Sustainable Building: Why double brick is nuts in Perth
Challenging convention in the double-brick market of Perth.
Editor Amanda Falconer interviews architect Rex Randell for a Green Undressed segment in the Light Home sustainable design podcast series. You can listen to the full interview here.
After building timber frame homes in New Zealand for many years, architect Rex Randell was surprised when he arrived in the much warmer climate of Perth and saw the mass of brick houses.
“The Perth person’s affection for building in double brick is funny – they’ll actually walk in and tap the walls of a home to check it’s brick, and will remark if it’s timber,” he says.For Randell, it’s clever marketing and not practicality on which the western city’s love for double brick is based.
“Brick really retains the cold when it’s cool and the heat when it’s hot, which doesn’t suit the Western Australian climate at all,” he says.
“It really has quite poor insulation value, which may be fine in the summer, but as soon as it gets cool in the winter, the internal walls turn to ice.”So when he was commissioned to design a new home on the outskirts of Perth, he couldn’t wait to show his clients that brick wasn’t the only option.
More than brick and mortar“The brief was to design a new home using traditional materials for Perth, which originally meant double skin brickwork throughout,” he says.
But hoping to make the home passive solar in design to keep the home warmer in winter and cool in summer, Randell proposed something a bit different.
“To try and get people thinking outside of the square, we used double brick downstairs with lightweight timber framing upstairs.”While the clients originally wanted all brick, they loved the idea of having something a bit different.
“The clients looked at the plan and didn’t want to change anything,” says Randell. “I’ve actually never had that happen before!”
Why timber is betterRandell believes that despite popular opinion, timber frame is a much better material to build with than brick, even in Perth.
“Timber frame is much better than double brick as it allows for the building to breathe and to maintain a more constant temperature,” he says.And after achieving a stylish, sustainable and cost-effective home without using only brick, Randell has shown that Western Australia should put down the plastic bottle and go for the thermos.
“Perth has an aversion to building truly sustainable homes, but they need to know that lightweight construction completely suits the Perth climate.”*For a more detailed explanation of this, go to these Green Undressed posts: Insulation – how it works; and Thermal mass – how it works.
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GrangerHarper 20-Jul-2012 09:53 PM