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Environmental Design

This week Defign profiles one of ADNZ’s newer professional members, Fiona Macpherson.

Fiona's interest in architectural design started at a young age - shuffling through building papers at just 11 years old.

"I decided to do what I do because my parents built a house when I was a kid and we lived in a garage next to it during construction. I was absolutely fascinated by the plans, I just couldn't put them down. It was an amazing experience and I have never changed my mind about my career path since."

She went on to study Draughting at Otago University - it was the 90's and the building act was just coming in. She says student life was highly enjoyable, and she learned a lot that fuelled her passion even further.

"I just really love buildings and always have - all buildings of all shapes and sizes. Even now I have trouble driving my car sometimes. I’m just so fascinated by all the buildings I see."

Fiona specialises in residential design and residential renovations. Although she's very passionate about commercial spaces, she says working on residential projects has allowed her to prioritise family life as well.

"You need to work really big hours to be successful in the commercial sector. Moving into residential design is probably not a transition I would have made if it hadn't been for my family and wanting to spend more time with them. But it is something I am really enjoying."

Fiona's also involved with a company called Black Hut Designs. They build very small houses from 20m2 through to 160m2. But don't let their size fool you - they're fully functional, permanent homes.

"Kepler Hut is one example that's had a bit of attention. It's only 100m2 but has two bedrooms, a bathroom, study and open plan kitchen. Plus it's transportable and environmentally friendly," says Fiona.

One of Fiona's biggest inspirations is her current tutor, Jerome Partington. He's running the Living Building Challenge which shares information on sustainable building practices.

"It guides you to do not only what is sustainable, but also restorative. So it's not just neutral, but actually making the world a better place."

She's learning about net zero energy homes - they're built from locally sourced, sustainable materials and aim to produce only the amount of energy that the people living in it consume. This involves things like solar generated power with any excess energy created sent out to the grid.

Fiona's so passionate about the cause that she's set to build her own net zero energy house next year in Parklands, Christchurch to replace her earthquake-damaged home. The plans are drawn up, all she's waiting on is the building consent.
"I'm super proud of my house - I love environmental projects, and believe that we should be doing more to ensure we take opportunities like generating solar power, and looking at how we can do things better. This doesn't have to be more expensive, it's just trading one thing for another."

In an industry dominated by men, Fiona's found being a female architectural designer gives her a fresh perspective.

"It's a really personal thing to design a house for someone, and to work through that process with them. Women in this line of work think differently to the men, and we're more about reading our clients and how they want to use their space. I think women tend to me more in tune with their clients and understand them as people."

As one of ADNZ's newer members, Fiona's really found her feet. She enjoys the community feel of the organisation, and says it's always helpful to be able to speak to other designers around New Zealand. She is enjoying the leadership opportunities available at ADNZ and has already become part of the Canterbury/Westland Regional Executive.

"It's all about just about where I’m going with my own business, being a professional, and having those peers that can I approach about things. It's really exciting to be part of."

ADNZ makes keeping on top of business practices manageable, producing high quality business templates and contractual documents for member use. ADNZ members are at the forefront of architectural design in New Zealand, and the organisation actively promotes its members through its established social media channels. The highly coveted annual Architectural Design Awards provide an excellent platform for exposure to the market, as well as valuable media attention. ADNZ also ensures its members have access to support and advice when they need it, along with an online CPD record, ADNZ online Chat, regularly updated terms of engagement and other must-have documentation.

You can check out more of Fiona's work on her ADNZ profile: