Friday, September 26, 2014

Thinking of buying a block and building a house on it?

Well then consider having me look at the block you're interested in.

Coupled with the sort of house you're thinking of building, I can give you the for and the against. Some blocks aren't sympathetic to some ideas or plans, not to mention the budget. Especially in the Albany Region, there are soil variables, drainage issues and even block size potential problems. For example imagine a large family home with need of three or so car spaces on a 300 or less square metre block, on a slope with a mix of clay soils, sand and rock. It can get awkward and expensive. Also, if you just bought the property and paid the stamp duty etc, and then find it doesn't work well . . . Well with my three plus decades of experience in the building industry, designing, drafting, site reports, assisting Engineer's, soil testing and building - an awkward and/or expensive situation may be avoided.

At least it may be worth considering, for the cost of a site visit and a consult/report. Phone or email me for an idea on my fees, which will depend on how far the site is and how much time is needed. A visit in Albany on an moderately easy block would be around $200. A cliffhanger in Denmark – more.

 [0427] 211 277

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Home with a Wild Heart

The Home with a Wild Heart

Awhile ago a concept for quite a 
different home occurred to me.
Imagine at the centre of your home, a 
glass shaft approximately four by four 
metres wide going up through the roof.  
In this space there are plants growing 
and areas of double glass where fish 
can swim around. There could also be 
a couple of small birds flying around, 
with perhaps a couple of frogs and 
lizards moving through the dense 
The peacefulness created by the cool, 
calm greenery of such a shaft of glass, 
would make it a worthy area to have in 
a home. I have designed and built a 
couple of homes with a central atrium 
and have noticed that the plants thrived 
extremely well in these well protected 
areas.  Another bonus of this idea is; 
as the land sizes get smaller, wouldn’t 
it be great for young and old to have a 
mini eco centre right there in the middle 
of the house, in arms reach of the living 


The health of this internal garden will be 
a great source of learning. Things to 
consider are soil, air and water. Then
there’s climate, feeding, housing, 
breeding and various other things that 
you and the children can work on. 

At the end of the day; just imagine 
coming home after a busy day of work 
and then as you open your front door, 
you are greeted by a peaceful haven 
of plants and fish and birds. What better 
way to have some contact with nature 
than to have it in the middle of the home 
. . .  a world of live ‘wildlife’ in the 
home with a wild heart.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Start of the Home

For every family and location there is a different home to suit that particular location for that particular family. 

Those who are thinking of building will usually have a rough idea of their new home. Their ideas could’ve come from past experiences or perhaps, something they have seen.  When they see an existing house that appeals to them, the design of that house would very likely have a strong tie with the block and therefore be somewhat of a product of the block; such as its area, levels, and orientation.

The shape [an element] of the house assists to determine the desired look.

Quite often the future new home owners will have drawn a rough plan, so there’s a loosely tangible concept to show the designer. There are also occasions where clients approach a design drafting service and the design starts completely from scratch, whereupon the designer then sets out to discover the clients necessities for a home that would offer them comfort.

Factors that Effect the Design of the Home

Some factors that influence the design are as follows:
      >The owner’s wishes            
      >The owner’s budget
      >The Block
                  R codes [Planning regulations for various 
                  housing density areas]
                  contour levels
direction of sun travel ie North
storm water considerations
soil type
                  topography, streetscape and neighbours
                  location of services
                  natural features
       >Availability of local materials
       >Availability of builders

Appointing JS Home Design  

After the clients have made initial contact with JS Home Design and conveyed the rough idea of their proposed new home, JS Home Design will provide a quote, scope of works and agreement for their consideration.  In this three to five page document, the fees and the scope of works for the three stages of providing plans are laid out.  The three stages being: Sketch [Initial Drawings], Preliminary Working Drawings [Plans for Council prior to print] and Final Stage [Addressing energy efficiency requirements, Specification documents and other miscellaneous items].

Sketch Stage

After discussions with the clients and the researching of the location and more, I form a ‘map’ of all the parameters of a particular project. 

