Category Archives: Home Design

This The different types of locks you can get for your home

Nothing is more important than the security of your home and family. As technology gets more sophisticated and more affordable the choices you have around types of locks for your home increase. In this article we’ll give you a run down of the kinds of locks you may want to consider for your home – from standard key locks through to the latest in smart phone technology.

It’s always a good idea to get an assessment from a professional locksmith as many things can impact your choice of lock including: style and material of your doors and windows, insurance requirements, location of your home (ie: crime rate), lifestyle and occupants of your home.

Single key or basic cylinder lock

Pros

A basic cylinder lock such as you would find in a door knob or level handle is usually inexpensive. However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!

Cons

Locks such as these can be ‘picked’, jimmied or broken. And also if an intruder breaks into your house via another means, these basic locks can make it easy for them open a door from the inside and exit easily – with a whole lot of your possessions!

Sliding door locks

Pros

Sliding doors provide wonderful ease of access, especially for ‘indoor / outdoor’ living where doors open directly onto a back decking or covered verandah area. You should always have a secure lock on your sliding door.

Cons

Many sliding door locks are very basic and make it easy for an intruder to ‘lift’ the door out of the sliding frame. It is worth investing in specialised keyed locks and install them at both the top and bottom of your doors. You can also reinforce sliding door locks with a thick piece of dowel in the bottom track or a bar that comes down from the door frame itself – both of these will prevent the door being forced open.

Deadlocks and deadbolts

Pros

A deadlock is a lock that requires a key unlock it from the inside or the outside. So if someone manages to get into your house they will not be able to simply open the door or window and exit easily. They will have to try and break the lock somehow, which is difficult and might attract unwanted attention. Make sure you purchase high quality metal locks and it is generally recommended that the bolt itself be at least 1 inch in length.

Deadlocks on all external doors and secure locks on all windows are usually the standard minimum requirement for most insurance companies.

Cons

A deadlock can still be ‘picked’ by an expert intruder. You must be careful not to lock yourself (or family members, especially children) inside without a key. This can happen if someone deadlocks the doors from the inside and then leaves the house while someone is still inside.

It’s a good idea to keep a spare key inside the house somewhere. But please – nowhere obvious like a hall stand near the front door! And also – don’t ever attached labels to keys that state what door they are for or your address. Never make life easy for a potential intruder.

Mortise locks

Pros

Mortise locks were more common in the past, before the development of cylinder locks that are more easily attached to a door. Mortise locks require that the lock be built into the door itself (lock body) with a strike plate (usually metal). The lock trim can be a range of mechanisms (knob, lever, handle set etc) and a keyed cylinder operates the actual locking and unlocking. Mortised locks are extremely strong and acts as both a door knob/handle and a deadbolt.

Cons

Drilling into a door (as is required when installing a mortised lock) can weaken the door. It is not recommended that you install mortised locks on your own. This is a job best suited to professional locksmiths who will do a tidy job.

Key control

Pros

This is where your keys cannot be copied at a standard locksmith or key cutter. The key has a code which means that authorisation is required to cut any new keys. You can control how many copies of keys to your home exist in the world and who has access to them.

Cons

Key control can make life more difficult in case of an emergency. An ordinary locksmith may not be able to help with a lock out so you will potentially have to wait longer or pay extra to get access to your home in the case of lost keys.

Push button or key pad locks

Pros

An electronic keypad with a code eliminates the need for keys. No more fishing around in your bag or worrying if you lose your keys, who might have access to your home! Most keypad systems are very sophisticated and come with a range of features including: change codes at any time, give different codes to different people who need specialised access (eg: house cleaner), additional benefits such as automated deadlocking, links to security company, reporting and online management.

Cons

The main drawback is that anything electronic relies on electricity. So in case of a power outage you would need a back up generator on site or a back up plan of how to get access to your home. Also there is the possibility that expert hackers could hack your code and gain access to your home.

Electric swipe / strike locks

Pros

These are also sometimes known as RFID (radio frequency identification). The basic mechanism is a swipe card. This offers a high level of security and is more common for workplaces / office buildings than residential homes.

Cons

Providing swipe cards to whoever might need to access your home can be a challenge. Also many doors on standard residential homes are not suitable for the mechanism that needs to be installed for this kind of lock.

Smartphone

Pros

Smartphone door locks are likely to become more and more common. There are already a number of options to choose from that will do anything from automatically unlock and lock doors once you (and your phone) are within a certain range, through to operating locks and changing systems remotely from anywhere in the world where you have access to the internet. You can also set up reporting and monitoring with security companies.

Cons

You don’t want to lose your phone (although most systems will have back ups onto your computer or other device). This technology might be an issue in a family home or shared household situation where not every person has easy access to a smart phone.

Biometric

Pros

If you’re a fan of Bond films or science fiction you will have seen locks activated by biometrics such as retinas or fingerprints. This is extremely sophisticated technology that is most appealing because it is so unique (no two finger prints are the same!) and so easy (you always have your eyes and fingers with you).

