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Archi-tales: The failure of domestic architecture

By Paul Costigan 2 March 2016 37

 Reid0404-12

Along with some very pointed questions that were posed at the recent talk at the Albert Hall, there were a couple about the lack of government leadership in emphasizing the value of good design and the importance of architecture. Sadly along with many other questions asked, there were no satisfactory answers.

When it comes to domestic architecture in Canberra, meaning the design of stand-alone and semi-detached houses as opposed to apartments, this city has not done very well. In fact, I venture to add that the city of Canberra is a sad case of the failure of domestic architecture.

Please do not get me wrong here – Canberra is a great place to live and there are many wonderful advantages to living here. My point is that architecture has done little to add value to the aesthetics and visual pleasures that should come with a contemporary and fairly newly planned city.

The early decades were dominated by functionality as opposed to good design in the provision of houses. The housing stock was not designed for the climatic conditions for this part of Australia. While it is a good thing that some of these early dwellings are now heritage listed, unless they are retrofitted (insulated, double glazed etc), they are not the most comfortable places to live and to bring up families.

The 1960s onwards saw the arrival of many developer driven project homes. Unfortunately there was still no priority for well designed and well-built houses that addressed the extremes of climate that is the norm for the Canberra/Monaro area.

The government continued to provide government houses that were functional and competently built (well mostly) but were mostly boxes with little aesthetic adornment.

duplex-P1020444

The former National Capital Development Commission (NCDC), with all its powers and access to resources, failed to take up the architectural domestic challenge to create a local and relevant style.

While many of these earlier houses survive in more or less their original state, a huge number have been used for makeovers (modernizing and extensions etc).

Crace-P1100253

 

47david-oconnor01

Meanwhile in the last decades we have seen the arrival of the new international style (or cookie cutter style) approach in the new suburbs and into the inner streets.

The comparison between some of the new suburbs the more established areas is stark. The common theme is that these newer suburbs generally continue the practice of not building for this climate.

Given that such a lack of design may be linked to having money – I took the time to wander through the suburb of O’Malley where supersize is the norm. Sadly most of the houses in this suburb of mansions are simply enlarged versions of the same boxes found in most city suburbs. It was rare to see any outstanding architecture.

But then there is this. It speaks for itself.

OMalley-P1160462

Successive ACT Governments have not provided architectural leadership in the oversight of the provision of domestic stand-alone or semi-detached housing. It has been left to the market place to provide whatever they can sell.

Amongst the many very ordinary and climate unsuitable dwellings there is the occasional well-designed gem, but they are the exceptions. Even amongst the many make-overs of established houses, the architectural successes are uncommon.

If it were not for the success of the establishment of urban forests in the earlier suburbs, Canberra would have little that defines it. And the government now wonders why residents are so passionate about saving every tree from the developers and the LDA/directorate in their joint efforts to build more towers and car parks and diminish the cherished green spaces.

The current government’s urban development policies are summed up in the words of the Chief Minister when asked about a proposed development. He said that the government was not running a beauty contest and that they left all that to the market and to the planning authorities. I suspect that reflects his and other local politicians’ attitudes to architecture and good design. (At least he did not use his favourite term – ‘vibrant’).

Despite the continuous line of graduates from architectural programs, we have not seen a rise in the provision of any set of architectural styles suitable to and reacting to the Canberra environment. Where do they all go and why have they not grabbed the challenge of providing something, anything, new and innovative for the local housing market?

The failure of architecture in Canberra belongs to the lack of vision from government ministers of all colours, the historic failure of the architecture profession to take up the challenge of providing high quality and relevant design solutions and because of that the failure of people in general to have an appreciation of, access to and ultimately to demand quality design in housing.

This failure is a shared responsibility of us all and it shows in what this capital city is now starting to look like when one looks around the suburbs at our housing stocks.

The challenge is to change the politics of architecture. Too many architects are comfortable in partnerships with developers and government resulting in a lack of innovation in domestic architecture. Something needs to change.

For the owners of houses considering renovation or a rebuild it is logical to use an architect but history has shown that this is not the path chosen by so many. There are complex issues to do with using architects that are off-putting despite the benefits that flow when a a house is based around the use of good design.

With so much commitment by so many to our city’s future, there must be someone with some bright ideas about how to lift the expectations for domestic architecture.

