introduction bye bye brick trends to watch

Smart homeowners, architects and builders are moving away from brick. We take a look at four different kinds of projects that vetoed brick for a more ...
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Smart homeowners, architects and builders are moving away from brick. We take a look at four different kinds of projects that vetoed brick for a more economical, eco-friendly and altogether cooler style of build.

perth rethinks brick introduction 66 bye bye brick … 70 the display home 70 the bespoke new home 72 the reno 74 the social home 76 trends to watch 78 bringing the outside in 78 reverse brick veneer 80 quick SIPs 81

Words Rachel Sullivan

bye bye brick… introduction

Smart homeowners, architects and builders are moving away from brick. We take a look at four different kinds of projects that vetoed brick for a more economical, eco-friendly and altogether cooler style of build.

bye bye brick… In a hot, dry climate, do you really want to live in an airless oven that retains the heat in summer and freezes up in winter? That’s the question many Perth-based home owners and builders are starting to ask themselves.


erth stands alone in Australia when it comes to the domination of brick construction with the city’s residents long conditioned into thinking that brick is better. This, combined with the engineering restrictions inherent in brick construction, has resulted in a homogenous – some might even say monotonous – streetscape, with little variation in design, colour and form.


Yet Perth’s love affair with brick may be coming to an end. Thanks to increasing concerns about sustainability and shrinking lot sizes, home owners and builders alike are starting to question the wisdom of brick. The drain on trades from workers heading north for the mining boom and the government’s mandate that all new homes have a 6 star energy efficiency rating from mid-2012 have only added to the pressure.


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introduction “Western Australia is steeped in the tradition of residential brick construction,” says Paul Lim, principal of design specialists Mata Design Studio. “However with the need to be environmentally responsible, the change in the energy efficiency regulations and the rise in the cost of labour, it seems to have become merely an aesthetic market expectation. “As the market becomes more educated and more sustainable products become available that save time and money, we are naturally shifting to and accepting these smarter ways of building.” Lightweight construction is not only a more sustainable alternative, it helps bring together energy efficiency, affordability and clever contemporary design to create cooler, lighter, more liveable homes.

… we are naturally shifting to and accepting these smarter ways of building.

“Perth has to be the last place in the world still relying totally on brick,” agrees Raleigh Charpentier, sales and marketing manager at Gemmel Homes. “Everywhere else you look, people are using lightweight. It is not only more affordable, it doesn’t have the same time constraints as brick, which means at the end of the day it provides a better product, faster.”

the sensible choice Lightweight construction generally requires less cutting and filling than double-brick construction, which makes it ideal for angular, sloping and otherwise tricky sites. It is also particularly well suited to sites where access and space is a problem: stacked cladding and other materials take up as little as a quarter of the space of pallets of bricks intended to cover the same area. And because lightweight construction can be done by carpenters, there is less waste to manage and fewer trades battling for space and time on site. That using lightweight construction helps create comfortable living spaces, no matter the climate, is also forcing people to take note. Perth has just experienced its hottest year in recorded history, plus the wettest spring in more than a decade. With the climate predicted to only become more extreme and unpredictable, and energy bills soaring, what we thought we could live with in the past is no longer doing the job. “Brick-and-tile construction creates giant heat sinks; they’re like old-fashioned crock pots,” says Michael Roberts, co-director of Roberts Gardiner Architects. “It’s been proven that better insulation ratings can be achieved from lightweight construction than from heavy brickwork.

Paul Lim, Mata Design Studio


“As Perth moves towards 6 star energy efficiency ratings for all new homes, achieving this is going to be easier and more efficient with lightweight.” Lightweight is also getting builders to look beyond 6 stars, says Peter Edwards, builder with NuLook Homes.“ With energy efficiency changes being

implemented, builders are having to explore new options, especially when it comes to cavity insulation, and it’s here that lightweight’s merits come into their own. It’s really shaken up the larger builders, and now the changes are starting to flow through to the rest.” But the transition is not only about energy efficiency. Design that stands out from the crowd is easier to achieve with lightweight materials because of their flexibility, allowing features like cantilevers and interesting roof lines to be achieved without costly heavy engineering. As award-winning building designer Jason Saunders from Arc-Seven.1 says: “Our clientele is very open, with most keen to explore options. And for many of the builders we work with, as soon as we mention lightweight they see the benefits and embrace it. “We don’t do straightforward design forms, so using lightweight gives us design flexibility and helps us explore boundaries and push them.” Lightweight construction also has advantages when it comes to speed and efficiency, and that translates into bottom line benefits, Saunders says. “Even though we are not currently in the middle of a building boom, things are blowing out and taking far too long. As an industry, we need to get construction timeframes reduced and lightweight construction can make that happen.”

