Cairns Council Releases Guide to Tropical Home Design

image: Cairns Council Releases Guide to Tropical Home Design

The Cairns Council recently published “Cool Homes—Smart Design for the Tropics”.

Cairns Council Releases Guide to Tropical Home Design

Architect and writer Steve Mouzon calls the recent era of homebuilding the “thermostat age” because buildings depend on machines for heating and cooling, rather than good design.

“Originally, before the Thermostat Age, the places we built and buildings we built had no choice but to be green, otherwise people would freeze to death in the winter, die of heat strokes by summer, starve to death, or other really bad things would happen to them,” he said.

That’s the magic of vernacular architecture, creating buildings optimized for a specific place.

As part of its Sustainable Building Design Policy, adopted in 2011, the Cairns Regional Council has recently published a guide titled Cool Homes—Smart Design for the Tropics. The 31-page guide aims to help homeowners create a comfortable, efficient, and sustainable home that uses the vernacular design features appropriate for a tropical climate.

Read more here.

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2014 AIA International Architecture Award Winners Announced

image: 2014 AIA International Architecture Award Winners Announced

ParkRoyal on Pickering bagged the top prize in Commercial Architecture

2014 AIA International Architecture Award Winners Announced

The Australian Institute of Architects recently announced the winners of the 2014 International Architecture awards.

The AIA’s international members submitted 24 projects, with five receiving awards, and six receiving commendations. According to the AIA, the institute’s international membership serves to help its more than 550 members in more than 20 countries maintain their connection to the profession in Australia despite living and working elsewhere. Most of the winning projects are located in Asia.

The award for Small Project Architecture went to Shelter@Rainforest by Marra + Yeh Architects. The architects, with offices in Sydney and Malaysia, created a zero-energy house for the manager and guests of a forestry company in the jungle in Borneo. Jury Chair Peter Wilson noted that “the Small Project Award for a highly sustainable Rainforest Shelter must be singled out as exemplary. It is not a product of big bucks overseas work, more a responsible, sensitive signpost and yardstick.”

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IKEA Advances Renewable Energy Focus with Tempe Project

PV panel; IKEA Advances Renewable Energy Focus with Tempe Project

IKEA is installing a 990 kW PV array at its Tempe, Australia store.

IKEA Advances Renewable Energy Focus with Tempe Project

 Swedish retail giant IKEA has committed to using only renewable energy by 2020, and solar photovoltaic installations are a key component of the company’s strategy.

The company’s store in the Sydney suburb of Tempe will be the largest single-roof PV project in Australia, though it’s a shade smaller than the 1.2-megawatt installation at the University of Queensland, which is installed on several roofs.

UK firm Kingspan Energy has been contracted to handle the installation of nearly 4000 Yingli polycrystalline solar photovoltaic modules, 43 SMA Sunny TriPower inverters, and a Schletter mounting system. The company says the installation will be complete in mid-September.

Kingspan has previously completed major solar PV installations for Jaguar and Aldi, among others.

Read more here.

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Large Homes Selling, But Tiny Homes Attracting Attention

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The average new home size has crept up as younger buyers are priced out of the market. Some of them are turning to tiny homes.

Large Homes Selling, But Tiny Homes Attracting Attention

The average size of a new home in the U.S. hit a new record in 2013, at 241 square metres. The previous record was about 232 square metres in 2008, just before the housing market imploded.

That might sound like good news, but it actually indicates a weak housing market, according to economist Robert Dietz of the National Association of Homebuilders.

“Higher-end homebuyers, particularly older homebuyers with cash reserves necessary to meet today’s down payment requirements, are in the new home market in greater proportions than first-time homebuyers who typically purchase smaller homes,” Dietz wrote in an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report. “The result of this change in market mix is, at least in the data, rising average new home size on an average basis.”

Not coincidentally, in the decade from 2002 to 2012, home ownership fell most among people 35 and younger — 11 per cent, according to US Census data.

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Advances in Photovoltaic Technology

image: light-sensitive nanoparticle; Advances in Photovoltaic Technology

Paint-on solar cells? They’re on the way.

Advances in Photovoltaic Technology

Recent advances in material technology could soon lead to more advanced solar cells that can be painted or printed onto a surface, such as thin films and roofing materials.

