Hawthorn Extension - the finishing touches

The Hawthorn Lawes Street extension - an updated Victorian cottage to the front and an updated high performing extension towards the rear. 

With just some final touches to go, the original brown-brick cladding of the facade is nowhere to be seen. As a long-standing feature of the property that our clients were keen to get rid of, the front facade transition is almost complete - being replaced with a fresh and modern timber battened entry to the property. 

Check the images below to see our before and after shots of the transformation. 

The Lookout - beachside residence

As our clients develop an appreciation for our high performing and sustainable building fabric, more and more Habitech Houses are beginning to feature along Victoria's Port Phillip Bay. With beautiful views looking out towards the water, our new and upcoming Lookout House captures all the scenery from the comfort of its glazed north-facing living and entertaining spaces. 

The Lookout House is about the journey of entering and experiencing all that the site and a high performance house has to offer. Through a simple form of a cube, focus is maintained towards the northern end of the property and the generous amount of light entering the rooms. The Lookout's modernist colour scheme relates back to its 50's heritage - the year in which our clients family first built their original home. 

We'll make sure to keep you updated on this new project - learn more about the initial brief here   

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Mullum Creek making fast progress

With the rapid pace of construction on our Mullum Creek new build site, this Habitech home has a fair chance of being the first completed house within the whole development. All ground floor wall panels and most upper level panels have been installed and the build has now moved onto the stage of placing all roof panels into position. 

We have designed the house with solar orientation in mind and with the wall panels installed, spectacular views of the surrounding valley are now perfectly framed with the winter sun pouring into the interiors. 

See below for some photo updates from our current project in the Mullum Creek Development

Speed Date Success

Sunday 18th June was the ATA's 'Speed Date a Sustainability Expert' event, held for the Cities of Stonnington and Boroondara.

This informative event invited professionals from all types of industries associated with sustainability to come and meet face-to-face with like-minded individuals, interested in expanding their knowledge of new technologies and products. 

With experts fully booked for the day, Vonne Yang, from our Habitech Melbourne design office was busy providing professional one on one advice throughout the afternoon. 

We would like to take this opportunity to  thank all those who came along to the session and look forward to seeing you again at future events!

Extension in the goldfields

Beautiful Castlemaine is where the tree-changers have been going for years, a short 120km drive north west of Melbourne and a picturesque old gold-mining town.

Our client's sloping site and spectacular views provide the perfect stage for their new Habitech extension, adding an extensive lounge, library, courtyard and extra bedrooms to their existing home. 

Many of the exterior Habitech wall panels have now been fitted, with roof panels expected to be installed over the coming week.  

Speed Dating - Sustainability Style

Want some free personal advice from an architect, a designer or a sustainability expert?

The Cities of Stonnington and Boroondara, along with the ATA, will be hosting a fun and informative day where you can interact with leading sustainable architects, designers and other experts this Sunday. 

Along for the ride is our very own Vonne Yang, who will be giving lucky attendees information and advice about the Habitech Australian modular design and building system. Unfortunately, with such high demand, we have been fully booked for the 2017 event, however, there is still a small chance of coming along and registering for the waiting list on the event page, found here.       

Vonne Yang has lived in 5 different countries in the past 10 years, giving her a well-rounded and innate sense of design. Vonne’s experience is in architecture, graphic design, printing and photography. At Habitech, Vonne works on project design, documentation, social media and managing the delivery of Habitech’s modular building fabric and marketing.

For all of those who have registered, we look forward to meeting you there!

Living in the orchards - Mullum Creek project begins

"I want to use our Habitech home as proof you can build quality, sustainable homes", say our wonderful clients Suzanna and Luc, who we first profiled here two years ago, when they were starting out on their Habitech journey, 

Their new house is well underway and it's been a week of early starts and frosty mornings in Melbourne's east, as installation of the first series of wall panels begins at our Mullum Creek project. 

Based in a recently subdivided orchard in Donvale, the new development area has a strong environmental focus, with all houses required to reach a minimum 7.5 star energy rating. This requirement prompted our clients to approach Habitech, based on our proven thermal performance and high quality homes.  Our clients themselves are builders, with a keen interest in producing highly insulated and sealed homes approaching Passivhaus standards.

After receiving delivery of our flat-packed wall panels (craned in numbered pallets shown in the upper left image), the process of fixing the exterior walls began. Much of the ground level panels have now been installed forming the outer-shell of the house. 

The design revolved around two simple boxes, which defined a strong circulation path through the building. By inserting a slight twist to the north into the floor-plan of the home, we were able to maximise passive solar performance before terminating in a large east facing window - taking in the spectacular views across Mullum Creek to the valley. 

Stay tuned for more updates and visit the project page here.

 

 

Demand Response - the new plan to cope with extreme energy peaks

Great to see AEMO, The Australian Energy Market Operator and manager of the National Electricity Market, finding different ways to deal with Australia's extreme weather events that don't involve new fossil fuel generation.

"We need to find new, smarter ways of coping with spikes in demand and volatility as we move towards an electricity system with more variable renewable energy supply," said AEMO Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman last month.

