Thursday, February 01, 2018

Explosion of cookie cutter homes ‘wreaking havoc for homeowners’, experts warn

This is mostly just elitism and snobbery. The term "cookie cutter" is a reliable index of that. People will always use the materials and designs that are least costly for the purpose at the time. 

There is however one point below that does I think give concern:  Using polystyrene boxes for foundations. When I first saw it, I couldn't believe it.  It sounds like a joke but it has in fact become common practice. It is almost certainly a mistake

Australia’s love for cheap and quick to build “cookie cutter” homes is wreaking havoc for homeowners and the environment alike, according to building and design experts.

ArchiCentre Australia director Peter Georgiev has slammed developers and builders for the explosion of sub-par, one-size-fits-all homes that are based on “star gazing, fantasy and over-servicing” rather than tailoring to needs.

“There are display villages galore and the same product is trodden out street after street. The homes are quite repetitive” Mr Georgiev said.

“You now have the ability, in the backwaters of suburban Australia, to have as many bathrooms as you please. These are the trends happening not on need but on fantasy,” Mr Georgiev said.

He is concerned residential developments are flawed from the base up where builders are peddling cheap products and constructing homes in a stock-standard way, regardless of whether it is suited to a site’s different landscapes, and cutting corners at every turn to cash in the maximum amount of jobs possible.

“The standard approach to building design is being eroded. We’re talking about cutting to the bone to the point we end up with substantial defects,” Mr Georgiev said.

“Regulation is there to set a minimum standard. This quest with getting away with doing the least amount of work is endemic with the development mentality. It’s ‘what can we get away with and what don’t we have to do’ as opposed to ‘what is a good idea and how can we get a low cost for the life cycle of the home’,” he said.

One of the main structural problems he has come across repeatedly in the past two decades is “slab heave” which causes a house to twist and crack in the walls, doors and windows when “waffle pod slabs” are placed on inadequately compacted soil.

The product, which is a cheap alternative to your traditional concrete slab that’s excavated into the ground, is built on top of the ground using polystyrene pods. It needs very firm soil, excellent draining and sites that are virtually flat to work best.

But Housing Industry Association executive director of building policy Simon Croft said the commonly-used concrete slab, which was recognised in the Australian building standard, wasn’t ‘one-size-fits-all’.

“Site topography, building size, drainage (both natural and constructed) and the structural design of the load bearing elements can also influence the slab design,” Mr Croft said.

Since it arrived in the 1990s, the housing industry has seen a proliferation of this type of foundation and it’s had a disastrous effect, according to architect and builder Ian Forrest. “It may cost $10,000 to $15,000 on a job but it can cost owners and builders a lot more for bad workmanship and lack of design,” Mr Forrest said.

He estimated attending to one job a month with homeowners complaining about doors and windows unable to close and they are problems that are often extremely hard to fix.

“There was one place where the owner was jacking up his car in the garage and the concrete was so thin it broke through the ground and you could see the polystyrene,” Mr Forrest said.

He now wants the product banned across the country after observing countless defects in the product and flaws with the certification system and the building assessment process in Victoria.

But the country’s peak organisation representing builders, Master Builders Australia, said its members abided by current regulations and refuted claims that residential homes were poorly designed.

“Master Builders and our members are committed to building quality homes and the National Construction Code (NCC) sets minimum standards for housing design and construction including in those offered in house and land packages,” said Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia.

“Keeping home ownership within reach of average Australians must also be a high priority and code compliant new homes in variety of price points is an important part of that equation,” she said.

Mr Georgiev has called on the government to question what is currently being delivered in the residential space.

“Government certainly has to review the outcomes of what is being constructed at the moment and the value over the life cycle of these buildings. How long do they last, how costly are they to maintain and should we really be cleverer about cost – not just cost today, although it’s important – but the cost over the life of the building and the life of the occupants,” Mr Georgiev said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said while it was not aware of any specific issues raised in relation to waffle pod slab construction it was in the process of implementing a range of building regulation reforms.

The spokesperson said it follows a comprehensive review of the building regulation and certification system in 2015.


Big lurch to the Left by Shorty

What little was left of the traditional Labor model under the Keating and Hawke governments died with Bill Shorten’s speech to the press club yesterday.

The Labor leader delivered a hollow but unquestionably populist manifesto that sought to tap the rich vein of discontent in the community.

In defining Labor’s vision for the year ahead, Shorten borrowed from the playbook of the radical UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who used to great effect the concept of the “left-behind society” by exploiting class envy in an appeal to the disaffected.

It almost won Corbyn an election. In the end, it may well do the same for Shorten.

In all its concavity, Shorten framed a platform for the political battle ahead that was unapologetic in its populism if rich in contradiction.