 A new class of solar-sensitive nanoparticle, developed by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, outperforms current versions of light-sensitive nanoparticles.

Post-doctoral researcher Zhijun Ning and Professor Ted Sargent have led the work on colloidal quantum dots, manufactured nanoparticles that generate electricity from sunlight. Their research could “lead to cheaper and more flexible solar cells, as well as better gas sensors, infrared lasers, infrared light emitting diodes and more.”

Read more here.

 

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Getting the Roof Right a Key to Good Design

roof image; Getting the Roof Right a Key to Good Design

Roof design and details can make or break an energy-efficient home.

Getting the Roof Right a Key to Good Design

Designing and building high-performance structures offers many chances for under-performing details, particularly when it comes to roofing.

Some design elements are problematic in and of themselves, and some components can be problematic unless they’re installed perfectly. Aesthetics are one thing, but practicality is another. For practical reasons, it is imperative to get roofing details right.

CAD systems make designing a complex roof fairly easy, but even if a roof performs fine in the modeling software, it still has to be built, insulated, and air-sealed to specs. A simple gable or hip roof, or as close a design as you can come up with, will reap rewards for the designer, builder, homeowner, and remodeler.

Read more here.

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Eight Useful Apps for Builders

apps; Eight Useful Apps for Builders

Builders today have a plethora of helpful apps to choose from.

Eight Useful Apps for Builders

Builders and subcontractors can now manage most, if not all of of their business from their smart phones and/or tablets. Here are a few of the most useful apps.

Home Builder Pro Calcs ($4.99, iPad and iPhone)

This app has more than 350 calculators built in, including loans, pricing, and travel costs; concrete and paving calculators; electrical; floors, walls, and ceilings; foundation work; framing, including siding, joists, studs, stairs; HVAC, including insulation, air conditioning, and airflow; hours estimates for carpentry, concrete, doors and windows, finishes, roofing, and site work; landscape and yard; masonry work; 24 area, volume, and angle calculators for a variety of shapes; 26 different unit conversions; 22 calculators for roof framing and roofing; and wood and materials.

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Multi-Family Passive Houses a Potential Boon for Australia

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Multi-family Passive Houses could serve densely populated Australian cities well.

Multi-Family Passive Houses a Potential Boon for Australia

According to research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), “energy use in buildings is responsible for 26 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the primary cause of peak energy demand on the electricity network.”

Furthermore, on particularly hot days, air conditioners in Australia can consume as much as 22 per cent of all the electricity generated across the nation.

Australia is one of the worlds’ most urbanised nations, with 89 per cent of residents living in cities. The stringent Passive House standard, though not yet much of a factor in Australia, offers the potential for multi-family housing that serves the continued demand for urban housing while drastically reducing energy consumption.

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Making Roofs More Functional with BIPV-T Systems

PV roof photo: Making Roofs More Functional with BIPV-T Systems

New roof technology can provide shelter, electricity, and heat from a single roofing system.

Making Roofs More Functional with BIPV-T Systems

The days of underutilised, single-purpose roofs appear to be fading. New roof technology can provide shelter, electricity, and heat from a single roofing system.

Called a building integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) system, the new technology integrates painted standing-seam steel roof panels with thin-film photovoltaic panels and makes use of the sealed chamber between them for thermal energy.

BlueScope Steel and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have recently installed Australia’s first prototype BIPV-T system at a home in Glebe. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the roofing system was designed specifically for Australia’s climate and building environments to ensure the PV systems were durable and robust. The companies are developing the systems for commercial sales.

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Designing Resilient Places

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Improved building designs can improve the performance, functionality, and resilience of buildings when disasters hit.

Designing Resilient Places

Cities around the world face a variety of natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, heat waves, cyclones, and tornadoes.

In addition to the suffering inflicted by the storms themselves, the built environment’s design and construction shortcomings also cause avoidable problems. Fortunately, improved building designs can improve the performance, functionality, and resilience of buildings when disasters hit.

In an urban context, improving the resilience of buildings requires a holistic approach along with various infrastructure improvements. In other words, improving each building is necessary, but won’t sufficiently address the issues that people and cities will face as sea levels rise, for example, if hurricanes grow stronger and more frequent and cities become more dense and urbanized.

Read more here.

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