I do recommend a book to you anyone interested in Canberra’s housing. Published in 2013, 100 Canberra Houses: A Century of Capital Architecture, is a book by Alan Roberts and Tim Reeves. It provides a positive view of a century of homes –a larger review may follow.

Watch this space for more comments some time on architecture across apartments, commercial buildings, landscape design and education campuses.

What’s Your opinion?


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Archi-tales: The failure of domestic architecture
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dame_valerie 1:51 pm 06 Mar 16

Interesting read. I agree the government could do more to enforce ‘energy efficient’ design (and we all know the current star system is a farce), but whether that translates to aesthetically pleasing design is perhaps another matter, and as other commenters have noted, is subjective.

I often think about why the new suburbs are such a design disaster, and besides the disregard of passive solar design principles, I have come up with two reasons:
1. most new houses are predominantly cement rendered with limited or no use of ‘natural’ (or near enough) materials such as stone, timber, brick. The expanse of render can make the overall look of the street seem stark.
2. While consistent in their use of render, smaller block sizes draw more attention to the varied styles and shapes of each house, and highlights the fact that they have been designed with no regard for the surrounding houses or site.
3. The streetscape. All Canberra suburbs were once a greenless dustbowl. Once the verge trees and front gardens grow up, I’m sure the overall look of the newer suburbs will be improved, although it’s disappointing that the government has opted for fast-growing verge trees (presumably because the smaller blocks can’t accommodate a large root system) which will never become the majestic canopies of the inner south or inner north. As you mentioned, the urban forests are one of the saving graces of Canberra’s established suburbs, so I’m not sure what will rescue the newer suburbs. Suburbs like Crace have attempted to balance this by including parks, which is great, but I don’t see any sign of large trees (i.e. trees that will grow over 6 metres) being planted in those either. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.

I only have a basic knowledge of ACTPLA development requirements but they seem to focus more on protecting the neighbour’s solar access and don’t go far enough in encouraging passive solar design of the building to be approved.

I think there is another issue at play though. It never ceases to astonish me how few people are aware of or care about passive solar design. In a place like Canberra, where the climate has such extremes, I can’t understand why it doesn’t bother people to live in a home that is poorly oriented. I have lived in such houses most of my life so it was a no-brainer to go down the passive solar route when we decided to build. To me, cheaper running costs are a bonus, the idea of being comfortable on a frosty Winter morning or not having to go to bed draped in damp towel on a hot Summer night, is the dream home I’m looking for.

For those living in older homes, I can understand how budget will limit whether this can be addressed or not, but for new buildings, I don’t think it has to cost more to achieve. The Australian Government offers energy efficient floor plans that can be downloaded for free http://www.yourhome.gov.au/house-designs. The designs are limited at the moment but it’s a good starting point to take to a draftsman if an architect or building designer is out of reach.

So perhaps education is just as important as the government reviewing the energy efficient star rating system and other development requirements.

rubaiyat 11:59 am 06 Mar 16

switch said :

rubaiyat said :

A motorised set of curtains costs an extra $320 per set, and is basically a motorised pulley with controller/timer and prevents internal warm air making contact with the cold glass, the best solution no matter what glazing you have.

Don’t forget the pelmet.

I hadn’t. I said pelmeted curtains in the prior post.

dungfungus 8:32 am 06 Mar 16

Paul Costigan said :

Double Glazing

Seems my domestic architecture thinking has now focused on double-glazing. So allow me to give some personal experience on double-glazing. In a few words – it is absolutely bloody marvellous!

The downside – we used to hear all the birds in the morning – but now when the windows and doors are shut – nope – what bird sounds we hear are very muffled.

The good – we now hear very little of the neighbours from hell next door (but that’s now over – they move out this week). The good – we hear very little of the yapping dog on the other side (whose owner still believes it does not yap when they are not home). The other good – the house behind us has a party on right now – but we can hardly hear a thing.

Double-glazing is magic at keeping the heat in or out – the cool air in or the cold out – depending on weather. Most of the time with double glazing – you do not need to use the curtains so we leave them open and have loads of light on cold days.

We had ordinary windows and loads of super thick curtains on all windows for many years – but several years ago we converted most of the place to double-glazing (doors and windows). It was expensive. But since then have not thought about the economics, as what it has delivered is super comfort – with little heating/cooling required all year round.

