Category Archives: Home and Family

Choose awnings for the home

Awnings are a low-cost, low-tech way to summer cooling. They can serve two functions, to supply shade for the summer sun to control heat entry to the home, and also to offer more protection from rain and hail, to extend the life of the building structure and to offer shelter. About 40% of unwanted heat that enters the house is through the windows.

An awning is a fixed structure attached to the outside of a building, over doors, windows or walkways. Awnings were first used by the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians. The Coloseum in Rome was shaded and protected by large retractable canvas awnings.

 

Awning materials

Awnings can be made from a number of different materials, can be permanently fixed or retractable, decorative or purely functional. The angle and size of the awning is important to get the best result from an awning. The right placement ensures that summer sun can be excluded from the windows, yet allows the winter sun to penetrate to warm the house.

A light coloured awning will also reflect sunlight and heat. A slight gap left between the awning and the house will help to vent the heat that builds up under the awning. Installing the awning at an angle of 45 degrees looks and functions best.

The awning pictured right, is a permanent structure, and can be constructed from various materials. The advantage of this type of awning is that it is set and forget, apart from painting and cleaning. The disadvantage is that you are stuck with one level of setting.

There are other awnings which can have various configurations of control. You can have the mounting arms movable and adjustable, and the awning covering removable or retractable or partially so. This will give you greater levels of control over your covering options. You also have a choice of manual or motorised controls and adjustment.

The Ventian awning pictured below left, has either fixed or movable louvres for shade control. The advantage of these is that they allow some degree of light and vision through the louvres. If the louvres are movable, this allows for more light when needed. The louvres can be of wood, aluminium or various plastics. The latter two are maintenance free apart from cleaning.

Best fireplace for your family

As the colder weather creeps in, home heating starts becoming a real issue for many reasons. Not only do you need to keep warm but heating can be expensive if you don’t choose the right type.

A fireplace not only warms but can become a focal point in your home just like a camp fire does outside.

Fireplaces are now increasingly being designed into outdoor living areas. They’re a stylish way to make outdoor entertaining cosy and inviting, allow outdoor spaces to  be enjoyed all year.

Fireplaces have a reputation of being environmentally unfriendly because of their inefficiencies and emissions, which can also have adverse health effects. However, good design, as well as choice and handling of fuel, can improve both the efficiency of the fire and the release of emissions.

 

Issues to consider when adding a fireplace in your home

 

Emissions – Burning wood compared to burning ethanol or gas requires different appliances due to the emissions they produce. These emissions can cause health and other problems, not only for you, but also your neighbours. Emissions need to be considered and planned for. Wood causes the most potent emissions, gas less than wood, and ethanol the least.

Ventilation – When you’re using wood, gas or coal as a fuel source, the emissions need to be vented via a chimney or flue. Ethanol is a very clean burning fuel and does not require flue or chimney. However you do need to be aware of the ventilation issues with ethanol fuelled fire places.

Contrary to popular believe ethanol fires can produce a substantial amount of heat and can also be portable.

Building codes govern the building of fireplaces and chimneys, so consult your local council before you start, as regulations vary.

Energy costs – The cost, availability and storage of the different fuels for your fireplace will also need to be considered when choosing a fireplace. Wood is available from many sources, some free. However wood is bulky and requires plenty of storage space. Gas is also easy to buy and store, but check if you have access to gas mains or bottled gas. If you are on mains your gas will be relatively cheap, but if you only have access to bottled gas your heating costs can be as expensive as electricity. Ethanol is becoming easier and cheaper to fid and buy because renewable energy sources are becoming popular.

Residential architecture styles

This article gives a brief explanation of some of the architecture styles found in Australian houses. Just as these styles have developed from previous ones, the current styles are also being combined to create new hybrid designs, some of which work better than others.

The Tiple Fronted Brick veneer

This style of house has a brick facade (exterior) with timber frames supporting interior walls, usually of gyprock. Roofs are always hipped or gabled and tiled. This style dominated suburban architecture in the 50’s – 60’s. In its basic form it is a bland and unimaginative style which has been propagated by developers. Due to its familiar and cheap construction, it still is the dominant style in housing estates and many consider the style the scourge of Australian domestic architecture. The basic style can be made much more interesting by rendering and painting, adding more angles, porticos, verandahs, and bay windows. Larger homes (2 stories) of this style have been described as “McMansions”.

