to reduce the incidence of serious injury by at least 30% nationwide by 2022.

We have had a number of families live through renovations of their homes over the years, but it is an inconvenience to them – and the builders.

The building program must work around the family’s habitation. Often staged to ensure bathrooms are always available, and camping kitchens set up in some part of the house, and often moved around.

Depending on the scale of Additions and alterations to a residence, bedrooms can often remain for some time, but living spaces can often be difficult to manage. The whole staging program will cause delays in the construction time – which means a more expensive project. Further expenses would include increased insurance premiums.

The staging could be incorporated into the design program form early on.

It can be a little bit like camping, but much more messy. Structural works can cause some areas to be structurally unsafe for some periods, and not a place for children and others to inhabit.

The arrangements must be negotiated very carefully with the builder, and restricted areas must be established to ensure safety.

Depending on the types of working being carried out – we would advise whether it is a good idea to live through the construction period of your additions and alterations to your home. However, I would always urge on the side of caution. Especially where young children are concerned. Can you imagine what might happen to a toddler wondering off whilst living on a building site (I’d rather not)


Parkdale – camping kitchen

Our clients in this project where renovating the ground floor of their home in preparation for their retirement. Not works were carried out on the First floor, so sleeping and bathrooms on the first floor were not interrupted, however a ‘camping kitchen’ was set up on the Ground floor, which underwent a complete alteration. Our clients spent their weekends at their holiday farm











Our clients moved out during the renovation to their home in Camberwell. In fact they spent most of the time on holidays overseas. All design decisions were made prior to their departure. We Managed the construction process with the builder and detailed discussion over skype ensured any decisions required during construction were well informed and agreed.  A beautiful outcome for all concerned.












There is no way you could live through this




Our clients in Coburg originally required the building works to be staged. The rear studio to be built first, so the family could ‘camp out’ whilst additions and alterations to the house could be completed.

The plan was revised once the tenders for the building works. The increase in costs and construction time was going to cost more than renting alternative accommodation in the neighbourhood.




Our Oakleigh clients camped out the back in their caravan whilst their home underwent  major Additions and Alterations


If you are considering additions and alterations to your home, and not sure how you will be able to manage – we can assist you with the decision making process, and outline the options for you during the design process.

Barbara Yerondais



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