Brick and tile construction creates giant heat sinks; they’re like old-fashioned crock pots …


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bye bye brick… Smart homeowners, architects and builders are moving away from brick. We take a look at four different kinds of projects that vetoed brick for a more economical, eco-friendly and altogether cooler style of build.

the display home When one builder couldn’t find a display home to show clients the versatility of lightweight, he recognised he needed to build his own. “What started as a discussion about a renovation has evolved into a new display home that showcases the high-end finish that can be achieved using lightweight construction,” says award-winning builder Peter Edwards from NuLook Homes. “Everything in this house, from the floor to the framework, the roof to the walls, all use lightweight [materials].” One of the big features of the home is the flow of materials from the exterior to the interior, Edwards adds. “We have used Scyon™ Matrix™ cladding on the eaves, then carried it inside the home as ceiling linings, using the cladding’s grid pattern as an attractive alternative to plasterboard. Scyon™ Stria™ cladding feature panels have been used on both the exterior and interior, again helping to create a flowing connection between the indoors and outside.” Brick and render have their limitations, he says, especially when it comes to quality finishes. “But high-quality cladding products [like Matrix and Stria] are ideally suited to interesting finishes, such as metallics, that combine to give surfaces a smart, new dimension wherever they are in the home.” While not yet completed, the display home has already recieved strong feedback from people looking to embrace a new way of living.


Everything in this house, from the floor to the framework, the roof to the walls, all use lightweight [materials].


bye bye brick…

the bespoke new home In the upmarket Perth suburb of Claremont, one new home is not only going lightweight, it is using a transportable building to boot. “This house is for a young family of four who have an open mind and gave us only their basic requirements to work with,” says Paul Lim, principal of Mata Design Studio and leader on the project. “The family wanted to limit the size of the house in order to maximise their outdoor living space and garden.” Due for completion in April 2012, it became apparent early in the design process that an unusual solution was needed. The site is moderately sloped, Lim explains, so rather than incurring large costs in site works, the team decided on a prefabricated house that could sit on piers and thus allow most of the existing site levels to be retained. The house, which will be clad in Scyon™ Axon™, will also use HardieFlex™ sheet for external soffits and Scyon™ Secura™ interior flooring and Villaboard® lining for wet areas. It will be split into four modules and brought by two trucks to the site. It will then be craned into place in a day, allowing the whole house to be completed in less than three months from its April start date. “There is so much potential for prefabricated design, particularly in the residential sector,” says Lim, “and with the shorter construction times, minimisation of material wastage and control over quality in the yard, it seemed like an avenue to pursue.” Lightweight construction lends itself to such structures with its speed, ease of assembly and tolerance during transportation, he adds. “In terms of futureproofing, services are more accessible and capable of being modified or added in a framed building than with some other building systems. “This is a growing sector nationally and internationally that is making considerable ground. We see WA as a state that will also embrace it, not only for temporary accommodation, but for mid to high-specification housing as well.”



bye bye brick…

… we wanted to see how hard we could push it, and have ended up exceeding 7 stars across the whole building.


the reno From character bungalow to energy-efficient icon, this home now boasts 7-plus energy stars. Making a contemporary addition blend seamlessly with an old-character home can be a challenge. When it came to building a contemporary addition to his family’s 1937 bungalow, designer Jason Saunders from Arc-Seven.1 was motivated primarily by a desire to retain his home’s character while also creating an energyefficient space. “Because of their lack of insulation, poor cross-ventilation and timber floors, a lot of old houses don’t rate well when it comes to energy efficiency,” Saunders says. “With the new addition, we wanted to see how hard we could push it, and have ended up exceeding 7 stars across the whole building.” The new addition is at the rear of the Saunders property and, when completed in mid-2012, will be painted black to keep it from visually dominating the original house. Designed as a flexible, contemporary space, it houses office and meeting areas that can be converted to other uses.

On the ground floor, reverse-brick construction has been used, putting thermal mass on the inside and lightweight Scyon™ Axon™ cladding on the outside, while exposed concrete walls are a feature both inside and out. “For the first floor, we wanted to create a structure that wasn’t imposing and seemed to float over the site,” Saunders says. This was achieved, he explains, with timber-framed construction and a 2.3 metre cantilever, where part of the building projects – seemingly unsupported – into space. “If we had wanted to do this in double brick, there would have been much more structural work involved, but using lightweight construction substantially reduced the cost and complexity of the build.” The connection between old and new is enhanced by a glass box linking the two worlds, while the link between the two spaces is enhanced by Axon™ cladding that flows from the exterior to the dining room. “We really wanted to create a contemporary design that blends with the existing forms,” Saunders says. “Using the cladding in this way has definitely helped.”