The original fisherman’s cottage was built in many coastal towns between the 30’s and 50’s. It was originally a simple timber framed structure of one or two rooms and a verandah which was clad with asbestos sheeting. The floors were generally raised on piles. The verandah sometimes had handsome wooden balustrade that was sometimes enclosed to make an additional room or sleep-out. Timber detail around windows and gables were often painted- cheery red being one of the most popular traditional colours.

The original cottages, being relatively cheap to purchase, are now popular for renovation. Construction is easy and owner-building is common. The older buildings require insulation in the ceiling and walls. Timber and fiber cement sheeting now replaces the original asbestos and often the interior is completed gutted to create a modern open plan style of living. Timber strap-work can be used and windows frames painted for effect.

This popular style has emerged from the triple fronted brick veneer. While the house footprint and floor plan may be quite similar, the gabled cottage has a very different feel. In this style the distinctive gabled roof is a dominant design element, and a practical means of providing shade and entertaining space. Constructions can be entirely of brick (often painted), entirely timber, or a combination of brick on the lower part of the house and timber on the upper. Some houses of brick construction have featured verandahs and porticos. Roofs are usually galvanized iron and windows metal framed.

While it is well suited to sloping blocks, this style can also be built on a slab. The use of timber cladding greatly reduces weight and construction costs.

How to developing your home design

The home design process can be a tricky juggling act. The nine steps below will teach you the basics of the process that is followed by architects and building designers in the building industry. Follow this process and you will have a better chance of designing a home that functions well and looks appealing.

 

Tools you will need

  1. Sketch paper: you can buy purpose-made ‘Butter Paper’ from an art supply shop, but baking paper works just as well and can be purchased from your local supermarket for around $1.50 a roll.
  2. A3 Drafting board: these boards are portable and come with a rule that attaches horizontally to the board. It can be purchased from an art or drafting supply shop for about $150.00.
  3. Adjustable set square: this item is an adjustable clear plastic triangle that is essential in producing straight, angled, and vertical lines. This can also be purchased at an art supply outlet or drafting supply shop for around $30.00.
  4. Pencil: you can purchase a specialised drafting pencil (clutch pencil) but a standard lead (graphite) pencil will do fine. If you do purchase a clutch pencil buy one with a very thin lead otherwise. you will then need to buy a clutch pencil sharpener which is different from a regular pencil sharpener.
  5. Eraser: white Stanley erasers are the easiest to use and you can purchase these from the supermarket.
  6. Rule: you can use a regular rule for drafting in 1:100 scale but if you want to draw your building at a smaller or larger scale you will need a scale rule from a drafting shop. These typically cost $10.00.

Home design information that you need for

There are seven common mistakes that people frequently make when designing their home. These mistakes are often reinforced in home design magazines and television shows. Explained below are the seven most common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

This article has been written from an Australian perspective. If you live in North America, Europe, or elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, reverse the north/south orientations mentioned below.

This is the biggest mistake most people make when designing their home. There is nothing worst than living in a home that is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But you can have both.

Ideally, orientate all bedroom & living areas to face north. This will provide perfect sun penetration to every room in the house. But realistically this is impossible for most homes that are restricted by the average suburban block. The following rules generally apply for typical suburban blocks.

  1. Locate all living areas on the north side of your floor plan. The floor plan shown here has good northern sun penetration through northern facing windows and was created using the Planit2d 2D Floorplan creator.
  2. It is preferable to locate the kitchen to the north/east so you can enjoy the beautiful morning sun while sipping your cup of tea.
  3. The main bedroom is preferable on the north/east if you are a morning person and will also be totally protected by other internal spaces from the brutal western summer sun.
  4. All bedrooms should be protected from the western afternoon sun in summer as much as possible – buffer the bedrooms with the laundry, store rooms, the garage or a heavily insulated walls face west.
  5. Window overhangs and shading – 900mm roof overhang is the optimal roof shading depth over windows to the north, on home sites with excellent sun penetration (if your site is shaded by trees or neighbouring house you will need to vary this accordingly).
  6. Avoid having any windows and doors on the west side of the home, unless a small high window is necessary for ventilation. If western windows cannot be avoided (due to views etc) consult a building design specialist.

Facts about strawbale

Home builders have experimented with building materials since history began. Strawbale houses built with small square bales originated in Nebraska, soon after the mechanical baler was invented. Nebraska was plains country with very little trees for building so someone with imagination saw a way to use these big bricks for construction. Nebraska style and load-bearing style are interchangeable terms meaning the same thing. Most houses being built are non-load bearing, in fact we have helped people build over seventy houses and not one has been load-bearing.