The speech was a vision of an empowered union movement and interventionist government based on a bombastic class-driven promise to carve up and redistribute Australia’s wealth by taxing high income workers more and everybody else less.

The rhetoric around the disenfranchised drew an obvious ring around low-income workers, welfare recipients, students and pensioners. These have become the Labor “dependants”.

Where Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan drew the income line between the haves and have nots at $150k, Shorten has lowered the bar to $87k.

This is the new battleground where he believes the cost of living debate will be won or lost, the new “left-behind society”.

Ironically, this populism appears aimed at a large percentage of people who end up paying little or no tax.

It would have been a folly to expect that an Opposition Leader at this stage of the political cycle would offer anything more than hints as to the enabling policies that would deliver on this quixotic dream.

What hints there were included a legislated cap on private health insurance premiums, reversing company tax cuts and re-regulating the Labor market.

On energy policy, Shorten appeared to suggest the path to lowering energy prices was to build more wind farms.

His speech demonstrated how far the ideological ballast has shifted to the left both in ideology and rhetoric under his leadership, yet he spoke directly to the issues that preoccupy the minds of most Australians.


Bill Shorten backflips on private health insurance rebate

A day after suggestions Labor would make changes to private health insurance rebates, leader Bill Shorten has clarified his comments.

Health Minister Greg Hunt quickly fired back at the Opposition Leader, criticising him for keeping the door open to ending the rebate and warning that its abolition would drive up the cost of living for regular people.

"What Shorten has announced today is a plan to dismantle private health insurance and drive up the cost for pensioners, for seniors, for families and for young people," Mr Hunt said.

Asked on Wednesday morning to clarify if Labor would be targeting the subsidy, Mr Shorten said no.

"I just think that the government wasn't listening yesterday and we are very clear that we think there is a role for private health insurance but it's got to work for people," he told Nine's Today show.  "I mean, if they are going to get billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidy and they are making 25 per cent profits...where do people come into the equation here?"

Mr Shorten said a Labor government would be meeting with the private health insurance companies and telling them their premiums are "out of control".

Currently, the government provides a means-tested rebate for Australians holding policies with private funds.

Single people earning more than $90,000 and couples earning more than $180,000 pay a Medicare levy surcharge of up to 1.5 per cent if they do not have a private policy.

Premiums will rise by an average 4 per cent this year despite Turnbull government changes designed to restrain growth. This rate, while the lowest increase since 2001, is still nearly double the inflation rate and adds $200 [annually] to the average policy.


Classrooms powered by renewable energy to be trialled in NSW schools

This sounds like fun.  What happens when it is an overcast day?  Do the kids alternately freeze and boil?
School children across Australia could soon be taught in classrooms powered entirely by renewable energy as a result of the innovative ‘Hivve’ modular classroom, now being trialled in two New South Wales schools.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing Hivve Technology Pty Ltd with $368,115 in funding to pilot their modular classrooms in a school environment.

Known as the ‘Hivve’, the portable classroom incorporates solar PV generation, real time energy metering, CO2 metering, data capture and communications to actively manage energy demands and control indoor environment quality.

Each Hivve classroom has the potential to generate enough electricity to power itself and two other classrooms in the school.

A regular classroom can consume on average 3,800 KWh per year, but when a HIVVE classroom is in use, there is an estimated net energy generation of 7,600 KWh per year.

Ready for the start of 2018 school year this week, the two pilot classrooms are being trialled at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Holsworthy in Sydney’s south western suburbs and at Dapto High School in Dapto where the performance of the Hivve classrooms will be monitored and evaluated over a 12 month period.

A prototype building built by Hivve Technology Pty Ltd has successfully demonstrated the functionality in a controlled environment and this will be the first time the Hivve classroom and technology has been trialled in a real school.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said there was enormous potential for Australia’s public schools to not only educate on renewables, but also reduce their reliance on the grid.

“This is a great way to get the next generation involved in renewables at an early age and educate them as to what the positive benefits will be as Australia continues its shift towards a renewable energy future,”

“The success of the Hivve project could lead to a nation-wide adoption of the modular classrooms, reducing reliance on the grid and even providing a significant amount of electricity back to the NEM.” Mr Frischknecht said.

Hivve Director David Wrench said the Hivve Technology was conceived and designed to deliver sustainable solutions – both environmental and economic – to help meet Australia’s growing school infrastructure needs.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with ARENA on this exciting project. We have carefully designed every element of the Hivve classroom to create the best possible learning environment for students”, Mr Wrench said.

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Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

"the garage and the concrete was so thin it broke through the ground and you could see the polystyrene..."

What the hell.....?

Since when?