Lifespaces Group is a contemporary builder creating limited-edition, luxury homes designed by Australia’s most innovative architects. They work across Geelong, Surfcoast, and the Bellarine Peninsula, and their approach is like no other builder – they commission leading architects to design a signature series of limited edition homes, and then to maintain exclusivity, they only build up to 10 homes of each design. This approach allows them to combine the uniqueness and innovation of a bespoke architectural builder, with the fixed costs and fixed timeframes of a production builder.
“We give clients really high quality homes, and just as importantly, we give them certainty,” says Grant Downie, owner and founding director. “Clients really enjoy that. They enjoy not having to worry about their budget blowing out or when it’s going to be built.”
Grant started Lifespaces Group along with fellow owner and director Simon Babb. Together, the two of them have over 40 years’ experience working in the premium building industry. Over the course of the careers, they have earned extensive experience in every facet of building, and they worked with some of Australia’s most established building groups. In those roles, they were able to recognize where the industry was not meeting the needs of the market.
“We used to do a lot of high end projects where an architect would send out the design, three or four builders would tender it, and the winning bidder gets the project,” Grant recalls. “We did that for about 10 years, but we saw that there were some major flaws with that process. Clients would get really frustrated. The timeframes and budgets would often blow out. Five years ago, Grant and Simon started Lifespaces Group with the goal of doing things in a way that provided more certainty upfront for clients.
“Our business model is we invite talented architects to design a series of homes,” Grant explains. “We fully cost those homes up-front, and then we go to market with a unique product that’s fully-designed and documented and ready to go. So clients are able to access these great designs without the uncertainty of a fully custom build.”
With Lifespaces Group, compared to the vast majority of custom builders, “timeframes are a lot more certain” Grant says. Costs are also more certain – the price is given up-front, and it’s guaranteed to be accurate. There’s no chance of that with Lifespaces Group.
“We came up with this business model after seeing so much frustration in clients,” Grant says. “They would go through quite a lengthy design process, only to discover the design that they had fallen in love with was coming in at a price that was way above what they could afford. Then they would have to let go of their dream home. We thought that we had to do something to help those people. We wanted to give them that certainty up-front.”
Grant and Simon also wanted to give clients premium quality homes designed by industry-leading architects. They didn’t want to churn out cookie-cutter homes. They wanted to give every client something special – and they wanted to offer it at a more affordable price point.
To achieve that balance, the company decided to build only 10 of each design, before retiring that design forever.
“That gives the customer some exclusivity, while also allowing us to achieve some cost efficiencies,” Grant explains.
Today, Lifespaces Group’s projects typically range in value from $700,000 to $1.5 million. They are still in the midst of their inaugural release, which was designed by Auhaus Architecture. They initially released five designs – called Scandi House, Courtyard House, Double Court House, Bluestone House and Frame House – and three more designs are set to be released in 2022.
When Lifespaces Group first approached Auhaus, the design brief they gave was “actually quite simple.”
“When you go to market, you need to go with something that’s going to appeal to a large audience,” Grant says. “You have to give the general populace what they’re after.”
In this case, that meant every home needed to have four bedrooms, two living areas, a bathroom ensuite, a separate powder room, and an oversized double garage.
“That was the basic accommodation that we wanted to see in each home,” Grant says. “From our research, that’s what we found that people wanted.”
In the first series of five house designs, Lifespaces Group also asked Auhaus for three single-storey designs and two double-storeys. In the new release, they asked for another single and two more double storey designs. Other than that, Grant says, they were hands-off – they let Auhaus freely express themselves.
“When it came to the style, we didn’t give Auhaus any guidance. We wanted them to have free expression. We went to them because we like what they do, so we didn’t want to dictate to them how the homes should look. We wanted them to be free to come up with something that they themselves liked.”
The response to the Auhaus release has been very positive, Grant says.
“The homes not only look good, they are very functional. They make sense. The layouts make sense. The people who are living in these homes absolutely love them. We’ve had incredible feedback.”
The response to the Lifespaces Group model has been just as enthusiastic, Grant adds.
“Clients have loved the certainty in the timeframes and the certainty in the cost,” he says. “The most common feedback we get is ‘We love how easy the process is.’ Some of the most common stress points in a build come from uncertainty in regards to the budget and the timeframe, and we’ve removed those from the process. That helps clients to relax. It makes the whole process more enjoyable.”
Suppliers and subcontractors
The success of Lifespaces Group, according to Grant, is not just a credit to their model or their architecture – it’s also a credit to their roster of suppliers and subcontractors, who consistently deliver to an extremely high quality standard.
“Our suppliers are a big part of what we do,” Grant says. “The materials you choose contribute to the longevity and the functionality of the homes you’re building. We make sure that we’re always choosing high quality products.”
“We also make sure we choose suppliers who really stand behind their product,” he adds. “That’s a big part of how we select people. Inevitably in the building industry, issues will arise, but we work with suppliers who stand by their product and deal with those issues quickly. They are a great support to us.”
The same goes for the company’s roster of subcontractors and trades – most of those partners have been working with Grant and Simon for 10 to 15 years.
“We’ve been building in this area for a long time,” Grant says. “We know who the best people are, and we’ve been using them for over a decade. They have an in-depth understanding of our expectations and how they understand how to reach that level.”
“We don’t go after the cheapest contractor, and we don’t jump at the cheapest supplier,” he adds. “We use people who we know consistently produce a good product, consistently produce a good job. That goes a long way to ensuring the home is built to last.”
“When I speak to clients three of four years later, and they go ‘I love my house,’ it’s because they’re not having things regularly fail on them,” he says. “The taps are still working. The sliding doors are continuing to slide in a quality way. That’s really important to us, and that’s thanks to our suppliers.”
The next steps
Lifespaces Group will release three new house designs by Auhaus Architecture in 2022. Comprising one single storey and two double storey plans, these designs meet different needs, while also staying true to the same accommodation principles of the first designs. “Our designs to date have been flexible, and we expect that to continue”, Grant says.
Lifespaces Group affirms that the new designs carry the Auhaus stamp of innovative architectural design along with top quality craftsmanship.
In the longer term, Lifespaces Group expects to expand in a careful and considered way. Grant says the company currently has a ‘small boutique family business type of feel,’ where every employee enjoys what they do, and every customer receives personal attention.
“We never want to become a really large company where clients become just a number,” Grant says. “It’s important to us that we maintain a size where we know every client very well. We want to provide them a really personal service”.
For more on Lifespaces Group, their latest releases, and their suppliers and brand partners – and to get in touch with Grant, Simon and their team – visit https://www.lifespacesgroup.com.au/