In Nebraska, in the United States, many strawbale houses over hundred years old are still being used as homes. An American magazine called The last straw had an article about how some of these houses were tracked down and checked for straw quality within the walls – the straw was as good as the day it was put in. Strawbale buildings stand the test of time.

 

Facts about strawbale

  • The walls have an insulation factor of between R8.0 and R10.0, reducing the need for air conditioners or heaters, therefore saving money. Read on how the render acts as thermal mass and helps to mediate temperature, a case study on a strawbale house in the Bega valley has the stats.
  • Strawbale construction has passed Australian bushfire testing.
  • Straw is NOT a food source for termites. Rats and mice CANNOT live in the walls because they would have to get through 60mm of hard render.
  • Most areas of Victoria and Australia have Strawbale houses so council approval is normally as easy as any other building.

 

Environmentally Friendly

Strawbale houses are environmentally friendly on several different levels. Straw is a waste product which normally gets burnt adding to greenhouse gases. Straw is also a renewable product grown in one season.

The insulation properties in the bales means extra insulation does not have to be added to the walls reducing materials in the building process and energy used to make them. The insulation afforded by strawbales also reduces heating and cooling costs but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the power generation no longer required. Each Strawbale house quite literally saves tonnes of greenhouse gases from polluting the environment every year.

 

Financially Friendly
Strawbale houses promote financial savings on heating and cooling up to $1200 -$2500 per year. If the money saved in heating and cooling (on average, $1500) was put into the mortgage of the average home loan, roughly three and a half years off the term of the loan could be saved, that’s more than $60,000!

As we are already feeling the affects of global warming with average summer temperatures going up and power prices never seem to go down, it is inevitable that cooling normal houses is going to become even more expensive, therefore strawbale houses is a viable economic option.

 

Strawbale aesthetics

Strawbale houses can look the way you want them to look and lend themselves to nearly all style of house design. The finish of a strawbale house has be seen to be far superior to the average mud brick house and appeals to a much wider market if ever you have to sell. The large window ledges and curved corners appeal to a lot of people. See more examples of strawbale houses…

 

General building process

Slab on ground is now being used more than timber floors with sub floors as it is easier to pass the five star energy rating and easier to build so most architects are going this way. Next a post and beam frame is erected and the roof pitched, the roof is then clad giving a nice protected area to store the bales ready for building.

A load bearing house does not have a frame and is possible but cost about the same and causes complications in the design and construction. Most importantly I think is the limitations on the shape of the house and the amount of openings allowed in any wall section which hampers solar passive design.

The Rules of Home Design That You Should To Know

Designing your own home can be a very exciting undertaking. The design process is a complex juggling act and there are 6 golden rules that you should follow designing your own home.

1. Think in 3D

Professional home designers like building designers and architects are always thinking in 3D when they’re working on a new home or renovation. They are constantly incorporating and taking away design ideas in plan and in a 3D form at the same time. For some people this skill is instinctual, but it can also be learnt over time.

Thinking in the 3D form can be difficult, especially when it comes to converting your own 2D house plans into a well form and aesthetically pleasing building. Weather you have this skill or not it is essential to always think about how your ideas will look as a resolved building form or you’ll run the risk of your building looking like a plan with extruded walls and a roof stuck on top.

 

2.    Limit amounts of different building materials

Be very careful when using more than two types of external building cladding especially on the same plane (elevation). Research precedence’s for using the materials you want together, otherwise it could result in a messy façade & water leakage into the home. Ensure that material connections are well detailed and also ensure the builder understands how these materials will join while performing their essential waterproofing requirements. A neat trick is to step the building using a different material and avoid mixing materials at all on the same elevation.

 

3.    Use site conducive construction methods

Ensure the structure types you choose suite your site, building style and budget. During the design phase you’ll need to start thinking about construction types to ensure your building form will look appropriate to the style of building you are envisaging and will be affordable.

Using inappropriate construction types can;

  • Make a building look heavy when you had in mind a light weight home
  • Result in expensive building foundations

 

4.    Good design composition

A well designed building comes from seriously considering such things as proportion, symmetry and repetition.

  • Proportion – The building you design needs to match human scale and should not look visually out of proportion (to too big or too small). You need to understand this before you commit to the design.
  • Symmetry – Using symmetry is a simple and traditional method of ensuring a building looks visually comfortable.
  • Repetition – Using repetition in your design offers the building visual strength and comfort. Repetition in windows or doors can work really well in a design.

 

5.    Design renovations to complement the existing

When designing an addition to an existing home it is impossible to design a well resolved renovation if the existing form and style has not been taken into consideration.
You have one of two choices:

  1. Incorporate the existing style of your home into the addition (so it looks like its part of the original home).
  2. Treat the addition with a totally different style but complementary to the existing style.

