Made to order

Words: Anna Cumming Photography: Nic Granleese
Mansfield and Hawthorn
  • Habitech’s modular system allowed the build to be easily achieved in a summer season, important on a site where snow and a dirt road make access difficult over winter.
  • The Alpine house was carefully designed to make the most of views to the south while allowing maximum solar access from the north.
  • Habitech’s north-facing Hawthorn studio has a concrete slab for thermal mass and well-insulated, airtight SIP construction for a comfortable and energy efficient space.

Habitech’s cosy modular designs demonstrate the combined power of good passive design and a high performing panel system.

Melbourne-based modular design and build company Habitech Systems, uses SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) sandwiched between plantation-grown Australian plywood and magnesium oxide (MgO) board cladding. MgO board is made from 50 per cent recycled timber and sawdust, its magnesium oxide content providing strength, durability and fire, water, UV and mildew resistance.

Alpine House

Applying the system in Mansfield’s sub-alpine climate meant that the thermal performance of the building envelope was key. Habitech’s SIPs have tested R values of 4.3 (walls) and 5.3 (roof), and importantly, the pre-constructed panel system allows for close to airtight installation that ensures these values are achieved. “The fine tolerances of factory manufacture allow us to produce panellised insulation without gaps and thermal bridges,” says Habitech’s Chris Barnett, “delivering much more effective insulation than traditional batts and blankets.”

Self-sufficient for electricity, water and wastewater treatment, the Alpine House was designed to rate 7.9 Stars, but in fact, has done better. A Melbourne University study found that it consistently outperformed the predictions of the energy rating software, achieving 8.2 Stars.

Hawthorn studio

The use of factory-made-to-measure SIPS delivered to site made sense for this stand-alone studio extension in Melbourne’s leafy east. The family continued to live in the main house during construction, so a quicker build-time and minimised disruption to the garden was important: “The main structure went up in about ten days”, says Habitech’s Chris Barnett. The two-storey design was also no problem, with the SIP’s bearing capacity seven times that of traditional stud framing.

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Design: Habitech Systems
Builder: Mat Kirley
Location: Tolmie, near Mansfield, Victoria
Cost: $550,000

Size: house 191 sqm, land 65 ha

Star rating: 7.9 Stars

Renewable energy: 3Kw solar PV system with Suntech panels, 48 volt BAE batteries, Selectronic inverter/charger and MidNite Solar Classic 150 Solar Controller

Hot water: Apricus evacuated tube solar water heater with gas boosting

Water efficiency: 78,000L rainwater tank; low-flow plumbing fittings; A&A Worm Farm wastewater treatment with gravity fed disposal field

Active heating & cooling: Zendor heat recovery ventilation system; double-sided Kobok woodheater with external air intake, burning wood gathered on the property; no cooling

Sustainable building materials: Polished concrete waffle pod slab with insulated slab edge; Habitech Structural Insulated Wall Panels – delivering both external cladding and feature interior hoop pine faces; Kingspan Insulated Panel Roofing

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