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Chalk Build for Architects

Chalk Build for Architects

Design and Build Your Own Home

Isabela Katafoni is an Architect. She heralds from Poland but has settled with her new Australian family here. She is building her new home in Darlington using Chalk Build because this was a team well-versed in modern home building techniques - particularly when it comes to energy efficiency, water use and passive solar techniques.


Listen to the interview here:

Chalk Build has access to modern building systems such as SIPs Industries modular building panels which are many times more energy efficient than brick. Chalk Build turned out to be a very cost-effective solution.

SIPs Ready-cut Panel System

Izabela chose to use SIPs Ready-cut panels because they suit her modular approach and elegant European building style. By working around the sizes of pre-existing pre-cut panels, there are good savings to be made. She also prefers using timber instead of steel posts because of "thermal bridge" heat loss.

From Wikipedia: A thermal bridge, also called a cold bridge or heat bridge, is an area of an object (frequently a building) which has a significantly higher heat transfer than the surrounding materials resulting in an overall reduction in thermal insulation of the object or building

Less steel means less heat loss which is a huge problem with inefficiently built brick and steel homes.

Using Chalk Build and SIPs invariably meant a shorter build time - probably about half the build time of a typical brick home. In the time it took me to write this article, for example (about a week), Izabela's home went from 1 to 2 storeys and already the roof has been fitted (lifted on by crane).

Exterior walls of the SIPs home

First Home-buyer Budget

Izabela is in the process of getting her Polish Degreee recognised here in Australia and so legally she has to call herself a Designer / Builder. Her business focus will be on the cost savings for first home buyers and new families. She wants new families to also be involved in the design and production of their energy-efficient homes without the exhorbitant costs.

It took almost a year to design and research the materials needed for the build of her own home and she wants to pass that research and savings on in her new business.

It seems most thinking builders these days aim towards the Passivhaus standard. Structurally Insulated Panels are pretty air-tight, but to get a home certified to Passivhaus' rigorous standards (see www.passivhausaustralia.com.au) requires a lot of additional money and work (including flying in a Germamn Passivhaus expert and putting him / her up in a hotel).

Izabela's home will be air-tight and she intends to do a pressure test at the end of the build - just for the fun of it. "Compared to brick (and steel) it will be fully sealed," she says. When it comes to thermal efficiency, brick homes always lose out. "If you heat a brick home insde," Izabela continues "it will only take 15 minutes for the heat to leave." The heat stays inside a SIPs-built home because it is air-tight.

Plastic Domes

$20,000 Saved on the Concrete Slab

Izabela used "plastic domes" for the main slab. The domes prevent moisture from leaking up through the concrete and act as an air barrier from the cold or damp ground soil. They also provide an under-slab void for running cables and pipes. Read more here: www.cupolex.com.au. Because of the domes, Izabela was able to save $20,000+ on concrete costs for the main slab. Theys also saved a lot of money on siteworks generally - and time - the ever present project managers' enemy

The area she chose to build the house on is clay - which can carry vibrations. The plastic domes also act as a waffle pad - cushioning the home from external vibrations. The air-filled domes, together with additional ground insulation material keep cold from rising up during winter months.

In short, the domes increased overall thermal efficiency of the home.

Cupolex plastic domes in place on pad

Challenges When Building a Home

Izabela says the only real block she had was siteworks and associated costs. Her budget was pretty rigid - with not much room to expand. Site work can blow your budget out, depending on the quality of the ground itself.

Working with Chalk Build

Once the pad was down (saving quite a bit with plastic domes) building the house with Chalbuild was very easy and went without incident.

Izabela enjoyed working with Chalk Build immensely (although there's still abit to go). She found Ben, the supervisor, very knowledgable and she was always kept up to date with the build as it progressed.

She wants to do it again and ultimately would like to see how the building "performs" with her own living family. She sees the process as a "livable experiment" and is really keen to see what it feels like to live in such a thermally efficient home.

Ultimately, she wants to do exactly the same thing and save money for all her first home buying clients.

Future Building Projects?

Izabela already plans to build a similar house in Bassendean. It has similar (clay) ground issues which she is used to and while she may use the infamous domes again, she'll definitely be using Chalk Build.

Izabela worked with Impressions Residential Builders and now has her own website Studio Origami.