Cons

It’s a pretty extreme system to set up for residential home security, especially if you have a number of different people coming and going. And of course, it is not cheap or easy to install so you’ll need to pay to have a qualified professional take care of things for you.

Steps Choosing door handles and locks

Four easy steps to choosing the perfect door hardware

Door hardware is an extension of your home’s personality, and selecting the right door handles and locks is a great way to give your home a new look. As with most home improvement projects, executing a well thought out plan for upgrading door knobs, handles and other accessories will yield better results.

Step 1. Decide on your needs

The first question to ask yourself when considering new door knobs, handles and other door hardware is the function of each door – this will help you decide the type of door hardware you need.

Door knobs or door levers

The door knobs you choose depends on the use of each door in your home, as well as the style you prefer. Some people prefer door knobs, while others like door levers (these are easier to open for people with disabilities and children).

There are three types of door knobs or handles to consider for your home: exterior dead locks, interior privacy locks, and passage suite knobs (no locks). Most homes require all three types, so take careful note of the doors in your home and the types of knobs or levers you would like to install.

Door knockers

Adding a knocker to your front door gives it more presence, and can give the front of your home more character. Door knockers come in all shapes and sizes – they can be whimsical or sophisticated, and they are usually made out of durable materials for outside climates.

Coat Hooks

These are convenient to add to interior doors, like the bedroom and bathroom. Adding hooks gives you an extra place to hang towels and bathrobes, so you don’t have to find another place to put them.

Door stops

Whether you live in a quiet home or one full of children, door stops are a must to prevent damage to the walls adjacent to an opening door.

Hinges and door plates

The hinge and door plate should match or complement the door handle, as well as the rest of the room. For example, in your kitchen you would want your door hardware to go with your cabinet ware.

Latches and other door handles

Stylish door handles

Instead of a regular door knob consider adding latches, pull handles, or pull knobs to a pantry door or other door to create country feel. The fixed knobs can match other hardware in the room – such as handles on drawers and cabinets. They can also offer a cheap alternative to full door knobs.

Sliding pocket doors can use finger pulls, pull plates or flush pulls, which allow the door to fit into the wall when open. French doors need to be installed with flush bolts so they remain closed while not in use.

Step 2. Research materials and styles

There are as many different styles of door hardware as there are doors to fit them, so be prepared to spend some time researching. Door hardware in brass or antique bronze may look better in a warm-coloured home, while cooler schemes fit with stainless steel, porcelain, or chrome hardware. If you are using an interior designer they may be able to help with this decision.

Secondly, take a look around your home and decide on your style. If you like modern designs then you should find door hardware with simple and clean lines. Those who prefer more classic designs may want to look for ornate door hardware instead. Ultimately, your choice should complement the architectural style of your home. You may even want to take a look at commercial door ware for more ideas or to find exclusive deals.

Step 3. Consider the environment

If you live near the ocean, then your door hardware has to be able to withstand the elements. Look for premium materials like stainless steel, that are salt resistant and will stand up to the test of time. No matter where you are located, your door hardware needs to be long lasting and remain operable for as long as you need it to.

Step 4. Set a Budget

A budget is extremely important when you get to this point, as it can keep you from going overboard with your accessories and end up with an expensive project. Your exterior front door will take up most of your budget, as it is the one that requires deadbolt security, as well as having the most accessories (door knocker or bell push, security screens, door letter plate doors, etc.)Additionally, the exterior door tends to use more hardwearing materials since it is exposed to the elements, and other added features to enhance security and durability, like escutcheons. While you can find economical options for exterior doors, you want to make sure your home is protected.

Find a budget you are comfortable with, and stick to it. Above all, try to get the most cost effective or economical door accessories you can, while choosing premium materials that will last.

Is your home have bush fire compliant?

The dry winds in NSW 2013, and the subsequent Blue Mountains disasters have boasted the discussion of poor bush fire compliant homes once more.

For new homes current legislation does a pretty good job of forcing Australians to better withstand a bush fire attack. But what about renovations?

Currently there is no legislation enforcing property owners to upgrade their existing homes to comply with current Bushfire Attack Level’s (BAL). There is only one minor measure in place that only quietly mentions that a homeowner has a property located in a bush fire prone area.

When a property is sold the vendor is required by law to organise a Sales Contract. Within this Sales Contract is a Section 149 Planning Certificate. Within this document it mentions if your property is in a bush fire prone area or not. It does not state the Bushfire Attack Level or if the current dwelling comply’s with current bush fire legislation.

The seller of any property is not legally required to ensure their property meets current bush fire construction standards.

Ensuring your home is bush fire compliant

When selling or buying a property you can find out if your property is bush fire compliant or not by doing a little research. Here is what you should do:

1. Engage council

Engage your local council and ask them to prepare a Building Certificate. The certificate will outline if your home complies with current building standards, and will go into a little detail about bush fire compliance.

