Just don’t mention the lack of parking! Libby and I had arrived at the location for a talk from sustainable builders organised by the Cape. After discovering the nearest parking was permit only, I dropped Libby and disappeared into the night to see if I could find a suitable spot. After a few false starts, I parked the car and jogged back to see what was going on.
At the presentation, we heard from three sustainable builders. Each builder is providing designs consistent with the Cape’s philosophy (comfort, style and livability within a sustainable community).
First of the sustainable builders was Archiblox.
Archiblox pride themselves on using clever design with cost effective materials to achieve the desired outcome. Of course, they also examine the proposed site to make the most of what the environment has to offer.
During the talk, several ideas caught our attention.
Remove heated air from the fridge/freezer area. Their designs included a tube which brought in air from outside the house. The air is cooled by running through an underground section. The cooled air then passes over the fins at the back of the fridge/freezer before being vented outside the house.
Make the most of small spaces through joinery. Providing shelves or storage spaces meant the house didn’t have any dead space inside. It’s the same concept as used in yachts – make the most of the available space.
Blend inside and outside spaces to encourage maximum use of both areas, as well as encouraging the feeling of living within nature. Libby was inspired by a photo showing a ledge/servery outside the kitchen window. Could we “extend” the kitchen to the deck and make it easier to have meals outside?
Use lighter Colorbond colours (eg Wallaby) on steel cladding. This avoids blinding the neighbours with highly reflective colours or soaking up extra heat in summer with darker colours.
Martin Builders was next.
Martin Builders are busy constructing a 10 star rated house at the Cape. Like us, they want to push the boundaries a bit. In their case, this might not be commercially viable due to the extra costs required to achieve the objective. However, they are keen to learn what happens when you go to these lengths. For example, is it possible to avoid the need for energy consuming heating/cooling systems in a 10 star house?
I noted a few things that will be important to us.
Use construction materials which aren’t harmful to the tradies and to the future residents (eg low VOC paints).
Standard rainwater tank size for their houses is 10,000 litres. Likewise, the standard solar panel system is sized at 5kW.
Grey water treatment systems can be installed with their designs. Grey water can be tricky to use in our garden. Too much water will water log the indigenous plants. Phosphates in the detergents will kill indigenous plants which have evolved to thrive in low phosphorous soils.
Martin Builders are keen on demonstrating their homes’ performance through data collection by independent third parties. What monitoring can we use once our house is constructed? Who could we partner with to provide this service?
Last of the sustainable builders was TS Constructions.
Tony from TS Constructions was passionate about the benefits from a sense of community within the Cape development.
What else can we do to encourage a sense of community in the residents with our project? Having easily accessible fruit trees and vegie beds is one way to provide an opportunity for residents to come together over food production. What can we do to include our neighbours in the 4 units next door? How do we construct the dividing fence and gardens to ensure some privacy for residents but also offer the chance to see each other and stop for a chat?
TS Constructions minimise the waste materials from their building sites. We’ll need to think along the same lines. Given David’s background, we’re confident there will be a lot of thought put into reducing the amount of materials needed, reusing what we can and recycling. Not much should go to landfill.
Double check the insulation in the finished house using thermal imaging to look for hot spots. This is a neat way of making sure the insulation envelope is as good as intended. Sometimes things can happen during construction that mean the insulation isn’t as complete.
What did we learn from the presentations?
What the builders said confirmed we are on the right track. Our project might only be 3 homes while the commercial development is 200+, but we share similar philosophies.
Sharing their ideas and objectives was a generous gesture. We’ll be making some tweaks and adjustments to our plans based on the ideas presented to us.