Jotting 3

My first jotting exposed the building concept (Single Storey), that made most Australian householders the biggest wasters of land and materials in the world. The second exposed the madness, greed and mindless cloning that brought about Oz’s shameful accolade. Now I will unfold some of the misnomers that get banded around to justify or gain acceptance of a building “tradition” that has gone terribly wrong. (Misnomers in Italic).

Building within a roof means committing household living to climbing stairs.  Climbing stairs is more about plan layout and choice than it is about design concept. People can have their everyday facilities on the ground floor, allocating auxillary rooms upstairs for occassional visitors. Some choose not to fitout the roof space at all, but leave it awaiting for possible future needs, whether they be the original home owner’s or future. A potential ready built roof space can be a very valuable asset at time of resale.

Having an upper level means having hotter rooms upstairs in summer.             If this were to be the case or is infact so in existing examples, it is due to poor home design and building bad practice. Very few homes have a roof/ceiling vented space that eradicates heat through to the ridge before it has a chance to permeate the ceiling. A good example is wearing a hat on a hot day; you still end up with a hot head. What would be cooler is to have a parasole shading above your head. Hats are great for winter but unwanted insulation in summer that only stop sunburn. Having a vented airspace that can convect heat out before it gets into the rooms is what works best for summer.         This however does not mean you lose valuable internal warmth in winter because the insulation in the roof over the ceiling is what forms the wanted heat loss barrier. It’s the air above the insulation you want to get rid of in summer. Now if you’re puzzled why then do Double Storey rooms get hot upstairs; the answer is mainly through their walls, because upper walls face unshaded sun (particularly in summer afternoons), and are not vented. Double Storeys generally don’t have vented roof ceilings either being a contributing factor – Bad building and design. Ceiling vents (from rooms), are remedial exercises to eradicate heat that shouldn’t have got in, which now can be a source of heat loss  in winter. The best shot is for the roof design to create more comfortable living.

We need to collect more rain water so bigger Single Storey roofs are better.      Better at what? Why do people think to spread their house out at the greatest cost per square to collect water when they could consolodate their home footprint, use roof space and build a shed alongside that can do the water collection more cheaply? You don’t need a spread living area to collect rain, just a collective roof area. The myth that steeper roof angles collect less rain on windy days is also just not true!

Homes with steeper roof pitches are more vulnerable to strong winds.              Not so, infact quite the opposite! The flatter a roof, the more it can act like a sail causing a suction affect on the leeward side. It’s these suction effects that are most responsible for roofs being ripped off, whereas a steep roof has a better chance of deflecting a wind gust upwards and away from the leeward roof plane once it passes over the ridgeline.

My Builder says “these homes” cost more money and need stronger footings because of a second level (in the roof) – and my Builder says Blah! Blah! Blah! Well are you building for You or your Builder? It doesn’t hurt to listen to advice, but how do you know if the advice is nonsense, or simply vested interest to pay him more to spread your house costs? What you require is not just a Registered Builder, but one who is truly “qualified”. Home designs that utilise roof space as part of their living quarters DO NOT NEED bigger footings than Single Storey homes – it’s just a bad Builder’s con! 

But I’ve got acres and acres mate, so why would I want to build up?               Having a large property was never an excuse to spread a home out as a Single Storey, and how could anyone ever expect to have their home compete proportionately with acreage? You better believe home spread costs you more, and lessens it’s efficiency – it’s a no brainer, but does admittedly avoid lawn mowing.

So why do we keep doing it? Most of us are programmed to, even the Trade, but know the rest of the world just doesn’t believe in Single Storey building anywhere near like we Ozzies do. I’ll get into the nitty gritties of expense and labour cost next jotting.

Jotting 2

Australians didn’t always subscribe wholeheartedly to Single Storey design, because our colonial forefathers brought and replicated a building style they were well use to from England and Europe.