If I had my way – ever house should be double-glazed. But people make their own choices – and pay their own bills – but believe me what a difference it makes to living in this climate of extremes – so I leave such decisions to be worked through to everyone else.

For us – the only regret is we did not do it sooner. It is absolutely bloody marvellous!

That’s all from me on this topic.

Total agreement from me. I have had the exact same experiences and arrived at the same conclusions.
Sure retro-fitting double glazing is expensive (and brutal) but so is an annual overseas trip or maintaining a ski-chalet.
As you point out in your very well written post, it is all about lifestyle choices.
More stuff like this please, Paul.

switch 10:26 pm 05 Mar 16

rubaiyat said :

A motorised set of curtains costs an extra $320 per set, and is basically a motorised pulley with controller/timer and prevents internal warm air making contact with the cold glass, the best solution no matter what glazing you have.

Don’t forget the pelmet.

rubaiyat 9:43 pm 05 Mar 16

Don’t disagree Paul but may I make a point. The curtains are for when the sun is down!

During the day the windows should be wide open inviting the sun in, and all windows not facing the sun should be so insignificant as to not count. Except as picture frames to your garden, and as cross lighting.

Good architecture, like good art plays with light, and alters space like gravity distorts space. Being mobile it changes the house during the day and connects to the weather and world outside all year round.

To this day I remember a chapel in Rovaniemi Finland which was tucked into the corner of a cemetery with very pale blank rough cast concrete walls and simple round slim columns set inside a floor to ceiling glass wall that faced out into the grove of birch trees outside. I just sat propped up against the back wall and watched the sun move across, mixing the shadows of the columns inside and the trees outside, imagining how every day this simple arrangement would change. The design must have been executed insitu just the way Jørn Utzon used to work, to get the play and positioning just right.

It worked brilliantly with the white bark and the interrupted texture of the birch trees, but I could imagine white ghost gums in an Australian bush setting.

None of the remote plans and orthographic paper designs that are demanded of Anglo architects, who seem to think even going on site is an imposition and unnecessary.

Paul Costigan 8:52 pm 05 Mar 16

Double Glazing

Seems my domestic architecture thinking has now focused on double-glazing. So allow me to give some personal experience on double-glazing. In a few words – it is absolutely bloody marvellous!

The downside – we used to hear all the birds in the morning – but now when the windows and doors are shut – nope – what bird sounds we hear are very muffled.

The good – we now hear very little of the neighbours from hell next door (but that’s now over – they move out this week). The good – we hear very little of the yapping dog on the other side (whose owner still believes it does not yap when they are not home). The other good – the house behind us has a party on right now – but we can hardly hear a thing.

Double-glazing is magic at keeping the heat in or out – the cool air in or the cold out – depending on weather. Most of the time with double glazing – you do not need to use the curtains so we leave them open and have loads of light on cold days.

We had ordinary windows and loads of super thick curtains on all windows for many years – but several years ago we converted most of the place to double-glazing (doors and windows). It was expensive. But since then have not thought about the economics, as what it has delivered is super comfort – with little heating/cooling required all year round.

If I had my way – ever house should be double-glazed. But people make their own choices – and pay their own bills – but believe me what a difference it makes to living in this climate of extremes – so I leave such decisions to be worked through to everyone else.

For us – the only regret is we did not do it sooner. It is absolutely bloody marvellous!

That’s all from me on this topic.

rubaiyat 4:35 pm 05 Mar 16

Masquara said :

rubaiyat said :

There are far more walls floor and roof.

Other than perhaps the flimsiest of fibro walls, I think walls provide considerable protection from noise. Can you explain how noise would come up through the floor, other than in a Queenslander on pretty high stilts?

As I said noise is like water. One of the many ineffectual things people do (such a long list it is hard to know where to begin) is build a brick wall to fend off heavy traffic noise. That wall works in part but unfortunately sound bends over edges so neatly curves over the top of the wall which is often about half way between the cars and the living space, and curves down to where you get the full benefit. Noise also comes through the roof and eaves, the least protected part of the house, and through the floor if that is just timber, bouncing off the surrounding hard surfaces.

To compound that, people don’t like the prison like walls and put small penetrations at regular intervals, often with a decorative cast iron lace or some other “security” measure. A lot like putting a flyscreen door on a submarine.

