Canberra Building Revolution?

Updated 17 September 2015. With the new Turnbull Government now more likely to look favorably on renewable energy targets set over 10 years ago and the government wanting to maintain strong home building approvals what does this mean for environmentally  friendly, sustainable new home design ? We talked with a long time advocate for sustainable housing construction Brian Welsh. Brian is a Canberra builder with Natura Homes. Brian has over 20 years experience in building quality new homes and created Natura Homes to design and build houses with an emphasis on:

  • good design
  • implementation of the latest building materials
  •  employing latest construction practices
  • sustainable design and building
  • healthy living environment
  • advanced acoustic engineering to minimise external noise

Trends In New Home Construction In Canberra

Brian explained that there are many ways to add value to new home construction through ensuring sustainability and energy efficiency play a key role in the design and building process. The A.C.T. Government has played a role in making Canberra one of the most ‘eco-friendly’ cities in Australia by making grants available for small scale renewable energy programs like solar and wind power. Coupled with the latest techniques and insulation, ground sourced heat pumps and technologies like triple glazed windows, homes can be built, Brian says, with thermal efficiency profiles  approaching 90. To put this in perspective, ‘traditional’ homes built in Australia have  a thermal efficiency profile of around 65 to 70 meaning that for every kilowatt of energy used to heat or cool the home, that around 35 percent of that energy (be it from electric or gas heating or air conditioning systems) is lost meaning inefficient heating and cooling for the home owner and expensive utility bills.

New Technology In Canberra Buildings

The latest synthetic wool insulating materials are very effective and resist the transfer of conducted and convective heat through walls ceilings and the sub-floor. Companies like CSR have released new generation materials that have ‘R’ ratings (which, in simple terms measure the thermal ‘stopping power’ of insulating materials) that far exceed ratings available just 5 years ago as outlined in this video:

When working with clients we look at the total energy efficiency of their new home – including design, building material selection and construction techniques (that maximise the outcomes of the products used and design concepts).  We include the following measures in our client checklist:

  1. Thermal Mass – Ensuring ground work and concrete slab design and laying maximises solar thermal performance
  2. Solar Energy Implementation. We encourage clients to examine the benefits of photo-voltaic modules to generate their own ‘off grid’ electrical supply and the use of vacuum exhausted solar hot water heating. this can save 90 percent on traditional electric or gas derived water heating solutions
  3. Ground sourced heat pump technology. very popular in Europe for over 20 years, we have introduced this technology to Canberra home owners. Building into the design of the new home this technology means significantly lower heating and cooling bills for clients. The technology is very simple in its principle of operation. The temperature profile of soil at 3 to 4 metres below ground surface is relatively stable year round. By using the relatively ‘warm’ ground temperatures in winter, and likewise the cool ground temperatures in summer we can pump this air temperature differential into the house to regulates the homes temperature year round – regardless of  weather conditions.

In the next article we will look at the benefits of using a creative architect to design homes that offer great living environments for families and offer cost advantages over standard home designs seem in Canberra and the A.C.T.