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bye bye brick…

the social home

Time savings of 50% and a system that called for just one skilled tradesman – this project went above and beyond the brief. As part of Western Australia’s new affordable housing strategy, the WA Department of Housing develops affordable housing for low and moderateincome families. After running pilots to determine which construction systems gave the best results, the Department found lightweight a strong contender. Quikloc modular panels have been trialled with great success, according to Summit Homes general manager Brett Garrett, who was involved in projects at four sites. In Girraween, a three-unit and four-unit development was built using the system, while in Bertram, Quikloc was used to construct two eight-unit developments. “The government wanted to look at alternative building products to understand their benefits and see if they would be viable going forward,” Garrett explains. “[Architect] Bruce Robinson and James Hardie® approached the Department and proposed the Quikloc system, which is very quick and easy to install and offers high insulation values.” Offering a substantial time saving of up to 50% over standard construction methods, the Quikloc system can be used to build both single and double-storey homes. Using a panel installed into a bottom track, fillets inserted between each panel lock them together while a plate on top fixes the roof into position. In the trials, the houses were clad in Matrix™ cladding and Scyon™ Linea™ weatherboard to create a distinctive, contemporary feel. Quikloc then boosted the homes’ insulation values to create a comfortable internal environment year round, while reducing running costs and adding to long-term affordability. “The advantage of the system is you only need one skilled person and two unskilled people,” says architect Bruce Robinson. “You can actually stand the walls of a single-storey home in two days. You start on Monday and can have the roof on by Friday. The insulation factor of the Quikloc panel by itself is already about 2.2 as an index, but you add James Hardie® products and it goes to 2.8.” Garrett believes the system’s potential extends beyond social housing. “Because of the speed and limited number of trades used in their construction, as well as their insulation values, we are starting to see increasing interest in remote regions and in mining areas, which we expect to pick up as more people find out about the system’s benefits.”



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trends to watch The rise of reverse brick veneer, the efficiency of SIPs and the move toward bringing the outside in – we examine three projects picking up on the hottest building trends.

rooms to using exterior materials on the inside, this trend may have started as a quirky idea but it is rapidly gaining pace. Jason Saunders, director of building designers Arc-Seven.1, won the 2011 Building Designers Australia WA Alterations & Additions $200,000-plus category for an outdoor room he designed in Applecross, Perth.

bringing the outside in Is it a garden? A room? A garden room? Clever designers are reinventing the way we look at internal and external space. We’ve always loved our backyards in Australia, but the garden is increasingly becoming an extension of the home, with clever design blurring the line between indoor and outdoor living. From creating liveable alfresco spaces that feel like real


As well as creating a connection with nature and making the most of the outdoor space, “the owners wanted to introduce some colour to the house, which was a bland eight-year-old double-brick and tile construction,” says Saunders. “It was a restricted site, so we needed to find something that allowed us to create the form that we wanted, without the time frames and other issues associated with using brick.” The team opted for Matrix™ cladding, with its high quality panel finish that can be used both internally and externally. “The whole design is based on squares, and Matrix [cladding] allowed that square form to be accentuated in an easy way. If we had had to use brick to do this, it would have been much more complicated.” The horizontal linework also draws the eye out further and increases the scaling of the design, Saunders says, while adding to the casual ambience of the informal entertaining and living space. “We wanted to design something that would create character without making it too difficult, and Matrix [cladding] was key to that.”

If we had had to use brick to do this, it would have been much more complicated.


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trends to watch

reverse brick veneer

Bricks on the inside, cladding on the outside, better temperatures and stand-out style: that’s the philosophy behind the rise and rise of reverse brick veneer.

With 24,000 people on the social housing waiting list in Perth, the Department of Housing is trialling alternative construction methods designed to get people into their new homes faster.

Reverse brick veneer is essentially the practice of improving a home’s thermal performance and comfort by placing the thermal mass (bricks) on the inside, with a layer of insulation between the bricks and the cladding.

Prefabricated Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) use an insulating layer of polystyrene foam, sandwiched between two layers of structural board, to provide maximum thermal efficiency at a cost-effective price. Their strength not only eliminates the need for a frame, but allows them to be used as walls, flooring and roofing.

It is also the thinking behind some of the hottest new building projects, including the luxury resort-style Alpine home, a wow-factor masterpiece that owes much of its success to reverse brick veneer. “The house uses reverse brick veneer clad with Linea weatherboard, accentuated with stonework and a Colourbond skillion roof,” says Raleigh Charpentier, sales and marketing manager at Gemmell Homes. “Reverse brick veneer really lets you think outside the box, by combining different materials and methods while building cost-effective, stylish and elegant homes. “The lightweight Linea weatherboard cladding also provides a sharp finish that frames and accentuates the house’s clean lines. We’ve also used stonework on lots of different aspects; together, these features take design in Perth to a new level,” he continues, adding that the feedback has been “awesome”.


“Everyone who sees it loves its lines and the fact that it is not the stock standard ‘box’ from project builders.”

quick SIPs

As part of a pilot project investigating the potential of SIPs as a faster, more energy-efficient alternative to traditional construction, Michael Roberts, codirector of Roberts Gardiner Architects, recently designed the Bates Road Inaloo project, a series of three two-storey family units. To create the striking two-storey designs, Roberts used a combination of Matrix™ cladding and PrimeLine® weatherboard, cutting the usual construction times in half. “Because it was so quick and easy to build and used few trades, we saved between 16 and 20 weeks,” says Roberts. “This results not only in cost savings, but means it is quicker to get people off social housing waiting lists.” While this was a pilot for the Perth metro area, SIPs are ideally suited for regional and remote areas because of their speed of construction and high levels of insulation, Roberts adds. “They can be prefabricated in a factory, trucked in and erected quickly, without the need for wet trades like brickies.”