Older houses may be double brick like mine but have frequent ventilation grills through the brick because the original fossil fuel heaters generate a generous amount of carbon monoxide not just CO2. Also there was no attempt at insulation and window and door frames fit poorly. The standard 3mm glass in the windows, may as well not be there.

Modern houses are either: not brick; brick veneer; or multi-material; all with low mass and therefore little barrier to noise.

My house is on a typical suburban street but leads to the shops and is one of the principle exits out to the main road therefore gets a lot of traffic. The noise is not as bad as what people in Sydney have to commonly put up with but it is beyond annoying and there is no respite especially late at night when we want to sleep.

The great white hope of the autonomous car, with parking assist and maybe even eventual electric propulsion will do little to fix that. Replacing the internal combustion engine (a long way off) will be quickly offset by a rise in the numbers of cars, if we continue to rely on them, all of which have substantial tyre/road noise which is the load rushing noise that traffic makes.

The short answer, get as far from traffic as you can, do not, choose an elevated site, and hopefully with a large geographic feature and considerable heavy materials between you and the noise.

Getting outdoors, and not cowering inside, I can hear Adelaide Ave over a kilometre away. Even though it is partially buried in cuts, it penetrates right through several blocks of the suburbs on both sides and adds to the noise of the side traffic in the suburbs.

rubaiyat 3:54 pm 05 Mar 16

Some researched figures.

The U values are from US figures for the 20 – 30% better wood frames over Aluminium with thermal breaks. I also found some NZ South Island Stats but it was hard to compare the two. The USA figures were calculated on 1500 x 900mm windows but will serve to compare the relative U of the materials.

There were gaps in the data for the single plain glass and eGlass which I had to fill by extrapolation. I calculated eGlass is 0.80% U of plain glass and eGlass + argon is 71%.

Total cost just for glass (not the whole assembled windows which will vary if fixed or openable) for a nominal 20 sq m of glass in a home:

$6.50 sq m Plain Toughened Glass 6mm [U 0.89] Total A$130

$15 sq m Toughened laminated glass 11.5mm [U unknown] Total A$300

$195 sq m eGlass [U 1.1] Total A$2900

$165 sq m Double Glazing [U 0.48] Total A$3300

$230 sq m Double Glazing with eGlass [U 0.67 air gap/ U 0.64 argon] Total A$4600

$430 sq m PVB Acoustic Laminated glass [U value unknown – reduces noise by half ie 34db] Total A$8600

I can’t find prices on triple glazing because it is so unusual in Australia but in the UK it is 35% more than double so I estimate in Australia probably on the high end:

$310 sq m Triple Glazing with eGlass [U 0.23] Total A$6200

UK sources say it takes 35 years to recoup the increased cost of Triple glazing. eGlass also dramatically increases the cost.

To all of that you need to add the framing and surrounds. Double and Triple glazing is very heavy and to truly insulate should be in a quality timber frame with thermal barriers, which is where the real costs lie. You will still need to do the necessary overhanging eaves and pelmeted curtains anyway, or all your investment is for nothing.

A motorised set of curtains costs an extra $320 per set, and is basically a motorised pulley with controller/timer and prevents internal warm air making contact with the cold glass, the best solution no matter what glazing you have.

It is also worth thinking about Tyrolean style windows. A double set, one opens out, the second opens in, and build airlocks into your principle entrances. Pointless having massively insulated walls, ceilings and windows if every time you open the door the heating is lost to the outside.

Masquara 9:00 am 05 Mar 16

rubaiyat said :

There are far more walls floor and roof.

Other than perhaps the flimsiest of fibro walls, I think walls provide considerable protection from noise. Can you explain how noise would come up through the floor, other than in a Queenslander on pretty high stilts?

rubaiyat 7:20 am 05 Mar 16

Maya123 said :

rubaiyat said :

Brisal said :

To be fair, the poor consumer doesn’t have a lot of choice in this. If you go to a house builder you will be presented with a selection of the current fashionable Bauhaus-inspired designs, which, I predict, will date very, very quickly (if you don’t believe me, have a drive around Crace). Given that the average punter isn’t a skilled architect and can’t afford an architect-designed house, there is little choice except to accept what is offered. Any deviation from this simply ratchets the construction price through the roof (pun intended).

