Concrete dream comes to life

A brutalist concrete box is not everyone’s dream home, but it was for Angelo and Kasiani Amara. Their building journey has been showcased on Grand Designs Australia (Season 9, Episode 4).

As you’d expect, the first-time builders faced a range of trials and tribulations including a challenging building technique, a small 227m2 block, a tight budget, and working with family.

According to Alberto Amara, who managed the project, the 12-month build was not all smooth sailing. Family tensions and the complexity of the build pushed everyone to their absolute limits.

Nic Brunsdon was chosen as the architect to design a two-storey three-bedroom home that would blend rawness and refinement. According to Alberto, he knew the project would never be a nine-to-five scenario. 'Angelo and I would frequently call each other after work until late into the night. We would usually be stressing about the budget and how to get things moving on site'.

Nic really pushed the envelope in terms of design. The decision was made to use precast concrete panels, which is rarely seen in residential homes. There were twelve precast concrete panels in total arranged in a grid-like formation. The panels were deployed as both the finished material and the building structure. By using this commercial construction system as the main conceptual organising principle, the project was able to achieve a time-saving in construction, while maintaining its design integrity and innovative form, Alberto said.

Build Gallery

Before joining Collier Homes, Alberto spent a decade working with major commercial contracting entities, administering or managing large building projects. 'The process of building Angelo and Kasiani's house was quite familiar to me, so I guided it from initial costing and value engineering through to shop detailing, material and labour procurement, and on-site delivery. I trained and mentored our construction manager, Alex Ingram, in safety and project management,' he explains. 'Alex and I went through a lot together on the project. We got our hands dirty and are like brothers now'.

Alberto admits it was a very stressful time, particularly during the installation of the precast panels. 'I had some moments on site where I came close to a complete meltdown,' he recalls. 'The structural connections that held the building together were comprised of very intricate cast-in elements. We had instances where these elements were misaligned or in the wrong position. We had to make decisions on the fly in concert with the structural engineer. I’m proud of our team of consultants, subcontractors and suppliers assembled for the project.’ During this project, Alberto and the team turned to Anthony Ivanhoe of Urban Cranes. ‘During the extremely testing moments, he always had my back,’ he says.

‘Our concretors, carpenters, plumbers and electricians and other finishing trades were our tried-and-tested teams. They rose to the challenge and were awesome,’ Alberto says. ‘Whenever we had an issue, they worked with us to quickly overcome it. I take my hat off to them because it was a really challenging build.’

To watch the journey unfold, tune in to Grand Designs Australia (Season 9, Episode 4) on Foxtel's Lifestyle Channel.

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