One of these smarter ways is a pilot plan for a demand response initiative to manage electricity supply during extreme peaks. This involves paying consumers to reduce their energy consumption on request during peak periods or emergencies, freeing up electricity supply during extreme weather and unplanned outages.

Demand response programs are already commonly used in other countries.

"From Texas to Taiwan, demand response has been proven to be a cost effective way to manage demand at peak times and acts as a contingency to avoid disruptive power outages," Ms Zibelman said.

Under the program, energy users who subscribe will receive incentive payments to be on standby in emergencies or peak demand days funded by ARENA. During an emergency or extreme peak, those who participate could be called upon by AEMO to switch off or reduce their electricity use temporarily, and would receive a further compensation payment.

The program is expected to be open to demand response aggregators, large industrial and commercial users, battery storage and smart thermostat companies and will involve both commercial and residential consumers.

Habitech houses will be able to take advantage of this initiative, with internal systems easily able to buffer out extreme heat for a period of time if any cooling is turned off by the power authority. 

More information from AEMO here

6.5% of ALL deaths due to cold weather exposure

Reading this headline, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is referring to a northern European country or perhaps somewhere in Alaska.

We've written about this before, but the deaths of 9,983 Australians every year are caused by exposure to the cold, inside their homes. A cold home, year after year, progressively increases blood pressure leading to increased risk of coronary heart disease.

Australian homes are some of the leakiest in the world and the consequences of these oversights are not only affecting our hip pockets, they're also impacting our health and wellbeing.

With 6.5% of all deaths in Australia caused by exposure to the cold, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the case must be much worse in countries with a colder climate. But that's not the case. In Sweden, where temperatures range from -22 degrees C in winter and get up to 17°C in summer, the number of deaths attributed to cold weather are only 3.6% of the population.

So, back to Australia, where hospitalisation for heart disease costs an average $9300 per person and pharmaceuticals & other expenses a further $3900, a total of $13,200 for each one of those people. Saving 3,993 heart disease treatments a year would save us all $52.7m per year. 

Another 2007 study by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman showed that insulating existing houses led to less days off school and work, less visits to the doctor and less hospitalisations due to respiratory conditions.

Insulation matters. Airtightness matters. Read the full article here

Our latest Hawthorn extension

Work is progressing quickly at our Lawes Street extension. Not only is the existing 1920's brick home getting a rear extension but it's also getting a fresh street facade in the process.

With interiors fully lined and painted, work can move onto joinery installation as well as preparing for the new rear pergola.

Painting is now complete, which will act as the revised backdrop for some timber cladding to be attached to the front facade. Silver stained timber will be clad over the existing structure bringing a modern aesthetic to the home. 

We will keep you posted on this exciting Habitech extension!

 

Prefab futures - use it or lose it

Continuing our discussion from last Friday about the future of housing at the Geelong forum, Chris Barnett will be presenting at the Australian Institute of Architects seminar tomorrow, Monday 8th May at 5.30pm, titled The Future of Prefab.

Discussing recent trends, technology and innovations, this event will discuss how prefabricated and modular designs develop highly financially, socially and environmentally sustainable products.

The seminar will address recent developments and highlight technical aspects coming out of prefabricated/modular housing that can be applied to other designs to improve sustainability and the quality of the build.

We're looking forward to it!

The Hampton House - almost time to move in!

We've got some excited clients readying themselves to move into their new home in Hampton, well-prepared for the impending chilly Melbourne winter.

This house was inspected by lots of interested home-builders at our last Open Day in December, when we opened the doors and unveiled the panels. It has progressed rapidly since then, even with the Christmas slow-down in between. The final fixtures are being installed this week with our clients completing their move-in very soon.

The house features a generous north facing living and dining area, along with five bedrooms and the final finishing touches will come with some quality landscaping and an outdoor deck, seamlessly integrating with the existing living spaces.  

With installed underfloor heating systems and HRV throughout, our clients are cheerfully awaiting this year's winter.

See below for images of this Hampton new build, from early days through to the final fit-out. 

The poorest thermal quality of home you are legally allowed to build......

Online news source, the Fifth Estate reports that the Australian Passive House Association has developed a new online resource showing the difference between designing for 7 Star NatHERS and designing for different degrees of Passive House.

As Willow Aliento, from Fifth Estate, points out, "For the average homebuyer, it’s difficult to know whether a home with a 7 Star NatHERS rating is actually performing like one."

The user interface encompasses both the building fabric itself, and the quality of the building fabric with options ranging from minimum – 7 Star compliance – to excellent. It also shows how steps towards the Passive House standard will influence both thermal comfort and annual energy bills.

Builders promote 6 Star NatHERS homes as a bonus for buyers, rather than recognising the fact that this is the minimum requirement of our building codes. This leaves much of the industry aiming for 6 Stars and believing they are buying an energy efficient home - when it is in fact the poorest thermal quality of home you are legally allowed to build. 

