Pervious Concrete Offers a Host of Benefits

photo pervious concrete; Pervious Concrete Offers a Host of Benefits

Impervious surfaces create a host of problems, such as an increasing the urban heat island effect, preventing the natural recharge of groundwater supplies, and polluting waterways.

Pervious Concrete Offers a Host of Benefits

“They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s lyric lamenting that “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is ringing true as cities become even more urban, with more roads, sidewalks, and car parks. All those impervious surfaces create a host of problems, such as an increasing the urban heat island effect, preventing the natural recharge of groundwater supplies, and polluting waterways.

A different type of concrete, pervious concrete, can solve those problems at little to no additional cost, and with relatively little additional training and equipment changes.

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Leaked Design Standards Include Big Changes

photo Melbourne; Leaked Design Standards Include Big Changes

Leaked Design Standards Include Big Changes

Leaked Design Standards Include Big Changes

Draft apartment design standards leaked last month offer clues to substantial changes ahead for new Victorian apartment buildings.

The new Victorian Apartment Design Standards are based on existing New South Wales standards, State Environmental Planning Policy 65, but are not yet complete. Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the completed standards will not be released before the state election in November.

The Office of the Victorian Government Architect, which is drafting the standards, addressed the leaked draft, stating, “Next steps will include formally consulting with the peak bodies of stakeholder groups.”

Many of those stakeholder groups have commented publicly on the draft standards.

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Invisible House Named House of the Year

photos: Invisible House Named House of the Year

The Invisible House by Peter Stutchbury Architecture blends subtly into the landscape.

Invisible House Named House of the Year

More than four hours west of Sydney, overlooking the Megalong Valley from a site with breathtaking views, the Invisible House by Peter Stutchbury Architecture blends subtly into the landscape.

The house was recently recognized with awards for House of the Year and New House over 200 square metres by the 2014 Houses Awards.

Citing the home’s harmony with its location in a spectacular setting, the jury noted that it’s an “absolutely Australian” project in its “modesty, clarity, resourcefulness and consequential delight.” The forms used in this rural retreat emulate the surroundings: the roof slab’s undulating curves recall the surrounding hills, while rusty steel boxes bring to mind old farm equipment.

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Building Materials Can Clean Polluted Air

Building Materials Can Clean Polluted Air

Titanium dioxide can be added to roofing and concrete to neutralize oxides of nitrogen.

Building Materials Can Clean Polluted Air

Oxides of nitrogen are harmful components of air pollution, contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particulate pollution that cause respiratory issues in humans.

A common mineral, research shows, can neutralise the pollutants when added to projects in the built environment.

Nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), together referred to as oxides of nitrogen or NOx, are components of air pollution produced by combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants, and off-road equipment. Australia’s Department of the Environment lists electricity production and motor vehicles as the largest NOx polluters, at 36 per cent and 26 per cent of emissions, respectively.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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