WA - construction techniques will have to change.

Discussion in 'Innovative Techniques' started by Aaron Sice, 17th May, 2011.

  1. Aaron Sice

    Aaron Sice Seldom Seen Kid

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    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.
     
    perthguy, Jen_PFR and itinerantotter like this.
  2. Ausprop

    Ausprop Member

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    so what do we need? larger eaves by the sounds. where do we need windows facing? and what is the best thing to do... framed walls stuffed with glass wool?
     
  3. Aaron Sice

    Aaron Sice Seldom Seen Kid

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    Larger eaves still doesn't stop reflected heat from these ridiculous smooth cream colorbond fences everywhere.

    Windows facing North is fine, West is obviously dumb unless your views are there but the imperative measure for North facing windows should be dropped.

    Framed walls or a reverse brick veneer with reflective or batts insulation would be ideal.
     
  4. Ocean Architect

    Ocean Architect Banned

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    The energy star rating system is a complete failure as far as I am concerned. I don't know which report it was (I'll find it) but they flat out said that the formulas they use to work out the energy star rating aren't accurate.

    Recently here in Darwin they made it almost impossible to use louvers, even though the traditional territorian design was louvers on both sides of the house so as to allow breezes straight through.

    Steel framed houses are quite common up here though - they're quite advantageous versus block structures because of speed of construction, lower costs (smaller footings plus if you use a welder instead of buying ready made walls, it's ridiculously inexpensive), and besides, you can still render it.

    I was recently looking at the lumabond product (aluminium composite panel) that is fireproof, waterproof, acidproof, weatherproof - the works - and the cost out of china supposing you get a deemed to comply for a generic is about $15/m and you don't need to paint it. Ever. Just a matter of time until someone (me :p) figures it out, spends the neccessary thousands on a deemed to comply and starts building things out of it en masse, because lets be honest - that stuff looks fantastic (yes, I'm a modernist at heart) [​IMG]
     
  5. yadreamin

    yadreamin Member

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    Good post Aaron very descriptive and its now raining for the first time in yonks.:D
    We are looking to build in the comming months and l have been taking note of all this ratings stuff thats trickling out through the papers.
    I am quite impressed with the panels [like coolrooms only fancy] .
    A good article in the West liftout a few weeks back and the featured home looked really impressive. White Hot l think was the headline.
    however anyone l mention it too says " all very well but how big will your maket be when you want to sell?" "not many will want that type of house as we all like double brick here":rolleyes:
    l believe the tide is changing from the double brick and by the sounds of things its going to change pretty fast.
    I will be building by the beach so l think l have a great blank canvas to work with , so l am going to go for as many stars as l can get. My target market will be the younger side of the equation so they will like enviro stuff.
    Do you have any recomendations for any builders who are taking the enviro leap?
    Have you seen any really good new products arrive here recently?
    Apreciate any links or suggestions at all Aaron
    cheers
     
  6. yadreamin

    yadreamin Member

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    It does look great OA wanna do a design for a nice beachside pad:D
    [on a sloping block]

    This panel is similar to the one l mentioned in my post. Panels were much bigger though and the house shell was up in 4 days .
     
  7. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker Member

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    I also had the double brick + tile doctrine (more recently lessened by acceptance of single brick and realisation it might not be the best in earthquake or mining areas) but didn't know about the Mediterranean influence.

    I thought the rise of asbestos was due to the mines in Wittenoom and the building material shortages after WWII.

    In the areas we lived it wan't so much brick vs timber, but brick vs asbestos. Especially in the wheatbelt. Further south there was more timber, often due to the group settlement scheme in the 20s. Again very small houses and a standard 3x1 double brick place would have been a mansion.

    In country areas a brick house was swish with the green lawn and asbestos was the sandy commission area on the wrong side of the tracks out towards the pony club, saleyards and/or rubbish tip.

    Asbestos places weren't the coolest in summer (although some had louvred windows to open for the occasional cool change) so I'm not suprised of the reaction against these places by people who could afford better.
     
  8. Ocean Architect

    Ocean Architect Banned

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    I saw the stuff installed where half the place was rendered and painted chocolate, with the composite panel being this gorgeous metallic bronze/copper - stunning. If you went 100% panel the thing looks like a spaceship :D

    Initially I only wanted it as a feature (the local product is more than 100/m) but after contacting some chinese suppliers and getting prices, I started considering it as a roofing material because of the obvious benefits of it being non corrosive, fireproof and self insulating. It's a certain goer for external ceilings, interior garages etc though

    I'd have a tinker for you if you like (free of charge) so long as you get me some similar kinds of plans/features that you like/sketch of what you like. Your only cost will be your draftsman when it comes time to submit proper plans/elevations to council (use whoever you like of course - I can get you in touch with some cheap capable people that work by the hour if you like)
     
  9. kero

    kero Member

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    don't forget we have a 12 month transitional period before 6 Star requirement is compulsory... so it kicks in on the 1 May 2012. that's not to say you can't design your plans to meet the 6 Star requirement.
     
