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Lightweight Construction

Lightweight Construction

Lightweight construction isn't a new thing. Europeans have been building homes from structural panels, wood and lightweight steel framing for nearly 70 years (Australia only 20 years).

Western Australians, on the other hand, are even harder to convince. Thanks to heavy advertising by brick companies throughout the 1980s, their love affair with the familiar rolls on like a dirty coal ball. This is despite brick's thermal inefficiency, high transportation costs and long build times.

An Alternative to Bricks

Steel or Wooden Frames

Lightweight construction refers to the frame of a home and the material it is built from.

We have mostly been using steel frames (40% of steel frames are made from recycled materials) in lightweight construction projects. But even steel has a problem. Steel is not only a great transmitter of electricity, but it also transmits heat and cold from the outside. Steel creates "thermal bridges" which can result in the home heating up too much on hot days and cooling too much on cold days. If your home is made from bricks and there are several hot days in a row, the heat will leak through those thermal bridges and into the home. Natural timber is also a natural insulator - losing its heat (or cold) almost immediately.

Polystyrene as Building Material

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Recently, polystyrene has recently fared poorly in the news. Watch this grab from Channel Nine's Today Tonight program, on "Leaky Homes". These polystyrene panels are literally clad over with a concrete mixture - allowing moisture to seep directly into the polystyrene.

When used correctly, polystyrene is the perfect insulating product. It doesn't transmit heat and it almost completely baffles noise. It is used in most panel systems such as the ones we use from SIPs Industries. SIPs panels are fire rated and 100% water-proofed to prevent leaking. The panels are made right here in Fremantle (quite literally next door to Chalk Build's premises).

SIPs panels are very light. Just two men can carry one larger wall panel. When you consider the incredible insulation, acoustic and environmental aspects, panel-built homes are relatively cheap compared to brick. There is a knack to using them, but builders who use panels usually stay the course. They rarely go back to brick.


A measure of thermal efficiency

Lightweight wall panels have an R-value of up to 2.78 (See the Australian Government’s Your Home website). Brick veneer has a value of 0.45. This means that lightweight building panels are up to 6 times more efficient when it comes to heating or cooling your home.

Windows and Doors

Sealing Your Home from the Elements

Panel homes are usually built using progressive designs (passive solar design (Wikipedia)) extra care is taken when installing windows and doors. There's a subtle nudge towards "sealing all the gaps". Both sound and heat travel through gaps, so you are more likely to see either double-glazed or even triple-glazing used throughout a home. Unlike brick homes, light construction allows a home to stand above the ground rather than on it. This is good in cases where the ground holds heat (or the cold) for days at a time. The space acts as an air buffer and when used in conjunction with plastic domes (read about how architect Izabela Katafoni built her home using the cupolex dome system) insulates the home from "ground weather" (including moist or cool ground).

Limitless Designs

LIght Construction is Perfect for Architects and Home Designers

The ability to quickly shape and finish SIPs panel homes allows curved surfaces and unique designs not previously possible, or at least incredibly difficult and expensive to deploy, with brick house designs.

For more information on the benefits of building a SIPs home with Chalk Build call (09) 9432 0259 and let’s have a chat.