custom home building is the best medicine

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Marmol Radziner 2780 / design

The materials we use to Custom build our homes and the design approach we follow can reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to our health and well-being. As a custom home builder, Collier Homes is acutely aware that in order for a home to take on the best sustainability and wellness principles, it must adopt specific and careful planning and design.

The general approach to sustainability in the context of the home building appears to revolve around minimising the energy consumption of a completed home rather than considering the building materials used in the construction of a dwelling. Too often, a cookie cutter design method is adopted-which leads to very outdated, unsustainable and repetitive results. Such results could have could have easily been avoided by adopting a custom home building approach.

Materials such as concrete, bricks, roof tiles, aluminium and steel draw heavily on energy during the manufacturing process. The consequence of this is higher carbon dioxide emissions and, by extension, a more significant carbon footprint.

The fact that these materials continue to dominate the local industry at a time of widespread transformational change and disruption is palpable (ie electric cars.)

Nowhere else in Australia is the resistance towards more sustainable building more pronounced than in Western Australia – the state where double brick still reigns supreme. As a custom home builder in Perth, Collier Homes works very hard to move the baseline towards more sustainable Custom build homes.

Some changes for the better have occurred; the trend toward smaller block sizes has driven new construction techniques. For example, skinny house designs often deploy, timber framing, precast and much more efficient structural flooring systems. Such techniques are beginning to gain traction in the marketplace.

As positive as these techniques are, they only result in a minor reduction in the carbon footprint, given that the predominant materials have remained essentially the same.

In addition, these same materials often impose heavier loads, necessitating more substantive foundations and structural elements-making things only worse.

If all of that isn’t bad enough, the first home buyer segment is driven by a financing product solution — invariably placing a significant emphasis on property valuations.

Such property valuations are not necessarily sympathetic to alternative and more sustainable building materials.

We cannot continue to sugarcoat the fact that we have developed some terrible building habits, which have been made worse by the material supply chain biases in Western Australia. A custom home building approach, such as the Collier Homes’ Modus works to move things for the better. With Modus we give considered attention to how indoor spaces connect with the outdoors and passive solar design.

custom home pic 2.jpg
an example of Collier homes design as custom home builder

A fundamental and industry-wide attitudinal shift is needed to embrace alternative and more sustainable construction methods.

Outside of the environmental benefits, tangible evidence exists to support the correlation between physical and mental wellbeing and nature and bio-design–particularly the use of wood.

Our living environment is as important as our genes, and access to health providers-our buildings have a fundamental impact on our health and well-being.

When we visit our doctor, and we get down to the business of having our blood pressure measured, we inevitably close our eyes and try and relax to ensure the best possible result. In doing so, we often think of nature; a forest or a stream is most common-it’s instinctive.

Homes that connect to nature, allow natural sunlight, include plants, water elements, and wood have been shown to improve wellness. Custom Home building is best placed to tailor a design to incorporate such elements.

Healthcare facilities are moving in this direction for this very reason.

The Report by FPInnovations, a not-for-profit R&D institute, contains some in-depth references to research which makes the benefits of connecting to nature undeniable.

Importantly, responsibly sourced timber is the only significant building material that markedly reduces the carbon footprint of a building. The energy expended in the production of timber is much lower than other traditionally used building materials.

Despite the apparent disconnect between current predominant building practices and wellness, materials science and social responsibility, I see a bright future.

custom home pic 3.jpg custom home pic 4.jpg

pixels_max vakhtbovych showing extensive use of timber elements in custom home builder designs

A younger generation of Australians is in sync with global thought leadership and the societal imperatives surrounding sustainability. They will be the change agents as they ascend into positions of leadership across industry and government.
As a custom home builder Collier Homes, business imperative is to identify pathways that lead towards more sustainable building practices that also benefit the health and wellbeing of home occupiers.

To enable an improvement in building practices, we need to ensure that our regulatory framework shifts, that our education system adopts training programs that accord with best practice as far as building materials and techniques (ie we need many more carpenters) Also, banks and lending authorities must recognise that building with alternative and more thoughtful materials is not detrimental to the value of a residential property. It is equally important that a custom builder’s design input is both recognised and valued.

Custom home building is the best medicine for the construction of a residence in Perth and Western Australia in general.

Dario Amara FIEAust, CPEng, NER, APEC Engineer, IntPE(Aus) is a second-generation builder, experienced construction, and engineering executive and chartered professional engineer with some 40 years' industry experience.  He has also served as Chairman of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Chairman of the West Australian Opera Company and Chairman of Heritage Perth amongst other positions.

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