If you need further details about bush fire compliance you can engage a private certifier or your local council.

2. Certifiers

  • Council – There are some council’s that can provide a specialist consulting service – assessing bush fire construction compliance. Gosford City Council for example provides a consulting service under their Streamline Group. This is a paid service where a report can be prepared outlining what you need to do to ensure your house complies with your particular Busfire Attack Level.
  • Private – There are some private certifiers that also offer a similar service as above.

3. Bush Fire Consultant

Specialist bush fire consultants are a great resource if you have a high level bush fire prone property.

As a home owner, the choice is yours, as to whether you bring your home in-line with current bush fire construction levels or not. Getting your home to comply with current standards can be a costly exercise but not always. Making the recommended changes could be as simple as replacing timber fascias with Colorbond, but if your house is entirely clad with timber it could be a very costly venture.

Home design and construction process in Five steps

Starting the process of building a new home? Read this article to get an overview of the processes involved. Note that although the processes are constantly changing, the drawing production process and council preparation process remains relatively unchanged over time.

Step 1. The initial consultation

At this first meeting the architect/building designer (designer) and you the client will discuss all your thoughts in relation to the design of your house or development beg. size, types of spaces how you anticipate these spaces will feel, etc.

Service fees and what they include will also be discussed at this time and a fee proposal as well as a Client Brief and a contract will be sent to your after the meeting. There are services available which can assist you in design and construction costing if you find you need support in this area.

Step 2. Site Analysis

The building designer/architect will analyse your site verbally and/or provide a written report (if you can not be present) and discuss with you the restrictions and assets of your property. This portion of the service is not only valuable to people that have already purchased a property but also to people that are in the process of buying and that have not yet exchanged contracts, as we can discuss issues such as sun orientation versus street face versus outside living and how these factors affect greatly on the quality of living for that particular property. The analysis will also consider such things as wind direction, tree shadowing and many other factors that seem to go unnoticed when purchasing property.

Step 3. Initial Design

The Initial Design process includes council and other government body research as well as the study of your requirements – where sketch design drawings are produced and discussed with you prior to developing the design. See Designing Your Own Home for further information on this stage. The drawings produced at this stage are minimal but should include all floor plans and some elevations or a three dimensional rendering of the proposed building.

Step 4. Developed Design

This stage sees your sketch design drawings developed into a house you should be very happy with – if not you will need to discuss further changes with your designer – most designers allow 2 major sessions of changes in their contract. Once you are happy with the design your drawings will be developed to working drawings that will have loads of information on them including notes and dimensions.

Step 5. Working Drawings

During this stage detailed drawings will be produced that will be used for your council Development Application (DA) as well as for construction. You may also need to produce other reports with your DA to council such as a Statement of Environmental Effects, BASIX Report, Waste Management Report, Site Analysis Plans, Geotechnical Report, Landscape Plan, Flora and Fauna Report and Fire Report – check with your local council.

This BASIX and Statement of Environmental Effects

Drawings are only a small portion of what councils in Australia require to enable them to give consent to your development application, building permit or building licence. Reports such as Statement of Environmental Effects, BASIX (in NSW), waste management reports, geotechnical reports, landscaping plans and more may need to be lodged with your plans. To determine exactly what is required by your local council you will need to contact them directly or visit their web site.

What is the BASIX report?

BASIX is the acronym for “Building Sustainability Index”. Since October 2006 all development applications lodged in NSW for new homes, renovations and additions valued over $100,000 must contain a BASIX certificate. Applications for installing a pool or spa must also include a BASIX certificate. The BASIX certificate pledges the homeowner to water and energy saving commitments that must be verified by an accredited certifier before an Occupation Certificate is issued.

BASIX – Renovation case study

Paul and Jenny’s home is located in Umina on the Central Coast one hour from Sydney. The dwelling is a small 3 bedroom home with only one living space. It is the owner’s intention to make an addition to the home as well as improve the functionality of the existing plan. The construction type will consist of a timber roof, wall and floor structure and it will be supported on brick piers and clad in weatherboards and “colorbond” roof sheeting.

Paul and Jenny are making the following energy and water saving commitments:

  • Window and door overhangs have been increased from 600mm to 900mm providing maximum sun coverage in the summer and maximum sun penetration in the winter
  • Large windows and doors have been added on the North and East to keep living areas warm in winter. Note: Windows sizes on the south and west should be kept to a minimum size to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer
  • Insulation has been added to all roof areas and external walls of the new addition. Note: the higher the insulation’s “R” value the warmer you will be in winter and the cooler you will be in summer
  • Energy saving light fittings and globes will be installed into as many areas as possible. Note: there is now a good range of energy saving fittings and globes on the market that can be installed in wet areas, halls and bedrooms – allowing energy saving in these areas. Unfortunately there is a very limited selection of energy saving feature lights for areas such as living rooms and dining areas but BASIX does factor this issue into its calculations. The BASIX certificate will encourage the renovator to a 40% energy efficient light commitment on new or altered lighting.
  • All taps will have a minimum rating of 3 stars.

