Knock down rebuild or empty block?

Your current home isn’t working for you and you are ready to upgrade. A knock down rebuild is the perfect solution. But is it easier to just buy a completely empty block?

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, display home, Chapman, display home and Tudawalli place exterior at twilight
Homes by Howe’s new Display Home and knock down rebuild in Chapman makes the best use of a brownfield site.

The current knock down rebuild trend represents a major driver of change in Australian cities. But firstly, what is a knock down rebuild? It is a form of in situ re-investment driven by owners allowing them to stay in their current community. This kind of incremental and varied development is unique to post-war Australian suburbia. When building your dream home it is tempting to start afresh and buy a completely empty block of land. However, the knock down rebuild process has its benefits. It allows you to stay in your community and has a positive role in the renewal of ageing housing stock. The major difference between a knock down rebuild and greenfield site is the foundation works. Homes by Howe has compiled the ultimate guide to foundation works for a knock down rebuild verse Greenfield site.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, work site with half of original house demolished and yellow digger
Site clearing at a Homes by Howe project.

What is a Greenfield site?

A Greenfield site is a block that has never been built on before. They are often in undeveloped, agricultural areas zoned for urban development. They offer you a completely blank canvas to work off of. This gives you design flexibility as you don’t have to work around pre-existing structures. Greenfield sites in the Canberra region include Denman Prospect, Taylor and Whitlam.

What is a knock down rebuild site?

A knock down rebuild site has been previously developed or affected by previous development. This means there may still be structural elements or groundwork that needs updating or removing. Before your builder can begin construction on your new home they will need to demolish the previous structure. Some builders will refer you to a demolition contractor for this phase. If you hire a knock down rebuild specialist they will be able to carry out all phases of the build.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, top down view of concrete slab being poured
Greenfield sites give you a blank canvas to work from.

What are the advantages of building on a knock down rebuild site?

Knock down rebuild sites are often in a better, more central location andcan take full advantage of existing electrical, plumbing, water and sewage systems.They also offer the opportunity to keep some of your established garden and treescape. A knock down rebuild means you can have the house of your dreams whilst continuing to live in a neighbourhood that you know and love.

What are the advantages of Greenfield sites?

Greenfield sites lack constraints imposed by prior work on the site. They offer architects and builders a completely blank slate to work from. There are no complications associated with having to remove, renovate or upgrade old structures. This can significantly reduce site clearance costs streamlining the building process.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, new build, Denman Prospect, exterior
Homes by Howe’s greenfield build in Denman Prospect.

What are the disadvantages of a knock down rebuild site?

If the existing infrastructure on a knock down rebuild site is too run down to make use of, you could incur additional costs. There may also be extra costs when connecting into existing services such as pipelines, sewage and underground cabling. Planning permission can sometimes be difficult to acquire due to strict council regulations for your specific suburb. Before embarking on a knock down rebuild it is best to contract a knock down rebuild specialist who will be able to walk you through these steps. This will ensure that the build process runs smoothly and is stress free from the onset.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, work site exterior, construction fencing and two trees in front of partially complete house
You may need to work around existing living and made infrastructure.

What are the disadvantages of Greenfield sites?

On a Greenfield site there may be design restrictions imposed by the land developer that don’t apply to a knock down rebuild site. Once built it takes time for landscaping and streetscapes to develop. In a Greenfield suburb it may be a while before local infrastructure, such as local shops and amenities, catches up to residential development. The advantage of a knock down rebuild is that you stay or move into an already established community. Greenfield suburbs can take some time before a community is established.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, work site retaining walls and footings
Foundation works on a Homes by Howe site.

Why a knock down rebuild specialist?

Land has never been scarcer and prices higher, yet more people than ever are looking to buy homes in Australian cities. A Knock down rebuild is the perfect solution to getting your dream home without the hassle of entering an already crowded and expensive market. It allows you to upgrade your current lifestyle whilst maintaining close community ties.

If done properly a knock down rebuild can save you thousands. That’s why it’s best to choose a knock down rebuild specialist like Homes by Howe. With decades of experience Homes by Howe will be with you every step of the way. From the first design consultation through to lock up and handing you the keys to your dream home. With the best builder in Canberra onsite from start to finish your next knock down rebuild will be a stress free experience.  


Bartke, S. and R. Schwarze (2015). “No perfect tools: Trade-offs of sustainability principles and user requirements in designing support tools for land-use decisions between greenfields and brownfields.” Journal of Environmental Management 153: 11-24.

Crystal Legacy , S. P. I. W. (2013). “Under the strategic radar and outside planning’s ‘spaces of interest’: knock down rebuild and the changing suburban form of Australia’s cities.” Australian Planner 50(2): 117-122.

Justin Hollander et al. (2010). Principles of Brownfield Regeneration: Clean up, Design and Reuse of Derelict Land: Island Press.

Simon Pinnegar, B. R. a. R. F. (2015). “Incremental urbanism: characteristics and implications of residential renewal through owner-driven demolition and rebuilding.” Town Planning Review 86(3).