After the client brief and a site visit or two, some ideas start to emerge.  A concept may be verbalized, penciled or 3D shaped on a laptop.  Then there would be further consulting, exploring the options and possibilities. Further ideas start to emerge and develop into the Sketch Stage, where the drawings are updated with the current ideas.  Here I would produce plans, elevations, details, three dimensional views and a site plan.  This could be done as a free hand penciled drawing to quickly give a picture to the owners. Often I follow this up with a computer aided drawing program where a more accurate visual, including accurate 3D views are rendered for the client to realize the form of the design.

Quite often there are some adjustments and fine tunings, until the clients say something like, “Yes, I’m happy with that!”  Then the plans proceed to the next stage.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Australian Tinkering – A Bit of History

The Vernacular building was done with what ever materials were available by whatever skill the ‘builder’ had ‘on hand’.


Back in the days gone, builders could wield an axe and then they progressed to the finer art of using a saw and a hammer.  The art, and hard work, of splitting logs and the axe hewn timber poles for structural beams, mixed with use of earth and stone walls made the early mainframe.  Then with bark, tin, nails, wire and small squares of glass, the building became a shelter.   A bit of steel rod and flat iron with a forge and some basic tools one could even make the hinges and other window and door furniture.


Australian Tinkering has fascinated me for a long time, ever since I watched my grandfather twitch a piece of wire on the farm.  I saw my father sort through the store of raw materials and then chose ‘just the thing for the job’.  Tools would come out to clutter the work bench and with the smell of wood shavings, iron filings and oil in the old tin workshop some bellows would be made, for example.

past and present tinkering
of the SW of WA

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Much Embodied Energy is in Your House?

Basically Buildings Need Materials
When you factor in the full picture of all the processes of manufacture, like what was involved with where, how etc the materials arrived at the building site; such as how much energy did it take to process the materials, including the mining/harvesting of the raw materials, including the use of tools, fuel for transport, etc.  How much pollution did the whole process create and what was the cost to the environment and how much would it cost to completely rectify the environment to before the whole process started and what were the costs and impacts on human health. Then, also factor in the energy used on site during the construction. Then at the end of the buildings life cycle, the energy and costs for the disposal of the building material.  

So; Embodied energy is the energy used through all of the stages of the production of a building.
With embodied energy there is also embodied emissions; carbon emissions. It has been reported that for around every dollar spent, there’s one kilogram of carbon emissions.

The choice of materials, method of construction and some common sense, determines the amount of energy embodied in the structure of a building.
The design of a building should also then factor in the following:
Which Climate Zone is the building
What’s the transport distances involved
What’s the embodied energy content of the available local materials

Starting at the lower end of embodied energy we have local timber, local stone, local mud bricks and the best . . . local recycled materials. The embodied energy in sawn hardwood that is air dried, is about a quarter less than kiln dried and twenty times less than laminated veneer lumber or MDF. In the case of LVL’s [laminated] and MDF, this is due to the energy used in the heating process in the first instance and with the extra manufacturing and glue. Then at the high end of embodied energy are aluminium, copper and plastics. These materials have hundreds of times more embodied energy than the air dried sawn hardwood.

Design the building for a long life 
In some cases the choice of a high embodied material is necessary; For example, large amounts of thermal mass, high in embodied energy, such as concrete and brick, can significantly reduce heating and cooling needs in a well designed and insulated passive solar house.  Also the choice of a high embodied material, such as steel, may last longer, thus the building lasts longer. When the building lasts longer, the energy used for the building’s existence is spread over a larger time, thus in effect lessening the amount of energy.

>Avoid building a bigger house than you need.  This will save materials.

>Make use of materials from demolition of existing buildings. Where possible, recycle construction wastes.

>Use locally sourced materials. This reduces transport.

>Select materials that can be re-used or recycled easily at the end of their lives.

>Give preference to materials manufactured using renewable energy sources.

At the end of the day
If every building was considered with keeping the embodied energy to a minimum, not only would the price of the building be less but it would help the environment and thus everyone’s health.

Healthy Planet, Healthy People