Choosing to go half way between the two is a common failing and the final design will lack visual strength. Commit to one option and ensure every choice of finishes, construction type and detail reflected your style choice strongly.

 

6.    Beware of deck locations and sizes

Locating decks in inappropriate places can result in the decks not being used for their intended purposed. Keep these rules in mind:

  • Don’t design decks off bedrooms – Decks located off bedrooms are rarely used unless there is a kitchenette located close by.
  • Avoid large decks facing a view – Decks facing your views can ruin your views from inside as you will be looking through balustrading and flooring. Design your deck to one side of your main living space so you can enjoy uninterrupted views without looking through decking materials.
  • Deck size – Don’t design decks less than 2000mm deep – Decks 2000mm deep or less off a living space are unusable, especially if you need to allow for a 6 seater table and chairs.
  • Deck orientation – If you can avoid it do not have a deck located on the south side of your home (these decks are shaded and cold in winter and cause lower level rooms to become colder and darker than before the deck addition. Always locate decks on the north and a second option would be north/east followed by north/west.

Building Your New Home

Are you planning to build a new home? Then be sure to read the tips from home building expert Metricon, one of Australia’s leading home builders specialising in contemporary and modern homes. If you want your home to be as functional as possible, the following top 8 designs tips will put you on the right path.

1. The Open Floor Plan

Anyone building a new home should consider an open floor plan, as it creates a larger living area to entertain in and a versatile space. An open floor plan is both functional and inviting to families, as it brings all the living areas in the house into one large space. Metricon’s Chicago display home is one of the many designs which offer open plan modern living which gives the main living areas connectivity, giving a sense of space to your home design.

 

2. Less Is More

According to Metricon, the time of cluttered homes is long over, which is why it is important to incorporate a lot of built in storage space in your new home design. To avoid making your room feel cluttered look at adding functional wardrobes, cupboards and shelving into your new home. At Metricon, we incorporate many storage options in our designs for all areas of the house. So whether you are building a house just for yourself or a large family, we can provide you with all the storage options you need, from walk in robes to butler’s pantries.

 

3. Mix Contemporary with Traditional

Contemporary is a popular design choice for many, however to make sure your new home design stays timeless; add some traditional touches to your design. By mixing these two styles together, home owners can enjoy a modern but classic home which will not date in years to come. Metricon’s Bordeaux design is the perfect example of linking these two design elements together. Keep in mind, its fundamental to make your new house design feel like a home by adding your own personal touches and finishes

 

4. Let There Be Light

Houses used to be designed with small windows and narrow doors. These trends have altered and Metricon focuses on maximising natural light in our house designs. A tip to help you incorporate this design element is to select large windows, glass sliding doors, light-wells and glass panels into your front door.

 

5. Do Not Be Afraid of Luxury

Creating a house that looks and feels luxurious does not always have to come with an expensive price tag. Metricon has a range of Designer home designs available which encompass contemporary luxury living with an affordable price tag. A tip we give our customers to help them make their home feel luxurious is to add quality fixtures and finishes including high ceilings, quality flooring and timeless fixtures throughout.

 

6. Street Appeal

First impressions last and the exterior design of your new home is one you want to select carefully. It is important to consider when choosing your facade, how your new house will look from the curb as well as fit into the street you are building in. It is also important to choose colours, materials and surfaces which will complement each other so there is a sense of cohesion in the visual appearance of your home.

 

7. Functional Bathrooms

Building a spacious bathroom is on most people’s wish list. At Metricon, we have made sure all our bathroom designs both feel spacious and functional as well as incorporate space saving storage ideas. It is important to choose fixtures and colourings to make you room feel more spacious which may include light coloured wall tiles and paint colours. Clever storage solutions are the key to any bathroom. Let’s face it, no home has enough storage in linen cupboards, so introduce more storage in the bathrooms as the less clutter you have, the better. It will also create an illusion of a larger space.

 

8. Modern Fixtures and Fittings

One of the benefits of a new home is the opportunity to select features and fittings that reflect your own personal taste and lifestyle. Special attention needs to go into selecting the finishing touches. Each of our Metricon homes has a contemporary appeal, created with a suitable balance of quality fittings and fixtures. When building a new home, you have the option to select many items such as tapware, tiles, sinks, basins, flooring, lighting, cabinetry, benchtops, appliances and door handles, which helps you to personalise your new home and cater perfectly to your lifestyle.