BASIX – Conclusions

Within the construction industry there are mixed opinions about the effectiveness of the BASIX certification process as a water & energy saving tool but in this author’s opinion it is an excellent guide for home owners and the BASIX certification process will ensure that people reduce energy and water consumption while minimising changes to the construction process or the occupants lifestyle.

The Australian residential architecture styles

This article gives a brief explanation of some of the architecture styles found in Australian houses. Just as these styles have developed from previous ones, the current styles are also being combined to create new hybrid designs, some of which work better than others.

The Triple Fronted Brick veneer

This style of house has a brick facade (exterior) with timber frames supporting interior walls, usually of gyprock. Roofs are always hipped or gabled and tiled. This style dominated suburban architecture in the 50’s – 60’s. In its basic form it is a bland and unimaginative style which has been propagated by developers. Due to its familiar and cheap construction, it still is the dominant style in housing estates and many consider the style the scourge of Australian domestic architecture. The basic style can be made much more interesting by rendering and painting, adding more angles, porticos, verandahs, and bay windows. Larger homes (2 stories) of this style have been described as “McMansions”.

The Timber and Fibro “Fisherman’s” Cottage

The original fisherman’s cottage was built in many coastal towns between the 30’s and 50’s. It was originally a simple timber framed structure of one or two rooms and a verandah which was clad with asbestos sheeting. The floors were generally raised on piles. The verandah sometimes had handsome wooden balustrade that was sometimes enclosed to make an additional room or sleep-out. Timber detail around windows and gables were often painted- cheery red being one of the most popular traditional colours.

The original cottages, being relatively cheap to purchase, are now popular for renovation. Construction is easy and owner-building is common. The older buildings require insulation in the ceiling and walls. Timber and fiber cement sheeting now replaces the original asbestos and often the interior is completed gutted to create a modern open plan style of living. Timber strap-work can be used and windows frames painted for effect

The Regional Gabled cottage

This popular style has emerged from the triple fronted brick veneer. While the house footprint and floor plan may be quite similar, the gabled cottage has a very different feel. In this style the distinctive gabled roof is a dominant design element, and a practical means of providing shade and entertaining space. Constructions can be entirely of brick (often painted), entirely timber, or a combination of brick on the lower part of the house and timber on the upper. Some houses of brick construction have featured verandahs and porticos. Roofs are usually galvanized iron and windows metal framed.

While it is well suited to sloping blocks, this style can also be built on a slab. The use of timber cladding greatly reduces weight and construction costs.

Ranch style Homes

The ranch style became popular in the nineties. It originated in Adelaide and subsequently became popular in regional and coastal NSW. The floor plan is simple and footprint (of at least the street facing section) is often rectangular. Walls are usually brick, or brick and timber, and windows are often colonial style floor-to-ceiling. Roofs usually tiled with extended eaves. The garage was often integrated into the house. Some ranch style houses were boomerang shaped, others were L shaped for corner allotments.

Ranch style houses can be readily combined with the Murcutt/Drew style (timber and galvanized iron). These smaller ranch style houses often have balconies the width of the house.

The Murcutt/Drew steel and corrugated iron house

A number of styles have emerged from the influence of architects Phillip Drew and Glen Murcutt. The geometric play of angles is often a signature, likewise the (sometimes exposed) steel framing and corrugated iron cladding which is available in a variety of colours. Fiber cement and timber cladding is often used with the iron to create a sympathetic blend of textures. Being of light weight construction, the steel and corrugated iron approach is relatively cheap and suitable for both flat and steeply inclined land. Interior cladding is most often gyprock but can be timber or even plywood. Butterfly roofs can also be employed quite successfully in this design. This style of house is suited for steel framed pole houses on steep slopes.

The pavilion style homes

The Pavilion style house is characterized by a simple rectangular, box shaped volumetric style, open plan interior with glass replacing much of the wall space. Windows are often also steel framed. The transparency of the walls makes it well suited for blocks with privacy and/or views. Open patios are an integral part of living area, and like the rooms, they are orientated according to the aspect. Roofs are often low pitched roof and skillion. The style was a favorite of architect Harry Seidler who favoured walls of rendered brick however it is also well suited to a steel, fiber cement, and corrugated iron treatment. This approach often requires the thinness of steel framing to create the desired look.

The Queenslander style

The Queenslander style house is characterized by an all timber painted exterior, a timber stud frame, and a floor raised on piles for air flow in hot climate. They have wide verandahs (often the length of the house and enclosed by shutters, and roofs are gabled and corrugated iron. The street facing view is often symmetrical. The NSW Queenslander is often smaller than the original classic Queenslander and is less decorative – probably due to limited supply of delicate timber detail and trades-people to build them. It is sometimes combined with the Ranch style house.

