Summer is here. How's our electricity grid coping?

A lot of debate has been around Australia's eastern electricity market in the past few months. It is great to see Environment Victoria going through with smart tactics to get some real science into the issue - well ahead of fossil fuel lobbyists. 

Even though our coal power stations have now become a major cause of unreliability to our energy grid, its not all bad news. With the new Tesla big battery running in South Australia, we now have a great new way of storing our renewable energy in addition to the increase of residential rooftop solar, reducing strain on the old grid.  

From failed coal power stations to new and cheaper electricity supply solutions, Environment Victoria has released a new campaign outlining '5 facts you need to know about energy this summer'. 

For more detail, read their full media backgrounder here

A partnership for sustainable and high performing housing

This week the Habitech design office welcomed our New Zealand building partners from LiteGreen Projects. With Logan and Martin in Melbourne for the next few days, it is a great time plan ahead for the many jobs in NZ that we are collaborating on. 

Following on from the success of Andrei's House, our first NZ concept build and the inspiring story featured on Grand Designs, it seems that New Zealand has embraced high performing and energy efficient housing. It's going to be a busy time ahead and an exciting step forward as we continue to supply our Australian-made wall panel system to our New Zealand partners. 

Keep following us for more news on both our Australian and New Zealand projects!


Improved Housing Outcomes - affordable, sustainable housing

We're all doing our part to work towards more affordable and sustainable housing. The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has recently released a new platform to address the Australian housing crisis with a vision of housing being integral to health, well-being and economic outcomes for all Australians.

There is no single solution for such a widespread topics of affordability and sustainability in our housing industry. Rather, many approaches that once united, work along-side each other to improve housing outcomes.  The report provides recommendations based on themes such as good design practice and sustainable or innovative ideas in our building industry.

At Habitech it’s no secret we are continuously working towards providing Australia and its neighbours with high performing and energy efficient houses. While combining this good design practice with integrated services technology solutions, we may radically decrease household energy use. 

You can view the ASBEC's latest publication here:

Habitech's Managing Director, Chris Barnett, sits on the ASBEC Sustainable Housing Task Group - representing the Australian Institute of Architects.

The cost of poor building practice

In one of our current renovation and extension projects in Collingwood, it’s interesting to see how a wall built less than 10 years ago has already rotted out due to a poorly detailed gutter and waterproofing. Having been leaking into the frame since it was first built, the results speak for themselves.

When working on your projects with Habitech, you can rest assured that we are operating with our partner builders to the highest of quality. As we have trained all our trusted partner builders in how to install our wall panel system properly and effectively, future quality issues like this one simply do not occur.

Winners at HIA Awards night!

Habitech Systems would like to congratulate Individual Builders on their amazing wins at the 2017 HIA Eastern Victorian Housing Awards. Individual Builders worked on our Mornington Beach Houses Project finishing in 2016.

After being awarded with the best Townhouse / Villa Development, Craig and his team topped off the night by winning their second category, the Townhouse of the Year award, both for the Mornington project.

We greatly enjoyed working with Craig, Micka and the team at Individual Builders on the project. They did an amazing job working with our modular fabric, dealing with a very difficult site and delivering a great level of detail and finish. 

Well done Individual Builders!


Habitech featured on Grand Designs NZ

Did you see the inspirational Grand Designs New Zealand episode on ABC last night? The season final featured one of our New Zealand projects and our Wall Panel System being used in the earthquake-proof family home.      

You can find the episode here on ABC iView until the 26th September 2017:

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   


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.