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Niseko Construction Do's and Don'ts - Part 2

Feb 08, 2024
Niseko Construction

It has been 14 years since I wrote this guest article on 360Niseko, and I still get regular feedback from folks. So by popular demand, here is Part 2 of Niseko Construction Do's and Don'ts!

Do leverage the experience of your local partners. Sounds obvious, right? It happens surprisingly often that people assume we don't know or haven't looked hard enough. For example, I occasionally get grilled about why we don't install western style jacuzzis anymore (insulated for external use). Well, there are no suppliers in Hokkaido, and even worse is getting a technician to come up and fix a broken one. In winter. With guests in residence who are paying top dollar and complaining loudly. The reality is the Japanese don't use western jacuzzis, and the only place you see the (uninsulated ones) is in love hotels, public swimming pools and onsens. So can we import and install them? Yes. Should we? Hell no. By all means ask the questions and challenge some responses, but if you are getting good advice, accepting it and looking for alternatives can save you months of barking up the wrong tree.

Don't assume your offshore architect can do it better. Drawing pretty pictures is only part of completing a home, and designing to a budget is an art in itself. Even a "second rate" local architect is going to have 20 years of experience, successes and failures, and built-up relationships to draw upon. I see this play out most often in the engineering, which is heavily influenced by Japan's strict earthquake requirements, and more locally the snow loading requirements of Kutchan/Niseko. A local architect will often have a pretty good idea of achievable spans, incremental cost increases, and downstream design implications like beam heights. And when making submission drawings for a design set done overseas, there are inevitably a lot of groans and arguing as the local design code and building costs make their mark. Don't get me wrong - if there is an overseas architect whose work sets your hair on fire, by all means engage and enjoy the work for years to come. Just be aware that beyond the additional professional fees, there might be some unforeseen costs down the road.

Do engage a property manager early in the planning, and request their feedback before you sign off on plans. These are the people who will have to deal with any knock-on effects from poor planning. The simple truth is people don't call the architect to come dig them out because the snow falls in the wrong direction, they call the manager. And these folks quite likely have seen mistakes by an assortment of different architects and builders, and know full well the cost implications of living with them. Sometimes it can feel like stepping into a cold shower to get this practical feedback, especially during the creative and fun early stages of planning. By leveraging the property manager's experience, you can save on running costs later on, and also enjoy your property more. If you are not engaging a locally based project manager to run your project, the early presence of the property manager is even more critical.

Don't assume that importing finishing materials and furniture is cheaper. The boat to Tomakomai is not that expensive. The freight from port to Niseko is punitive. For a single house, it is almost always better to source within Japan. You can save yourself about a million yen on import costs (which you don't enjoy), and use this money towards better quality furniture that you will enjoy for years. For those with existing properties looking to upgrade their furniture, Taiga can source and install some beautiful pieces for you with our furniture service.

Do put the time into the early planning to keep the cost down, because it is really hard to reverse engineer things like boilers, window placement, and electrical. This comes back to leveraging the local experience. In the early stages of a project, all the numbers are large, and the relatively small running costs don't get the attention they deserve. Immediately after completion there is a happy glow, but by year two reality usually sets in.

The above is by no means a "top five" list! More to come down the road...

By Keith Rodgers
Managing Director

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