Each of these styles has a different emphasis to practicality (physical needs, layout, and views), land and environmental considerations (structural requirements for foundations, design for weather protection) and aesthetic considerations (planar, volumetric, and sculptural form, emotional and spiritual qualities.) All of these requirements and qualities should be considered when designing a house.

The Secrets to a fabulous entry space for your home

The entry to your home can be a wonderfully functional space, yet many Australian homes don’t have one.

So what is an entry?

An entry is a transitional space, where your family and guests can be greeted, organised and redirected to other spaces within and around your home.  Your entry needs to (not only look great) but most importantly it needs to function well for it’s intended use, and you may need more than one!

The following 3 easy steps will guide you through the design process of creating well designed entries for your home.

1. Confirm number of entries required

Most Australian homes have a front and a rear access, as a result you will need to design two separate Entries for your home. We call these entry spaces the Front entry and Mud Room (for the rear entry).

2. Performance specification

You need to think about the way you use the current entries into your home. Write a list similar to the following for both the Front entry and the Mud Room:

Front entry

Needs to have a:

  • Store space for shoes, handbags, coats, school bags and a broom
  • Seat to put on your shoes
  • Powder Room close to this space for tradespeople and family to use
  • Enough space for you and your family to be able to fit into (1m²/person is adequate)
  • Lay off space for side table
  • Covered area outside front door for 5 people (5m²)
  • Direct access to the car space

NOTE: The front entry space:

  • is usually the best place to locate a stair to an upper level
  • should provide visually and acoustic privacy to interior spaces of your  home

Mud Room

Needs to have a:

  • WC (toilet)
  • Shower
  • space for garden shoes
  • storage for light garden & laundry items
  • seat space
  • fold-away-laundry
  • direct access to kitchen area

3. Draw a plan to scale

​It is important you draw a plan to scale so you can discuss the requirements of the entry with your builder (and any other trades that will be involved in the construction of your entry). The plan doesn’t need to be perfect

3 steps

  1. Study a few entry plans (search “plans” on the Internet) in conjunction with your Performance Specification
  2. Work out how much space you will need based on space availability, your family (eg. 5 x 1m²) and the furniture you plan to add to this space
  3. The easiest way to draw to scale is using grid paper, a standard ruler and a pencil is, or you could try a phone app.

Space saving ideas

  • Use a store chest as a seat as well as storage for shoes (storage/seat)
  • Locate your storage/seat outside your entry instead of inside
  • Even a 300 deep cupboard is better than none

Tips

  • Don’t have too many doors in an entry.  This will leave little wall space for a seat or side table
  • Always include storage for shoes and bags in your design
  • Ensure other rooms cannot be viewed from within the entry space
  • Never design your entry to open onto your private living space
  • Ensure your Front entry area is not externally accessible to your outside living spaces (eg. Verandah’s)

Many Australian homes do not have a well designed entries, resulting in uncomfortable transition spaces that are home to loads of shoes and bags littering the floor.  By following the 3 steps above you can greatly improve privacy, security the functionally of your new or existing home.

The Environmental design green building and sustainable architecture

The terms “environmental design”, “green home design” and “sustainable architecture” are just a few of the terms that people use when trying to describe a home that is designed to minimise it’s impact on the natural environment. In this article we use the term “environmental design”.

Good environmental design positively effects the thermal comfort of a building allowing the occupants to be comfortably warm in winter and cool in summer – with minimal energy usage.

There are 6 main areas that need to be considered when planning your eco friendly house or renovation. The information given in this article applies to sites at a latitude of approximately 32°, which covers the greater Sydney area in NSW, including Newcastle and Wollongong, and Perth, in Western Australia.

Design

Ideally you should purchase a site that is flat and has its backyard facing north towards your view. This will make designing an environmentally friendly house or passive solar home much easier.

Sun and orientation

You will need to spend a good amount of time assessing direct sun penetration onto your site before you start designing your passive solar home.  If it were practical, and you oriented all the internal spaces in your home to north, it would be relatively straightforward to build a green home that was thermally comfortable all year round. However in the non-ideal “real-world” this is rarely possible. A great book to use when planning around sun and shade for you building is “Sunshine and Shade”, written by R. O. Philips of theCSIRO. Use the basic rules listed in this book to aid you when planning the various spaces in your home.

Sun control devices

There are many methods of controlling sun penetration in your home helping a house stay cool in summer and warm in winter.

Roof overhangs: For homes that are drenched in full sun ensure that all windows have a standard window and door shading depth of 900mm.  600mm is the normal project home depth and that is not enough.  This depth can be slightly altered depending on the orientation of the external walls to north.

Other control devices: If you have no choice in how you orient your living areas, and are forced, for example, to orient them towards the west (the harshest of all options) you will need to get creative. One solution is to plant deciduous trees to the west about ten metres from your house.  This will block hot afternoon summer sun and allow winter afternoon sun to penetrate through to your home. If this is not an option due to views or council regulations, the best solution is an operable (adjustable) window device like an awning or louvre system.