If you dare to mention environment or sustainability concerns then you will be looked at as a bottomless pit of cash ripe to be ripped off. In a recent foray into investigating a house build myself I asked about double glazing and was told that it was a luxury – never mind that in the ACT’s climate extremes *triple* glazing should be a realistic option. Cross-ventilation, what’s that? Change the eaves to maximise winter sun and minimise summer heating, ka-ching. Incorporate thermal mass, no can do.

I’m no fan of nanny-stating all and sundry but when an industry refuses to change its ways to provide better outcomes for consumers then maybe some construction standards need to be mandated for new dwellings. Solar hot water, rainwater tanks, double (or preferably triple) glazing, correct overhang of eaves, pelmets and curtains, minimal downlights….and some decent design!

We do not need double let alone triple glazing. Good design and pelmetted curtains will suffice.

NUMBER 1. Face the @#$% sun!

Nearly everything else falls in place after Number 1.

Single glazing will only work (maybe) if the home owner is there to close the curtains as the sun goes down, or they have expensive automatic, insulated closing blinds; otherwise, if the curtains are not closed until the person gets home from work or elsewhere (in other words, more closely matching real life) the heat from the house will begin to leave through the uncovered single glazed windows, and the house will cool more than it should. In real life, the windows could be uncovered at night for hours, before anyone gets home to close the curtains. Having experienced both single and double glazing in a solar passive house I can say there is no comparison with which one works best. Good double glazing wins hands down.

Installing automatic curtains is a fraction of the cost of double or triple glazing, and my observation is that like with solar panels*, people think that the double glazing is the magic that fixes all the bad decisions they have made, principally lack of northern windows with the correct depth of eaves.

* I have a neighbour who installed a mass of solar panels on a west facing roof on their bungalow, behind a wall of tall non-deciduous trees! May as well have left them in the boxes they were delivered in.

rubaiyat 11:14 pm 04 Mar 16

madelini said :

rubaiyat said :

madelini said :

rubaiyat said :

People obsessively approach housing design like they do food.

No, to little, thought for quality, health or functionality. A singular obsession with LOTSA, conformity and things that might impress relatives and neighbours.

The sad results litter our suburbs, are the cause of most of our excessive use of energy and result in uncomfortable, often dark interiors with little thought for outlook or gardens in the left over spaces between the houses and the fence lines. All exacerbated by the equally dismal “town planning”.

Curiously having ignored the lessons and objectives of the German Bauhaus movement for almost a century, people now have continued to ignore its essential good layout, orientation and functional objectives BUT picked up on its superficial cubist visual features as a tack on of the perpetual builder schemozzle of double/triple fronted bungalow/two storey MacMansion.

What they have done is picked up a cheap copy cat look, just as they did with that abomination the pseudo Federation look a decade or two ago.

It is such a joy to see the very rare well designed architect house, but they are almost as rare as hen’s teeth, and have no influence on what people actually build. Sadly what we build hangs around for a very long time and affects our environment for even longer. The craziness of the thinking is where the extremely badly designed dwellings are revealed for what they are, eg when destroyed by the environment that they ignored, people seem to put back pretty much what was wiped out, in the vain hope that it won’t happen again.

Being “architecturally designed” does not mean that it is aesthetically pleasing, or even designed practically.

And what’s wrong with Bauhaus, aside from its somewhat blocky nature?!

“Architecturally designed” guarantees the same aesthetics or practicality that “Engineer designed” guarantees it will stay up. ie More so.

And how did you get such a wrong handle on the Bauhaus design?

Given that current architectural styles lead me to believe that aesthetics are subjective, then the involvement of an architect doesn’t guarantee that the result will be any more or less practical or nice to look at. Architects have been involved in monstrosities for as long as there have been buildings. The point that I was trying to make is that the grand sweeping statement of “architecturally designed” doesn’t prove anything beyond general snobbery – although if Allhomes is anything to go by, it’s also an excuse to add another zero to the cost of a large house on a small block.

And I got my handle on Bauhaus through a four year art history degree and a general (subjective) affinity for genuinely ugly buildings. They’re like baby hippos – so ugly that they make it work, somehow.

So never seen an actual Bauhaus building, or walked through one. Nor ever designed anything?

Of course aesthetics are subjective, almost by definition.