Green building and sustainable architecture

The terms “environmental design”, “green home design” and “sustainable architecture” are just a few of the terms that people use when trying to describe a home that is designed to minimise it’s impact on the natural environment. In this article we use the term “environmental design”.

Good environmental design positively effects the thermal comfort of a building allowing the occupants to be comfortably warm in winter and cool in summer – with minimal energy usage.

There are 6 main areas that need to be considered when planning your eco friendly house or renovation. The information given in this article applies to sites at a latitude of approximately 32°, which covers the greater Sydney area in NSW, including Newcastle and Wollongong, and Perth, in Western Australia.

 

Design

Ideally you should purchase a site that is flat and has its backyard facing north towards your view. This will make designing an environmentally friendly house or passive solar home much easier.

 

Sun and orientation

You will need to spend a good amount of time assessing direct sun penetration onto your site before you start designing your passive solar home.  If it were practical, and you oriented all the internal spaces in your home to north, it would be relatively straightforward to build a green home that was thermally comfortable all year round. However in the non-ideal “real-world” this is rarely possible. A great book to use when planning around sun and shade for you building is “Sunshine and Shade”, written by R. O. Philips of the CSIRO. Use the basic rules listed in this book to aid you when planning the various spaces in your home.

 

Sun control devices

There are many methods of controlling sun penetration in your home helping a house stay cool in summer and warm in winter.

Roof overhangs: For homes that are drenched in full sun ensure that all windows have a standard window and door shading depth of 900mm.  600mm is the normal project home depth and that is not enough.  This depth can be slightly altered depending on the orientation of the external walls to north.

Other control devices: If you have no choice in how you orient your living areas, and are forced, for example, to orient them towards the west (the harshest of all options) you will need to get creative. One solution is to plant deciduous trees to the west about ten metres from your house.  This will block hot afternoon summer sun and allow winter afternoon sun to penetrate through to your home. If this is not an option due to views or council regulations, the best solution is an operable (adjustable) window device like an awning or louvre system.

 

Room orientation

If you have shading on your site you need to think about the room type and design to get the optimum sun penetration into the space; e.g., locate laundries, bathrooms and storerooms to the west or south.  These rooms can be physically cut off to control the hot western sun or the cold resulting from a southern facing orientation. Bedrooms work best located on the east because most people love being or drenched in morning sunlight. (However a southern orientation is a worth considering for shift workers, because the bedroom will then be darker.)  Leave the north to living areas as people spend most of the daytime in these areas.

 

Insulation

To save on heating and cooling costs in your new green home it is essential that all your external walls and ceilings are insulated.  All cladding types have an R-value, the higher the R-value the longer it will take for the outside temperature to enter you home.

Many houses today are timber framed and without any extra insulation these homes will not be hot and cold in the wrong seasons but it will also rate poorly with BASIX (BASIX is the Building Sustainability Index.).  There are too many products to name, but insulation generally come in the form of “batts”, air cell blankets (like bubble wrap), loose pulp, and “sheets”.  Heat is lost primarily through the ceiling of a home, then the walls and windows, and lastly the floors.  If your site faces a windy direction, and is located at the top of a hill, your floors will need to be insulated.

Sarking is a reflective fabric that reflects heat away from the roof and external walls and it should be laid with the reflective side facing outwards.  Roof sarking often forms part of an insulative blanket that is laid on top of the roof trusses and under the roof battens.

There are many new products on the market that are a “sandwich” format product (cladding on one side, a finished lining on the other, and insulation in the centre).

Entry space for your home

The entry to your home can be a wonderfully functional space, yet many Australian homes don’t have one.

So what is an entry?

An entry is a transitional space, where your family and guests can be greeted, organised and redirected to other spaces within and around your home.  Your entry needs to (not only look great) but most importantly it needs to function well for it’s intended use, and you may need more than one!

 

The following 3 easy steps will guide you through the design process of creating well designed entries for your home.

1. Confirm number of entries required

Most Australian homes have a front and a rear access, as a result you will need to design two separate Entries for your home. We call these entry spaces the Front entry and Mud Room (for the rear entry).

2. Performance specification

You need to think about the way you use the current entries into your home. Write a list similar to the following for both the Front entry and the Mud Room:

Front entry

Needs to have a:

  • Store space for shoes, handbags, coats, school bags and a broom
  • Seat to put on your shoes
  • Powder Room close to this space for tradespeople and family to use
  • Enough space for you and your family to be able to fit into (1m²/person is adequate)
  • Lay off space for side table
  • Covered area outside front door for 5 people (5m²)
  • Direct access to the car space