Room orientation

If you have shading on your site you need to think about the room type and design to get the optimum sun penetration into the space; e.g., locate laundries, bathrooms and storerooms to the west or south.  These rooms can be physically cut off to control the hot western sun or the cold resulting from a southern facing orientation. Bedrooms work best located on the east because most people love being or drenched in morning sunlight. (However a southern orientation is a worth considering for shift workers, because the bedroom will then be darker.)  Leave the north to living areas as people spend most of the daytime in these areas.

Insulation

To save on heating and cooling costs in your new green home it is essential that all your external walls and ceilings are insulated.  All cladding types have an R-value, the higher the R-value the longer it will take for the outside temperature to enter you home.

Many houses today are timber framed and without any extra insulation these homes will not be hot and cold in the wrong seasons but it will also rate poorly with BASIX (BASIX is the Building Sustainability Index.).  There are too many products to name, but insulation generally come in the form of “batts”, air cell blankets (like bubble wrap), loose pulp, and “sheets”.  Heat is lost primarily through the ceiling of a home, then the walls and windows, and lastly the floors.  If your site faces a windy direction, and is located at the top of a hill, your floors will need to be insulated.

Sarking is a reflective fabric that reflects heat away from the roof and external walls and it should be laid with the reflective side facing outwards.  Roof sarking often forms part of an insulative blanket that is laid on top of the roof trusses and under the roof battens.

There are many new products on the market that are a “sandwich” format product (cladding on one side, a finished lining on the other, and insulation in the centre).

Thermal massing

There are various building claddings that have naturally occurring thermal benefits. Products such as core filled concrete block work, double brick, mud brick or hay bales offer internal spaces warmth in winter and coolness in summer due to the thickness of the product and the time it takes for heat of cold to penetrate these products.  Core filled block work, double brick, mud brick and sandstone, for example, have the ability to draw the relatively constant temperature of the ground through a building.

Windows and doors

If your sustainable house has been designed using the items suggested in this article, and your windows and doors are not too large, you will not require anything more than standard single glazing throughout your home.  Glazed windows and doors are both referred to as windows in the glazing industry. Below is a list of a few basic types that you need to be aware of:

  • Single glazed with a standard aluminium frame
  • Single glazed with an improved aluminium frame
  • Single glazed with a timber frame
  • Single glazed with an energy efficient film and a standard aluminium frame

The size and location of your windows are also very important.

Use the following general rules to reduce winter heat escape and summer sun penetration:

  • Place small windows on western facing walls to reduce summer sun penetration
  • Put large windows on the north side of the house
  • Put medium to large windows on the east of the house
  • Small windows should be on the south side of the house to reduce the amount of heat that escapes in winter
  • Only use skylights where absolutely necessary.  Skylights are usually required as the result of poor design.

Colours

House colours and temperatures work much like coloured clothing. A dark brown T-shirt attracts heat and is much hotter on a summer day than a white T-shirt, and your house is exactly the same, especially the roof. Within the online BASIX system if you choose a light coloured roof you will get a better energy score as a light coloured roof reflects the heat better.

Air locks

The dwelling design should include air locks so spaces can be thermally cut off from one another.  (But you can still have your open plan living space.)

Sub-floor construction

The space under your house is called a sub-floor and correct subfloor construction is very important inkeeping energy costs down in your house.

Don’t allow air to flow too freely under your house as this increases your energy requirements for heating and cool.  If the building is sitting on brick piers ensure that sub-floor perimeter is clad: the better clad this area is, the lower the energy requirements.

A concrete slab that is laid directly on ground is the most energy efficient subfloor because the slab draws on the relatively constant temperature of the ground and radiates that temperature into the house.

Roof shape & construction

The shape of your roof will greatly help you control the temperature of internal spaces within your eco friendly house and where possible have large roof cavities that a truss can provide.

Where a skillion or flat roof is unavoidable insulate with R5 insulation.

Many new homes don’t have roof ventilation.  Roof vents remove excess heat from the roof space preventing hot air in the roof radiating through the ceiling.  Roof venting will also reduce mechanical cooling and heating requirements.

Wastage

Whenever possible you should always think about wastage of building materials.  Many house designerswork to 600 and 900mm increments in room sizes etc as most building materials are manufactured in increments of these.

Any wastage during construction can be used on site especially concrete and bricks, these can be used for fill.

If you are demolishing a building the windows and doors can be sent to a recycle yard as can timber framing and flooring and various fittings.  Any concrete, tiles, masonry or brick can be recycling for future use as road base, there are companies that will take the materials for free and you save on expensive tip fees and reduced land fill.

Energy efficiency

When you are in the throws of construction and you are handing out money everywhere it is difficult to allow extra money for the long term energy efficient items.

