WA-ites will know this, but most from the "other side" wont. WA has a very labour-intensive and material-intensive construction method called "double brick and tile" for most residential projects, regardless of size. A bit of background first. It's been this way since the late 60s and is unlikely to change any time soon. It stems from the notion that "only poor people" live in fibro and tin homes, a mentality that came across from the mediterranean with the Greeks, Italians and Macedonians - along with their wonderful cooking. One look at the face of a Napolitan as they speak of "timber homes" will give it away - they speak of scenes in East Naples whereby as you drive into the city along the coast road from Roma, gazing out over the bay, your eyes are tracing over the hundreds upon hundreds of shanties built on squatted hillside farmland pouring down the mountainside just out of view of the tourist coaches. This is the region currently known as Barra and Ponticelli. Anyone familiar with popular culture will know that most things mediterranean around the time of Dean Martin was immensely desirable and popular, mainly because it broke our mould of inherited Grey English Stodge and provided an 'exotic' alternative - like cooked instead of boiled meat, food where the bread was the plate and you ate it with your hands; and this amazing idea that building a house out of stone would be better suited to our dry, hot climate. This is the mentality that was adopted with the plaster, concrete and block craftsmen as they emigrated with their families and one that the WA people took to heart; because lets face it, them 'Wogs' and 'Dings' could build a beautiful house. Well, stones aside, brickwork was becoming common with cheap concrete-clay mixes becoming the norm in brick-veneer guise (brick outer, timber inner) for State Housing, which soon followed to double brick for the average joe thannks to the likes of AVJennings, Collier Homes etc. Soon everyone had double brick and the good times of the 80s were born. Houses got bigger, raking ceilings, sunken lounges and verandahs were common, and the single carport morphed into a double lock up garage. Anyone living with timber was obviously in state-housing, or just poor. And so the psychological double entendre was born; now fast forward to 2000. In the 00's, WA was starting to see insulated concrete tilt-up, a return to timber framed second storey floors - or "soft tops" as they are affectionately known, sandwich panel homes and steel framing was nearly a viable alternative; Sandgropers love their steel. Midland Brick's TV advertising campaign "the knock test" - whereby viewers are encouraged to knock on the walls to test for brickwork - was the deathknell for the rising tide of alternate construction in the early noughties. Overnight it pretty much wiped out any dissention in the ranks and Midland / Austral become the overlords once more. 2010 is here and the new 6 star energy ratingshave arrived, albeit with a phase in period. Double brick is likely to get an exemption again because it is over 220kg/m² and our slab-on-ground building technique - thanks to stable, sandy soils - is likely to be exempt as well, unless you have in-slab heating. If not, you can expect ceilings at R4.1 and walls at R2.8. This basically means business as usual for the WA market. But here's something no-one is telling you.... State government legislation will soon follow the rest of the nation under the usual political pressures with requirements to disclose your house's energy efficiency rating. No problem, it's all exempt, right? Well, yes - until 2013/4. 7 stars are being drafted right now. The underground boffins writing up the BCA will likely not be allowing exemptions for 220kg/m² walls because the thermal rating won't be high enough. Now, a bit of background on thermal ratings. Some paid-off CSIRO wannabe scientist will probably mention somewhere that the thermal ratings are different for a reason. Anyone who's in refridgeration construction will tell you otherwise - a structure is only rated as high as it's lowest insulation value. So if you have an R3.0 roof, an R1.1 floor and R2.2 walls, then your house has an overall rating of R1.1 as per the laws of thermal dynamics. Double brick has an appalling R rating - much less than people think at only R0.5 - that's right, 0.5. It's fantastic at weatherproofing your home, but considering it never rains in Perth and hasn't done for the past 10 years or so, what is the point of putting R3.0 batts in your roof? The slab-on-ground is actually a pretty efficient way to build - the thermal mass holds heat well and helps keep a house cool, as well. However, the boffins again at the BCA have just transposed the UK guideline of "habitable room windows should face south to maximise winter sun penetration" and changed "South" to "North". That's fine if you live in Melbourne or Hobart, but here in Perth, where the desert meet the sea, we have a serious issue with keeping the heat OUT, not getting it IN. A Winter in Perth consists of jeans and ugg boots in front of the telly, maybe a jumper if the heater is on the blink. This UTTER LUNACY is mandated and required for all building license applications in this state. Add all those lovely, big windows facing North, heating up that big, thick concrete slab with those poxy 480mm eaves and no wonder you need the aircon running in Summer. We're encouraged to plant deciduous trees to allow Winter Sun permeation and Summer shade, but find me a council that will allow anything other than a regional specific native tree to be planted. All of this combined goes against the very essence of "reduction of power usage" and "sustainability". Draconian legislation unable to take into account simple gepgraphical and topographical changes like, i don't know, Latitude and Longitude are turning the houses we are building into heat-sunk concrete and block bunkers that boil over our 7-month-long Summers, but hold the heat nice for a few weeks a year when the sun has a nap to recharge for El Nino or La Nina or your mother or whatever.... It's time for WA to wake up and smell the coffee. We need to dramitically change our construction methods to light weight, well insulated homes with large eaves. Modern homes with Bauhaus and minimialist-inspired facades are fine, but your living areas do not need a 2.143 x 3.61m window facing North with minimal eaves. Simple changes, at grass roots level, will always make more of a difference than band-aid solutions to the status quo.