5 TIPS FOR…
Planning and Building your High Performance Home on a Budget.
High Performance = More Comfort – Less Energy – Healthier Living
Planning to Build or Renovate this decade?
Given recent events, It makes sense to at least consider building a sustainable, high-performance home.
TIP 1 | Realistic Budget
It’s important to be well informed whilst maintaining a realistic view of what is achievable. The majority of building companies will get your attention by proposing advertising such as “more space for less cost” or “free ducted air conditioning”.
For the average home buyer, this is a trap. Going through one of these building companies will leave you with an ordinary, poorly designed home that has been built to meet the bare minimum of building standards. Sure, it may look great but it is far from being a High Performance Home.
Having a High Performance Home is so much more than just adding a few solar panels. Some critical decisions in regard to needs and wants have to be made early. Do you really need a McMansion? Or would you consider reducing the footprint size and incorporating structural and building features that will make a huge difference during the lifetime of the home.
For example, isolating the slab from the ground ensures that your home is future proofed from mould and condensation. A kitchen benchtop or bathroom vanity can always be changed and modernised every few years, but the “skeleton” structure of the home can be very difficult and expensive to change later down the track.
Balancing needs and wants vs. affordability is the challenge that most of us face. There are design fundamentals that are free and must be incorporated early in the design process in relation to the location, ie: Solar orientation, natural light and ventilation exposure.
Building a High Performance Home will initially cost you slightly more, but in the long run will be your most intelligent and cheaper option.
TIP 2 | Select an Experienced Team
Planning to build a High Performance Home requires the expertise and knowledge of many people over a wide array of professions. Architects, Building Designers, Engineers, Certifiers are just a few.
Avoid using inexperienced people. By selecting a team that has prior experience you can be sure that they have a passion to provide, and deliver a finished product that meets the criteria. It is easier said than done to find a cohesive team of professionals that share the same values, and have a common interest in providing great quality work.
We are all familiar with horror stories within the building industry that have occured from undertrained building professionals and a lack of supervision.
As with all things in life, choosing a quality team will be more expensive at first but imagine the potential cost of bad design or bad building practices. Above all, do your research. Not just based on fees but the value that they will bring to your project.
TIP 3 | Select the Right Building Materials
Choosing the right environmentally-friendly and high-performance building materials is critical for building a High Performance Home.
The choice is getting increasingly harder, there are so many variables, and alternative options out there. It can be hard to know if you’re selecting the right option.
The building materials you select will be a big factor in determining not just the purchase cost, but will also impact the future indoor air quality of your home, the durability of your house, and the interior surfaces. It will also affect how much home maintenance you may be required to do in the future.
Check the product data sheets on the websites of material providers to learn the chemical composition of materials, air and vapor permeability, as well as proper applications and installation techniques.
The market is flooded with material providers that claim their products are the best “sustainable greener etc”. There are some building products in the Australian market that are not allowed to be used in Europe, so use this to your advantage!
To produce a High performance Home, products and building techniques, like air sealing using adequate insulation and vapour driven air barriers is important to get right .All product selections need to be finalized before you sign any agreements so make sure you are aware of exactly what you are purchasing. This will prevent the builder from purchasing a cheaper, inferior or even toxic product to increase their profit margin.
TIP 4 | Contractual Obligations… Avoid Variations
There are two parts to each building project.
- The Building
The most experienced design professionals will have 3D rendered drawings. If all the material choices and specification of works is detailed and complete in writing, there is obviously a lot less room for error or mistakes.
Contractual obligations need to be detailed and specific, once this is achieved, it is difficult to make mistakes, unless you start making variations of contract.
It is common in the building industry to charge high margins for variations of contracts, the onus is on you to avoid it, therefore ensuring your project runs on time and on budget.
TIP 5 | Building your High Performance Home
A High performance home, either being a new home or a major renovation doesn’t just happen by chance. High performance passive homes are a holistic approach to building using the right design, the right experienced teams and the right materials.
Unless traditional construction… A home either is or isn’t high performance. There are no guesses, planning software tools and checking measures during the build are required to ensure you will end up with the expected result, not just an ordinary home with solar panels on the roof.
High performance homes use 60 to 90% less energy with superior levels of comfort with consistent temperatures throughout the year, and are healthy, with less dust, pollen and illnesses for the entire family.
In the short term, yes, it can be more expensive in labor and materials compared to building a standard home – however in the long run, it will be one of the best investments for your family and the environment.