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Case studies

The good house redefined
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A thrifty new home


BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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A busy family with three boys was looking for a functional and energy-efficient home to build on newly subdivided land.

KEY FACTS
point Service provided   Concept plans, planning and building permits
point Project type   New home
point Home location   Shire of Yarra Ranges
point Land size   823sqm
point Proposed floor area (stage 1)   185sqm (20 squares) + Garage 50sqm
point Budget   $520,000

THE NEW DESIGN
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Orientation: The house features a long profile to maximize solar access to as many rooms as possible. The house is sited close to the South boundary to maximize the views to the North.

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Functionality and aesthetics: The house structure is simple to provide a clear floor plan, reduce construction costs and allow for the use of environmentally simple materials such as pine trusses. Different roofs shapes and cladding provide definition to different zones. The house energy rating is 8.1 stars.

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Heating: The concrete slab on ground was topped with a layer of polystyrene insulation which supports hydronic heating coils. A decorative cement screed was poured over the lot to reach a thickness of 90mm. The surface was subsequently polished to achieve a finished floor. This system saves the heat being lost in the footings and ground and is much more responsive to setting changes. The coils circulate warm water which is heated by a highly efficient condensing boiler. The owners report that they start the heating at 4pm in winter and stop it at 6:30pm, which is enough to heat the whole house for the rest of the day and night. The coldest the house has been on a winter morning is 18 degrees, while the warmest in the middle of summer has been 27.5 degrees.

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Insulation: The concrete slab edge is insulated to minimize heat loss. An R6.0 combination of fibre-free insulation and reflective sarking is retrofitted to the existing roof and installed in the new works. Double-glazing units, Argon gas filling and thorough drafts proofing to all windows. Walls are insulated to R2.5.

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Ventilation and shading: The house is long and relatively narrow, which means it is easy for cool breezes to reach North facing windows and effectively ventilate the house. A pergola with orientable blades was built on the North side, off the living area doors.

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Conservation: The concrete slab uses recycled aggregates while part of the highly polluting cement is replaced with inert fly-ash. New walls and roofs use either solid or laminated sections of plantation pine.

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Indoor air quality: Low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) water-based glues and finishes for walls, floors and timber were used throughout

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Water: All downpipes are connected to the three rainwater tanks which together have a capacity of 28,000 litres. As a result, no town water is used anywhere in the house for 9 months in the year, while in the summer, the tank water is reserved for the garden. Dishwasher, taps and shower heads were selected for minimal water consumption.

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Power: Measures were taken to minimize electro-magnetic radiation (EMR) inside. All light fittings and appliances were selected to minimize energy use.

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