Lighting

It always happens, the home is almost completed and the budget has been blown, the last things to be fitted are the electrical appliances and fittings… how unfortunate. So quite often the cheapest fittings are chosen, but unfortunately they are also the least energy efficient.  Spend the extra money at this time and invest in future energy savings.

Hot water systems

The energy required to heat a regular electric hot water system accounts for 60% of the total household energy requirements.  Hot water systems vary greatly in efficiency, price and capacity but generally a gas-boosted solar system is the most energy efficient hot water system.

Appliances

Energy efficient appliances also seem to be more expense when initially purchased.  But before you go down that path see www.energyrating.gov.au for a run down on how to choose your energy efficient appliance, and save money over the long term.

Curtains

Any kind of curtain that provides a good air pocket between internal spaces and your window will definitely save you energy.  Blinds may look better in certain situations and reduce power bills a little, but blinds do not offer the same ability to cover a window as curtains.

Embodied energy

Embodied energy is the energy used to produce a product from beginning to end. In this section of this article we examine the embodied energy of common building materials.

Take a look at the list below which outlines the embodied energy measured in kiloWatt-hours (kWh) per tonne that is required to manufacture common building products, from least efficient to most efficient.

So as a general rule remember that natural building products require less energy to produced than man made products, and use recycled products where possible.  Embodied energy is a huge subject but it is an aspect of the energy efficient building process that is missed by many designers. Keep in mind that one of the most energy intensive products to use in construction is concrete, and the most economical is timber, so use plantation timber every chance you get.

Water efficiency

Rainwater and storm water tanks

Most councils in Australia now require that all new residential single dwellings commit to installing a minimum 5,000 litre rainwater tank and many will also require an extra storm water tank to capture overflow from rainwater tanks and hard paved areas.  There are now non-obtrusive underground, sub-floor bladder and in-slab options.

Water efficient fittings

There are many fittings that comply with the minimum 3A compliance requirement for wet area fittings, there are even 5A rated products.

BASIX

Since July 2004 developers in NSW has been using the online BASIX system to calculate whether their new home or renovation complies with government standards for energy and water consumption.  The programme commits the owner to using less energy and storing more water for use not only in the garden but for toilets and laundries as well.

Getting your standard house to comply with BASIX minimum energy and water requirements.

  1. Commit to install 80% of your light fitting with dedicated LED or fluorescent fittings.
  2. Install a 5,000 litre rain water tank for an average size property.
  3. Have 900mm window and door overhangs.
  4. Commit to the maximum R-value insulation in all external walls and ceilings.
  5. Be realistic about window and door sizes.
  6. Don’t have a pool or central air conditioning.
  7. Truss roof and slab on ground.

Every property and situation is different so the only way to see if your building will comply is to put it through the BASIX system; it’s free and you can use it as many times as you like.

Note: Your BASIX commitments will be checked by the building-certifier authorised to perform the final inspection of your new home. If your commitments do not match what the certifier finds you will not be given your final occupation certificate.

You Need To Know Six Golden Rules of Home Design

Designing your own home can be a very exciting undertaking. The design process is a complex juggling act and there are 6 golden rules that you should follow designing your own home.

1. Think in 3D

Professional home designers like building designers and architects are always thinking in 3D when they’re working on a new home or renovation. They are constantly incorporating and taking away design ideas in plan and in a 3D form at the same time. For some people this skill is instinctual, but it can also be learnt over time.

Thinking in the 3D form can be difficult, especially when it comes to converting your own 2D house plans into a well form and aesthetically pleasing building. Weather you have this skill or not it is essential to always think about how your ideas will look as a resolved building form or you’ll run the risk of your building looking like a plan with extruded walls and a roof stuck on top.

2.    Limit amounts of different building materials

Be very careful when using more than two types ofexternal building cladding especially on the same plane (elevation). Research precedence’s for using the materials you want together, otherwise it could result in a messy façade & water leakage into the home. Ensure that material connections are well detailed and also ensure the builder understands how these materials will join while performing their essential waterproofing requirements. A neat trick is to step the building using a different material and avoid mixing materials at all on the same elevation.

3.    Use site conducive construction methods

Ensure the structure types you choose suite your site, building style and budget. During the design phase you’ll need to start thinking about construction types to ensure your building form will look appropriate to the style of building you are envisaging and will be affordable.

Using inappropriate construction types can;

  • Make a building look heavy when you had in mind a light weight home
  • Result in expensive building foundations

4.    Good design composition

A well designed building comes from seriously considering such things as proportion, symmetry and repetition.

  • Proportion – The building you design needs to match human scale and should not look visually out of proportion (to too big or too small). You need to understand this before you commit to the design.
  • Symmetry – Using symmetry is a simple and traditional method of ensuring a building looks visually comfortable.
  • Repetition – Using repetition in your design offers the building visual strength and comfort. Repetition in windows or doors can work really well in a design.