  10. RumpledElf

    RumpledElf all fun in the big city!

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    We've gone lightweight construction on purpose - stone holds the cold in winter and the heat in summer - so we're just going to have framed walls with insulation. Older fibro and timber houses are hotboxes because they have NO insulation and its a bit hard to retrofit. We have the wrong orientation to go really nuts with north facing, but did go with a very light coloured roof and will be planting deciduous trees rather than natives, they seem to grow better here, go figure. I've always liked silver birches and its good to have an excuse to plant a stack of them.

    The other annoying thing about the 6 star ratings is they don't take into account surroundings. I've heard of people being forced to put awnings over their west windows when they are building in a steep cut and fill site and there's nothing out the west windows but a near sheer rock face. And that light coloured roof? That doesn't count. Your roof could be jet black tile or shiny silver reflective and you get the same rating for it.

    Very surprised they put the same legislation on a house in Hobart vs Cairns considering how different the climate is and what works in one surely won't work in another.
     
  11. Ausprop

    Ausprop Member

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    if you recall the debate about whirlybirds it seems the heat in your roofspace is irrelevant?
     
  12. yadreamin

    yadreamin Member

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    Thats a very generous offer thanks OA.
    I am only just scratching around at the mo to look at whats available.
    The metalic/bronze copper look does sound impressive.
    If you have any pics or links l would love to have a look at them.
    The house l have ideas about will be quite a simple structure really. So hope that will make using alternate building products workable and not too pricey.
    Once again Thanks
    cheers
     
  13. pudestcon

    pudestcon Member

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    Check out a SIPS panel project for the DOH in Vermont Street Nollamara and one in Bates Road Innaloo. Panels are being erected as we speak in Vermont Street with Bates Road to follow very soon.

    Pud
     
  14. Ocean Architect

    Ocean Architect Banned

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    sure thing, but the silly picture is in a word document so it'll take a few minutes to reinstall openoffice. brb
     
  15. yadreamin

    yadreamin Member

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    Ah yes thats the one Pud Sips panels. There was an article in the press recently. I cannot get to view those 2 properties at the moment is there any pics you can share.
    What do you know about the actual product? .
    The good the bad and the ugly please
    cheers
     
  16. Ausprop

    Ausprop Member

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    the press goes on about these things like they are a new thing - was involved with a few going up in the north west, about a dozen or so a few years back. question marks over their insurability, but otherwise the reports back were excellent. the designs were sufficient to build the floor, walls ceiling and roof out of the stuff. Mind you the energy guys kept marking us down on the floors so we had to go back to concrete. cost savings... minimal. but very effective in the heat and cyclonically strong.
     
  17. Kent Cliffe

    Kent Cliffe Momentum Wealth

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    I can't speak from a build point of view, but I can speak from a market appeal point of view.

    It is crazy, the minute a property has a single garage (even though it may be 3 min stroll to train station) it is so much harder to find a tenant. You look at Brick Veneer properties in Cloverdale Vs Timber Veneer (of a similar age) and the difference in price is much greater then the cost of materials.

    WA has been brainwashed, I guess it helps fund that brand new brickworks.

    What about these rendered Mc Mansions - why the need for brick? If you're going to render it, it will look the same with other materials.

    This is another gripe of mine - I saw this technology a few years back: http://bluegen.net/
    However, this Australian company is being subsidised by the German Government - why don't we encourage it over here - well because it is not considered green in Australia! Yet in one of the most energy efficient countries in the world, it is being encouraged.

    I think it is more an incessant consumerist mentality that is part of our WA culture. Cashed up Bogans want what there parents always wanted, but now they have the money to do it. There is also a lack of environmental empathy as we have all gained wealth on the back of one of the most polluting industries known - mining.

    Apologise for my vent.
     
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  18. Ausprop

    Ausprop Member

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    Kent do you know ho wmuch they cost?
     
  19. Ocean Architect

    Ocean Architect Banned

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    and how much do they cost to run?

    and how noisy are they?

    Lots of rural people I know would love a solution better than diesel generators, plus having one for blackout prone PPORs would be great
     
  20. Kent Cliffe

    Kent Cliffe Momentum Wealth

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    I don't want to get too off topic with this thread, but to answer your questions:

    Yes, it does cost a lot. The company has made 46 units, with the cost of production about $45k a unit. However, scale production will drop this down substantially. Four Corners did a thing on it a few years back, with plant scale production the units would cost about $10k to $15k and that would include a hot water tank. The other issue is maintenance - however this will drop on scale too.

    The unit runs at under 45db.
    http://www.bluegen.info/en/bluegen/technology/technical-data/