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Build A Home to Suit Your Lifestyle

Build A Home to Suit Your Lifestyle

An Architect-built Home on a 360m² block? Tell 'em they're Dreamin'.

Bernadette and Steve's story isn't straight-forward. After one year working closely with their architect (Tim) they carefully chose a building company. Shortly thereafter they lost $100,000 when the builder was declared bankrupt. Not a great start.

Bernadette and Steve cut their losses, pulled up their socks and started afresh. This is when they approached Chalk Build. As you might imagine - not without bitter-sweet trepidation.



The great news is that they had a really fantastic experience with Chalk Build. Their home is suitably unique. Their dream is fully-realised. Except for a bit of custom cabinetry, some window blinds and a few throw cushions, their dream is complete.

Would they build a house again? "Perhaps. If we win Lotto," Bernadette laughs.

Is Building a House Difficult?

While the initial financial loss was difficult, Bernadette had an excellent experience working with architect Tim and the Chalk Build team. Steve says it was very much Bernadette's project from the beginning. She threw herself into it - and learnt heaps along the way.

Bernadette had an opportunity to go more deeply into the building process. It was a lot of work, but it brought out a passion and interest that she didn't recognise. Having to watch her pennies, she was already acutely aware of the costs involved and was able to save a substantial amount on the new build.

Chalk Build took them to lock-up while Bernadette and Steve continued to source internal fixtures and cabinetry. Things like door handles, some aspects of plumbing and other details are still being worked out, but the house is built and they are both very happy with the result.

Nature In the Home

It hasn't quite been a year, but the house certainly doesn't look unfinished - in any way. On the contrary, Bernadette and Steve's place feels more like a home than a "house." An open plan living area with adjoining master bedroom face a beautiful grassed area. A sense of natural flow eases your eyes to the garden. The majestic flame tree next door and the myriad of birds really make you feel like you are a part of nature. When seated in the open-plan living room, or relaxing on the bay-window day bed (Tim's idea and a favourite with the grand kids) you feel at one with nature.

Both have lived mainly in brick homes before this one. Steve has lived in a timber house before, while Bernadette has lived in a rammed-earth home down in Denmark, Western Australia. Steve's feelings about previous brick-built homes is that they were generic. Cookie-cut houses, not homes. He feels that brick gives less choice and opportunity for living and lifestyle choices (Angie from Chalk Build talks about Lifestyle and Your Home in this article.). Steve's main gripe about brick is that it's not a very good choice for the Perth climate. When they are 70% air, it's no wonder. Compared to previous brick houses, his new home feels like a living, breathing natural entity.

Being in the house - actually sitting with Bernadette and Steve in the open plan living room - feels a lot like being outside. Except it was warm. And you feel cosy. Protected.

North facing windows sunlight

Passive Design

Building your home around sunlight

The house is built with passive standards in mind. The aim of passive design is to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) the need to heat or cool areas of the home. That usually accounts for roughly 40% of energy bills for the average Australian family home.

Expensive double-glazing has been replaced by efficient glass and clever wooden blinds. They took a risk by not putting flyscreens on windows and so far... nobody has been bitten.

High north-facing windows (controlled by wooden louvres) throw a slash of sunlight down onto a solid polished concrete floor. The concrete holds onto the heat, releasing the warmth throughout the night. Sometimes the place gets a bit too warm - even during cool winter days. Then it's simply a matter of opening a window and angling the louvres to direct the airflow. Carpet can be placed over the concrete if the solar efficient home becomes too efficient.

This process of tweaking of louvres, windows and sometimes doors lets the house breathe beautifully. It had the opposite sensation that a "sealed" SIPs-built home might convey to the critical. The house didn't feel boxy or restrictive. It was an interactive, living part of the environment. When the wind changes direction, an opposite window is opened or closed to suit. There's no need for air-conditioning. Nature does a fine job of that.

There are a few loose ends. At times, the high East-facing windows let a little too much light (and warmth) in. Because the windows are high up and slanted, it's difficult to install louvres or blinds. Tinting is one option, but Bernadette enjoys seeing the stars and birds through those windows. Choices still need to be made. At least there are many options.

Pressure-testing and Thermal Efficiency

Steve and Bernadette weren't aware of pressure-testing or Passivhaus standards (you can find out about Paasivhaus and a lot more in an interview on the SIPs Indusries website called Build Your Home With SIPs). It wasn't really important to them and it made me wonder if this was the reasons teh house felt so "outside" (part of nature) - rather than "sealed" (against nature). The fact that you could choose either way with Chalk Build is really interesting. It just doesn't happen with brick-built homes.

Tim The Architect

They both sat with the architect and told him about themselves, what they liked about previous houses, what they didn't like. When they received his drawings, they were quite surprised. All the elements from their conversation had been meticulously applied. Tim had listened. This gave them a lot of faith in the project.

Because of the bankrupt builder issue, it took some time to find another builder. Once Chalk Build signed on, the walls and roof went up within a few days! Both walls and roof were made from SIPs Industries pre-cut SIPs (panels).

Adding Rooms with Moving Walls

Because of the way the house is built (the efficient use of space, larger open-plan style rooms) it's pretty easy to break a large room into two. Ideal for when the grand kids come over.

Steve plans to use a concertina door, but for a more permanent feel, another SIPs panel (or two) can easily be placed in. This is only possible because of the open plan design of the house with longer, rectangular rooms.

No Air Conditioning Needed

Steve has installed a couple of fans because they like to keep air moving around the building. There's no need for air-conditioning which is really the whole point of a Chalk Build home. If built correctly, you won't need heating or cooling.

But Steve and Bernadette are monitoring what's it's actually like to live in their home. "By living here for a few years, we'll know exactly what it is we need to change," says Bernadette.

Home and Lifestyle

The house is set back a block or so from a beautiful pristine beach by Rockingham. They built the new house on a sub-division of their old one, so they are used to the foreshore "swim and barbecue". But since living in the new home, they are really enjoying staying at home more.

The couple regularly hop on their bikes and ride the bike paths alongside the water. They can ride 20kms on the paths without having to worry about road traffic and there are beautiful cafes and restaurants all along the way. That's uninterrupted bike paths from Rockingham to Port Kennedy and as far as Secret Harbour.

Bernadette had some friends come over with some instruments; Buddha-bowls, gongs, drums etc. and the house lit up with music. The sounds were so beautiful that birds started singing in response to the music. In one case, a bird literally flew into the house. They enjoyed the experience so much, they are literally toying with the idea of doing it again on a more regular basis.

Sunlight from north facing windows

In Retrospect?

Bernadette would have liked a slightly larger than 360m² block.

Steve admits that the house would be a teensy bit better if he had a man-shed.

On September 4th 2016, Bernadette and Steve moved into their new SIPs-built home. And they love it.

If you are thinking about building a home or you found Bernadette's story interesting, get in touch with Chalk Build. We're happy to chat with you over a coffee and might just be able to help.