5.    Design renovations to complement the existing

When designing an addition to an existing home it is impossible to design a well resolved renovation if the existing form and style has not been taken into consideration.
You have one of two choices:

  1. Incorporate the existing style of your home into the addition (so it looks like its part of the original home).
  2. Treat the addition with a totally different style but complementary to the existing style.

Choosing to go half way between the two is a common failing and the final design will lack visual strength. Commit to one option and ensure every choice of finishes, construction type and detail reflected your style choice strongly.

6.    Beware of deck locations and sizes

Locating decks in inappropriate places can result in the decks not being used for their intended purposed. Keep these rules in mind:

  • Don’t design decks off bedrooms – Decks located off bedrooms are rarely used unless there is a kitchenette located close by.
  • Avoid large decks facing a view – Decks facing your views can ruin your views from inside as you will be looking through balustrading and flooring. Design your deck to one side of your main living space so you can enjoy uninterrupted views without looking through decking materials.
  • Deck size – Don’t design decks less than 2000mm deep – Decks 2000mm deep or less off a living space are unusable, especially if you need to allow for a 6 seater table and chairs.
  • Deck orientation – If you can avoid it do not have a deck located on the south side of your home (these decks are shaded and cold in winter and cause lower level rooms to become colder and darker than before the deck addition. Always locate decks on the north and a second option would be north/east followed by north/west.
  • Minimum deck size – Your deck should be 4200x4200mm in size to accommodate a 6 seater table with chairs (this will allow for ample circulation space when people are seated). If you don’t want your table and chairs dominating the space the deck needs to be double the size recommended above.

Great Top 8 Design Tips to Consider When Building For Your New Home

Are you planning to build a new home? Then be sure to read the tips from home building expert Metricon, one of Australia’s leading home builders specialising in contemporary and modern homes. If you want your home to be as functional as possible, the following top 8 designs tips will put you on the right path.

1. The Open Floor Plan

Anyone building a new home should consider an open floor plan, as it creates a larger living area to entertain in and a versatile space. An open floor plan is both functional and inviting to families, as it brings all the living areas in the house into one large space. Metricon’s Chicago display home is one of the many designs which offer open plan modern living which gives the main living areas connectivity, giving a sense of space to your home design.

2. Less Is More

According to Metricon, the time of cluttered homes is long over, which is why it is important to incorporate a lot of built in storage space in your new home design. To avoid making your room feel cluttered look at adding functional wardrobes, cupboards and shelving into your new home. At Metricon, we incorporate many storage options in our designs for all areas of the house. So whether you are building a house just for yourself or a large family, we can provide you with all the storage options you need, from walk in robes to butler’s pantries.

3. Mix Contemporary with Traditional

Contemporary is a popular design choice for many, however to make sure your new home design stays timeless; add some traditional touches to your design. By mixing these two styles together, home owners can enjoy a modern but classic home which will not date in years to come. Metricon’s Bordeaux design is the perfect example of linking these two design elements together. Keep in mind, its fundamental to make your new house design feel like a home by adding your own personal touches and finishes.

4. Let There Be Light

Houses used to be designed with small windows and narrow doors. These trends have altered and Metricon focuses on maximising natural light in our house designs. A tip to help you incorporate this design element is to select large windows, glass sliding doors, light-wells and glass panels into your front door.

5. Do Not Be Afraid of Luxury

Creating a house that looks and feels luxurious does not always have to come with an expensive price tag. Metricon has a range of Designer home designs available which encompass contemporary luxury living with an affordable price tag. A tip we give our customers to help them make their home feel luxurious is to add quality fixtures and finishes including high ceilings, quality flooring and timeless fixtures throughout.

6. Street Appeal

First impressions last and the exterior design of your new home is one you want to select carefully. It is important to consider when choosing your facade, how your new house will look from the curb as well as fit into the street you are building in. It is also important to choose colours, materials and surfaces which will complement each other so there is a sense of cohesion in the visual appearance of your home.

7. Functional Bathrooms

Building a spacious bathroom is on most people’s wish list. At Metricon, we have made sure all our bathroom designs both feel spacious and functional as well as incorporate space saving storage ideas. It is important to choose fixtures and colourings to make you room feel more spacious which may include light coloured wall tiles and paint colours. Clever storage solutions are the key to any bathroom. Let’s face it, no home has enough storage in linen cupboards, so introduce more storage in the bathrooms as the less clutter you have, the better. It will also create an illusion of a larger space.

8. Modern Fixtures and Fittings

One of the benefits of a new home is the opportunity to select features and fittings that reflect your own personal taste and lifestyle. Special attention needs to go into selecting the finishing touches. Each of our Metricon homes has a contemporary appeal, created with a suitable balance of quality fittings and fixtures. When building a new home, you have the option to select many items such as tapware, tiles, sinks, basins, flooring, lighting, cabinetry, benchtops, appliances and door handles, which helps you to personalise your new home and cater perfectly to your lifestyle.