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Built Without Bricks: Two Steel-Framed Sustainable Houses in Embleton

Posted Friday, March 10, 2017 in: Home Envy Obsessed With

It’s funny how fast technology moves ahead – and how things considered strange or unusual just five or ten years ago are now becoming the norm today.

It's certainly the case when it comes to building houses. We now have a huge range of modern building materials available to us that can make building a house take a fraction of the amount of time it once did.

So why then in Perth are we still using ancient building methods to build our homes? I’m talking about brick. Surely there is a more efficient, smarter way to build. You only have to go look at a new housing estate to see how slow it can be to build a house by laying brick after brick. In Perth, it still seems like brick is the only way to build a new house – whereas the rest of Australia has already realised the benefits of building smarter through the use of framed construction.

STEEL FRAMED AND THERMALLY EFFICIENT: Two stunning new, modern, custom-designed homes by Matt Buckley Designs. Photos by Crib Creative

But even if Perth is taking a bit longer to catch up, the good news is that these days SO many more home owners are not just genuinely interested in how we can design new houses that are more sustainable, or retrofit older existing homes; they’re knowledgeable about it too.

More and more people are taking steps wherever they can to reduce their carbon footprint, whether it’s something on the small end of the scale like making their own compost or growing veggies at home to reusing their greywater or building a whole eco-friendly house. What was slightly offbeat ten, fifteen years ago is now very cool, and I think it’s awesome. I think we are really in the middle of some big, long-lasting and very positive changes, and there are some brilliant architects and designers who are really thinking outside our traditional boxes.

Building designer Matt Buckley, who heads Matt Buckley Designs, is one such building designer. Matt takes on a wide range of projects, from luxury homes to apartments to very cool cafés, but he is most passionate about designing modern houses that reduce the impact they have on our environment. And he is not afraid to use new and innovative building materials and construction methods.

He agrees that we are seeing a huge upswing in the amount of people who are interested in and know about environmentally responsible building methods. “At barbecues, when I tell people I am a building designer, I’m finding more and more people are interested in sustainable design and really want to chat and have questions about it,” he says. “It’s great.”

Recently Matt (who was a national finalist for NABD & James Hardie Dream Designer 2016) epitomised his passion for modern, environmentally responsible design very nicely in the form of these two new thermally efficient houses in Embleton. Yes, they look lovely - but there is more to them than meets the eye. Each house utilises steel framing, aerated concrete panels and composite cladding to achieve a modern, cost-effective and energy-efficient home. They are an awesome example of what people can achieve by utilising framed construction.

CONCRETE AND WOOD: Each of the two units is a mirror-image of the other’s floor plan, but the facades are different. One was given a wood look with low-maintenance timber-look tiles while the other features concrete-look tiles. 

STYLE WITHOUT A HEFTY PRICE TAG: Using framework enabled Matt and his clients to create the home’s unique looks on a very firm budget. “We used a combination of materials including the James Hardie Stria cladding to give you that relaxed feel to the rear of the home and then the aerated concrete and energy smart building panels from Kool Wall WA to the front to achieve the masonry feel and improve our insulation values,” says Matt. Photos by Crib Creative. 

As you guys know, I don’t often cover new homes that haven’t been lived in yet on House Nerd. But I wanted to show these to you because I think they are a great example of something different and something very non-traditional – they are steel-framed houses, and their walls are NOT the usual brick.

Matt tells me that it is still quite rare in Perth for houses to be built with something other than brick. I know where he is coming from. “Don’t even CONSIDER buying anything other than double-brick,” I remember my dad telling me firmly when I was house-hunting for the first time in my early 20s.

Sure, double-brick is wonderful, and we have the legacy of lots of lovely solid older houses because of it. But these days, we can count ourselves lucky to have access to so many other building materials that are lighter, cheaper, more convenient, faster to build with, and much more environmentally responsible, yet we’re still firmly entrenched in our ‘brick is best’ mentality - even when other, newer building methods can result in a more affordable and more energy efficient home. It seems crazy!

Even Matt admits that he used to be a ‘brick all the way’ kind of person. “I have nothing against brick but I feel like here in Perth we have been persuaded into thinking that brick is the only option,” he tells me.

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