It wasn’t until much later that buildings, as did our developing suburbs, take on a viral sprawl of predominantly Single Storey construction, until post war Project Builders honed this trend, taking it to a mindless contagion.

The “Golden Years” of post war building when baby boomers were watching the Mickey Mouse Club on TV, was when much of our prime market garden land fringing around city centres, was squandered for housing.

It was all “GO” then with short sighted “Planning” that caused infra-structure problems for future generations. These were the days when Dual Occupancy wasn’t allowed, and existing home owners fined if they retained their water tanks.

Only when suburban infra structure became so stressed to the eye balls, was Dual Occupancy then permitted, and now guess what –  fines if you don’t have tanks. This sort of  “logic” is remedial where we wait until a problem presents itself before we fix it, rather than plan to avoid it in the first place.

Govt. instrumentalities weren’t the only ones to blame though; the general public was equally responsible for enthusiastically subscribing to squander, because people still had design choices other than whacking up a Single Storey on their quarter acre dream allotment.

Once the Single Storey “trend” became embedded in the public psyche, it became an  “icon” of Australiana that made Australians the greatest wasters of land and building materials in the world (and still are sadly).

What are Planning Authorities doing about it – nothing; if fact in some respects, wasteful housing is ironically encouraged. Australian Planning Departments are’nt much about saving environment;  their policies are thrust to find better ways to plough a service structure through it.

Today most Aussies perpetuate Single Storey building because it’s what they’ve been most exposed to, thus a certain “security” in retaining it, and being the same as one’s neighbours. This desire to be the same has created a sprawling eyesore, that few visitors from overseas would want to film as part of  their holiday record in Oz, yet conversely we fall in love with attractive housing and village settings overseas. The penny just hasn’t dropped here yet.

We have become so entrenched in the least efficient mode of building design (the Single Storey), that we now even defend our right to perpetuate it with ridiculous rationale, vested interest and even lies, which is all pretty crazy considering Single Storey building is the most expensive way per square metre of obtaining a home.

I’ll introduce some of these crazy urban myths next jotting.

Jotting 1

Did you ever ponder as to why Australians are the greatest wasters of land and materials (per capita), in the world, that’s right – IN THE WORLD? Personally I’m not that surprised, but without formerly giving it much thought, I probably would have nominated the U.S. to have won this shameful accolade, but no us Australians are sadly the true gold medal winners.

The outcome is not that hard to understand though. We are very wasteful when it comes to the style of housing we have fallen in love with over decades of mindless suburban sprawl, the biggest culprit being that of the Single Storey home design. I’m not even referring to the growing popularity of bigger homes today, but merely their design.

Single storeys are all slab, roof and wall, thus the maximum spread of any given size of home to live in, resulting in the maximum cost per square of building and land consumption. This ‘spread’ in turn consumes more energy to heat and cool a home, which lessens the value of housing for your dollar.

Let’s look at this syndrome more specifically. The building of a roof is one of the more costly aspects of home construction, yet most Australians unwittingly or otherwise increase their house cost by dismissing the use of roof space as part of their home layout. I’m not referring to Double Storey designs either because these also waste roof space and save nothing on wall area. Double storeys do however save roof and slab cost, as well as land consumption.

If more Australians adopted roof space in their designs (of which 80% could be designed as ‘habitable’), they would be embracing building like countries have been doing overseas for centuries, who consolidate home spread and hence save money, land and reduce energy consumption. Appreciate that you can still have the same living space you desire; you simply build and live in a more ‘Efficient’ way, whereas Australians on the whole live in the least sustainable housing design mode you can choose, which unfortunately also increases suburban infra structure costs.

It’s all pretty crazy and quite ironic that people who subscribe to Single Storey design are perpetuating the most wasteful design mode of housing in the world, yet most likely believe that they are choosing a cheaper and easier way to obtain a family home. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I’ll explain more about how this ‘Australian’ idiosyncrasy has come about in my next jotting.