A Wealth of Experience

A Wealth of Experience add

ADNZ members all have unique backgrounds and stories to tell about their design journey. Many have worked in a number of different fields, and bring a wealth of experience and diversity to their current practice.

This week Defign sat down with Peter Davis to hear all about his design journey so far.

From office junior, to builder, to architectural designer and business owner - Peter Davis has an interesting and varied background that allows him to understand the full process of designing and building a residential or commercial project.

Like many designers, Peter's interest in design started at a young age.

"Even as a kid I liked mucking around, designing and building things. I loved playing around in Dad's workshop."

It was this early interest that lead him to study for a New Zealand Certificate in Architectural Draughting at Wellington Polytechnic.

"In those days, the course was one year full-time, and three years part-time - you had to have a relevant job before continuing into the second year. It was a really good way to get the necessary qualifications and theory whilst gaining actual work experience. I really enjoyed the course, but I have to say that I was pleased to finish night classes!" says Peter.

His first job after completing his study was as office junior with the Haughton Partnership in Wellington - a very well-known and well respected practice which was established over 100 years ago and responsible for some of Wellington's architectural gems. Over the next eight years, he worked for three architectural practices, and then spent three years employed by a builder.

"This was a great learning opportunity because it allowed me to develop design skills, along with quantity surveying work, contract administration and hands-on building. The experience gained from this, along with the excellent contacts made, allowed me to go out on my own as Peter Davis Architecture."

Over the next 15 years, Peter gradually increased staff numbers within his practice and increased the scope of the work he was undertaking.

"My focus right from the start was to design houses in a smart and efficient way, and to maximise the potential of the site and the client's budget."

From well-proportioned layouts, Peter says he developed a passion for sustainable and energy efficient principals that he attempts to incorporate into all of his work. Peter has now become a NZGBC Homestar assessor, which enables him to formally evaluate the energy efficiency, comfort and sustainability of his projects.

In 2008, Peter Davis Architecture merged with Jona Architectural to form AD Architecture. This move allowed Peter and his new business partner, Jon Ambler to develop a top-of-the-line BIM CAD operation and a graphics creative arm, along with employing a wider range of skilled staff.

"This realised our vision to have an architectural practice capable of working on larger projects, and a wider range of commissions alongside our residential work," says Peter.

Last year, AD Architecture shifted to a new location, with bigger premises that has allowed them to start a sister company - The Smarter Building Centre. "We now have an interactive product display space that allows customers to see selected materials and systems "hand on." The Centre also runs seminars and workshops for builders, designers and the general public.

One of Peter's favourite residential designs is 'Waa Rata' - a house on a rural site in the Ngatiawa Valley on the Kapiti Coast. The house was to be built by a small creek next to a large rata tree.

"The clients wanted a sustainable approach to the design and use of materials - including being 'off the grid' - so the creek is used for a small hydroelectric system that provides power to the house."

Peter says they decided to use Timbercrete as the main cladding for the house as it is a building block that doesn't require framing or finishing plaster, and is manufactured from a base of recycled sawdust.

He believes Waa Rata is a successful design because of the way it fits naturally with its environment.

"It sits beautifully on the site, with pedestrian access across the creek to the house. I also like the way the garage and workshop area is discretely removed from the house. It's a very comfortable home to live in, with excellent passive solar heating and ventilation."

Peter has also worked on a number of alteration projects, including 'Lawton House' which underwent a huge transformation. He worked on this home for clients who he had previously designed a new home for. These clients were approaching retirement and wanted a smaller house and section - after previously living on a lifestyle block.
"The existing house was in a perfect location for them, but it required a lot of upgrading and modernising to become a comfortable home for retirement. We rationalised the layout of the house, including contemporary features such as an ensuite, internal garage access and open plan living," says Peter.

Practical considerations included improved insulation, new cladding and windows, better heating and more natural light. A new gable feature provides an afternoon outdoor sitting area and a welcoming aesthetic to the front of the home.

"Overall we are really pleased with the result. While it was certainly challenging to work within the confines of the existing site and house plan, we were able to achieve the desired layout for the client without making the house larger, or involving too much demolition," says Peter.

Since first going out on his own, Peter has benefited from the support of ADNZ. He first joined the organisation in 1997, and says he has valued the great support network of likeminded colleagues, along with CPD and collaboration opportunities. He says that belonging to ADNZ has been important to him as a business owner, especially during periods of change in the building industry. His membership of the organisation is also important to his clients and gives them a sense of comfort in the professionalism of his practice.

When Peter first joined the organisation, the Wellington membership was smaller than many other regions, so he was able to take the opportunity to get involved with the regional executive team, becoming the regional chair and delegate before being elected onto the ADNZ National Board.

"This level of involvement allowed me to develop new skills in governance as well as opening up opportunities to network with a greater number of talented and experienced designers within ADNZ and the wider industry. I have also been a regular participant in the ADNZ | Resene Architectural Design Awards, with some success. The ever growing marketing power of the organisation has been a real boost for business - and the preparation of awards gives us a lot of good imagery to display in our office and on our website."

For more information on Peter, you can check out his ADNZ profile:

Peter Davis ADNZ Profile