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When you think of ‘customs houses’ you might think of big, flashy, high-end homes like those at the centre of a new international copyright dispute.But that doesn’t mean they are any less real, writes Michael Caine in this story. The custom house is the most common form of housebuilding in Australia, and a lot of that building has come down to the simple fact that it’s hard to build a house without building a few custom-built windows, and no one can legally say no to anyone else. That’s why there are thousands of custom-made houses, and some custom-designed ones are quite expensive. But these days, most custom houses are actually quite cheap, and not because they are too small to make sense of the modern building codes. They’re actually cheaper because they’re often built on sites where the owners can afford to buy the materials.The idea of “the custom house” originated in the United States and has since spread to a number of countries, but there are several variations. Here in Australia there are more than 500 different custom-home building styles. Most custom-houses are small. A typical custom house has windows in the centre that you can put in your living room and out to the backyard. In addition, custom houses typically have a front porch that looks like it was built by a person from the 1940s. Custom houses usually have a basement with a deck and kitchenette, and usually have multiple bedrooms. But there are a few exceptions to that rule, as the story below shows.Custom house rules and standardsThe custom-house rules and codes are often quite strict, as many builders have a lot more to learn about building codes than most builders do. One of the rules is that a custom house should be at least two metres wide and two metres deep. The maximum height allowed is three metres, but some custom houses can be much taller. For example, the house that Michael Cain is looking at was designed by one man, but had windows that went down to one metre and one metre deep. So, when Michael Cains’ company, Barchant Architects, bought the property in 2012, they needed to get the building code changed so that the front of the house could be removed to make room for the new kitchen. “We could have had windows down the front, but we didn’t want to go down to that depth,” says Barchent’s head of commercial development, Adam MacLeod. “We decided to get rid of the window and just leave it in.”That’s because windows are not considered to be part of a custom-building building rule, so they can’t be removed without a building permit.”In our case, the windows were removed because it was a standard custom house and we didn of wanted to make it look more traditional,” he says. When Barchart did the job, they noticed that the windows did not meet the standard. The custom building rules are fairly clear, but the custom house codes are much more complex. One of those custom building codes is called the Code of Residential Structures, or CRIS, which defines what type of construction should be used on custom-build structures. There are many different kinds of building codes, including those that apply to any building, including a house. Barchant says that while there are strict codes for the exterior of a house, the interior of the custom- built house is different. Custom houses are usually built on land that is either public or private, and they usually use a variety of different materials, such as timber and stone. If you want to know more about how custom houses have evolved in Australia over the past 50 years, you can read a great