The cost of building in Perth is quite high partly due to the remote location but also prices haven’t dipped significantly since the boom prior to the GFC. This means more people are looking at ways of cutting costs. However, in May 2011 all new homes will need to achieve a 6 star rating for energy efficiency. This change from a 5 star building to a 6 star building will come at a cost, so it’s even more important for buyers to be aware of their choices and decide which options are best for them. The following recommendations should be considered before choosing what you will be building in 2011. bledisloeenergy.com.au
Air Cell insulation: Rarely do we spruik a product as much as this one. Air Cell insulation began in a Perth garage about 15 years ago and was recently sold in a multi-million dollar business deal. What air cell does and does very well is create bubbles of nothing between the brickwork in your cavity external wall. Air, if you weren’t aware, is the greatest form of insulation and slows the transfer of heat. What this cavity insulation will do is prevent radiant heat transferring from your external brick walls to your internal brick walls – effectively lowering the temperature of the home internally. Because we have a predominately hot climate air cell is useful in all applications.
Double Glazed Windows: While this option is available it’s not cheap, generally costing double the price of standard glazing. It’s also widely accepted that double glazing is more useful in colder climates than warmer ones, so it is unlikely that this will take off in a big way in Perth, except perhaps in luxury homes along the coast where large expanses of glass are used.
Comfortplus glass: Pilkingtons initially introduced this product into the market around 10 years ago and is now quite common in the western suburbs. It’s an easy way to lift your energy rating at about 40% the cost of double glazed windows. Glass is one of the poorest insulators and is therefore a weak point for heat transfer. This is a great option to help get your rating over the line. It also comes in different colour tones, from green and blue to grey.
Eco blocks or Formcraft blockwork: Also commonly referred to in the industry as ‘eski bricks’ these foam blocks are erected on site and then filled with concrete to give them great compressive strength. Although they have been available for a number of years most builders haven’t adopted them into mainstream building, which has kept their price higher than it should be.
Custom Designed Homes: Are the first option you should consider. It’s even more affordable these days due to the services of building brokers and the sheer volume of owner operated building companies that specialise in custom homes. A well designed house will incorporate solar passive techniques bringing the basic house close to the 6 star rating without having to resort to expensive upgrade options to comply.
Exterior Colours: Although this isn’t something that effects rating using the current mathematical rating system, it should be included in your considerations. Colours do make a big difference when it comes to absorption of heat. In Perth, you are making a terrible decision to have a black roof and dark brickwork or rendered walls. The heat absorption is huge and will affect your comfort levels for years to come.
If you don’t take energy efficiency seriously or are unsure if it will really make a difference then you should consider a number of very good reasons as to why it is so important that you build a solar passive design.
Steve Fitzpatrick is the Managing Director of Your Building Broker [http://www.yourbuildingbro