With our current building certification systems, the reality is that most houses are unlikely to be built to the rating requirements anyway. While our Star rating system is based on the use of some smart software programs, in reality they are mainly a paper based exercise. This was highlighted in the National Energy Efficient Building Program study undertaken by the federal government in 2016, which tested over 700 houses built to the 6 Star standard or above and found most were insulated to a 3-3.5 Star standard as actually built.

Air sealing and leakage is a major factor in why houses as built are performing so poorly. Habitech houses approach Passivhaus standards, and one house, which utilises heat recovery technology, has an air-change rate of 1.15 air changes an hour at 50 kilopascals. The Passivhaus standard is 0.6, while a typical new home might be 20-30 . Have a look at the graph below to better understand this.

Andrei - he will be sadly missed

The Grand Designs New Zealand episode, featuring a Habitech home that was called the "Earthquake Rebuild", is screening on the Foxtel Lifestyle channel at 8.30pm tonight and at various times over the long weekend.

It's a shame the second series of Grand Designs NZ will not be on ABC Television as the first series was, but we hope those with Foxtel are able to check it out.

The Earthquake Rebuild home was completed late last year, and was built by Andrei Martin from LiteGreen Projects, our building partners in NZ. We met Andrei because he wanted to build better, healthier, warmer homes and, after starting out with a NZ panel system, wanted to offer the Habitech solution to New Zealanders.

Part of the project's genesis and Grand Design's story relates to Andrei's battle against cancer and the Habitech staff have been flattened by the news that he tragically passed away last week. Our thoughts are with Abby and Alice and all the LiteGreen staff and community in Christchurch.

Andrei was a great guy and an inspiration in his passion to deliver energy efficient, sustainable homes to New Zealanders. He will be sadly missed.

Our latest Wells House site visit

The Wells House has always been one of our favourite builds to visit - which is why we love to bring you all new updates when we get them! This week has been all about the interiors, the new water tanks and the architectural awnings. 

The Habitech-designed sun shading awning system wraps itself around three sides of the house, sheltering the windows from the hot northern sun during the summer, while allowing the sun into the home during the winter months. The continuous expressive architectural detail of the Colorbond awnings have been powder-coated in Monument steel colour, contrasting against the pure white asymmetric forms of the main building. This week we also took delivery of five new water-tanks, helping our clients save water while maintaining their forthcoming landscaped gardens.  

As seen in the top left picture, interior plastering is now well underway, preparing the Wells House for its feature fireplace sitting in the heart of the family living space. When done, this ground floor region will form the central hub of the house, opening out onto a northern facing deck and gardens.     

Goodbye Hazelwood

Over the last 8 years electricity consumption in Victoria has dropped by 15%.

As Bruce Rowse points out in his latest blog post on the Clean Energy Academy, with the shutdown of the Hazelwood Power Station, the quiet stories of energy efficiency, rooftop solar, energy efficient appliances and building standards aren't making the headlines when compared to "loss of 25% of generation capacity in Victoria" stories.

But we are reducing our demand for electricity consumption and that's what we should be focusing on. As The Conversation pointed out way back in 2013, all of the decline in consumption has been at the expense of coal fired generators.

Energy efficiency regulations, a structural change in the economy away from electricity intensive industries and consumer behaviour are all factors leading to this decrease.

As Bruce says, we're proud to part of a culture of innovation here in Australia, working towards finding ways to reduce consumption rates and making smarter homes for a changing planet.

Thank you Bruce. Read his blog post here.

Visiting the NZ LiteGreen Projects

Our trip to Christchurch ended with visits to Habitech's projects in NZ in collaboration with LiteGreen Projects. These include Andrei's House, as shown on Grand Designs New Zealand late last year, and a new project in the master-planned suburb of Pegasus.

Pegasus is a new town under construction in the Waimakariri District of Canterbury, named for nearby Pegasus Bay.

With established infrastructure, a feature lake, golf course, beaches and wetlands, Pegasus Town was a great location to build with the Habitech wall panel system and another move forward for our ever-expanding business in NZ.

The images below include the Pegasus House (left) just after completing the installation of our panels and Andrei's House (right) with some finishing touches installed on the backyard decking. 

 

 

The South Pacific Passive House Conference

We really enjoyed the South Pacific Passive House conference in Christchurch recently.

It was a real pleasure to meet the people behind the initiative, all from a variety of fields. With professionals ranging from engineers and scientists, to architects and authors, both the guests and the speakers provided great insight into the world of Passive House benchmarks. 

Passive House is a building standard - it aims for peak comfort, energy efficiency, affordability and ecological sensitivity, resulting in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.

While to date there are only 8 certified Passive Houses in Australia and 11 in New Zealand, thousands of houses have been certified globally over the past 25 years. 

The conference included the presentation of a number of case studies that clearly showed Passive Houses working as they were designed. Science met architecture and studies undertaken by many of the speakers concluded the exceptionally high performance that the Passive House design guidelines can achieve. 

Exeter City Council in the UK sets a great example of this with their Passive House initiative, bringing high performing homes into their social housing construction initiatives. (Image right)