Like music the test is whether you can create it.

What I was responding to was your misinterpretation of my support of Bauhaus aesthetics and functionalism, but not of the 100 year late faux style that ignores all the thinking and function behind the movement, and instead just roughly slaps on some of the look.

rubaiyat 10:33 pm 04 Mar 16

crackerpants said :

rubaiyat said :

Brisal said :

To be fair, the poor consumer doesn’t have a lot of choice in this. If you go to a house builder you will be presented with a selection of the current fashionable Bauhaus-inspired designs, which, I predict, will date very, very quickly (if you don’t believe me, have a drive around Crace). Given that the average punter isn’t a skilled architect and can’t afford an architect-designed house, there is little choice except to accept what is offered. Any deviation from this simply ratchets the construction price through the roof (pun intended).

If you dare to mention environment or sustainability concerns then you will be looked at as a bottomless pit of cash ripe to be ripped off. In a recent foray into investigating a house build myself I asked about double glazing and was told that it was a luxury – never mind that in the ACT’s climate extremes *triple* glazing should be a realistic option. Cross-ventilation, what’s that? Change the eaves to maximise winter sun and minimise summer heating, ka-ching. Incorporate thermal mass, no can do.

I’m no fan of nanny-stating all and sundry but when an industry refuses to change its ways to provide better outcomes for consumers then maybe some construction standards need to be mandated for new dwellings. Solar hot water, rainwater tanks, double (or preferably triple) glazing, correct overhang of eaves, pelmets and curtains, minimal downlights….and some decent design!

We do not need double let alone triple glazing. Good design and pelmetted curtains will suffice.

NUMBER 1. Face the @#$% sun!

Nearly everything else falls in place after Number 1.

Not for other environmental considerations, like noise reduction? If I was building in Gungahlin I’d want double glazing for that alone.

If you want noise reduction get laminated glass and you will have to protect every point of noise penetration. And pay attention to what cars and heavy traffic do to our cities.

Noise is like water, any gap and it penetrates. Heat has direction and can be trapped. During the day let the sun stream into the building and be absorbed by heavy surfaces. At night stop convection removing the heat by drawing floor to ceiling pelmeted curtains.

Multiple glazing certainly works but is very expensive for little effect if you have not taken care of the basics, and it is only the windows. There are far more walls floor and roof.

madelini 3:38 pm 04 Mar 16

rubaiyat said :

madelini said :

rubaiyat said :

People obsessively approach housing design like they do food.

No, to little, thought for quality, health or functionality. A singular obsession with LOTSA, conformity and things that might impress relatives and neighbours.

The sad results litter our suburbs, are the cause of most of our excessive use of energy and result in uncomfortable, often dark interiors with little thought for outlook or gardens in the left over spaces between the houses and the fence lines. All exacerbated by the equally dismal “town planning”.

Curiously having ignored the lessons and objectives of the German Bauhaus movement for almost a century, people now have continued to ignore its essential good layout, orientation and functional objectives BUT picked up on its superficial cubist visual features as a tack on of the perpetual builder schemozzle of double/triple fronted bungalow/two storey MacMansion.

What they have done is picked up a cheap copy cat look, just as they did with that abomination the pseudo Federation look a decade or two ago.

It is such a joy to see the very rare well designed architect house, but they are almost as rare as hen’s teeth, and have no influence on what people actually build. Sadly what we build hangs around for a very long time and affects our environment for even longer. The craziness of the thinking is where the extremely badly designed dwellings are revealed for what they are, eg when destroyed by the environment that they ignored, people seem to put back pretty much what was wiped out, in the vain hope that it won’t happen again.

Being “architecturally designed” does not mean that it is aesthetically pleasing, or even designed practically.

And what’s wrong with Bauhaus, aside from its somewhat blocky nature?!

“Architecturally designed” guarantees the same aesthetics or practicality that “Engineer designed” guarantees it will stay up. ie More so.

And how did you get such a wrong handle on the Bauhaus design?

Given that current architectural styles lead me to believe that aesthetics are subjective, then the involvement of an architect doesn’t guarantee that the result will be any more or less practical or nice to look at. Architects have been involved in monstrosities for as long as there have been buildings. The point that I was trying to make is that the grand sweeping statement of “architecturally designed” doesn’t prove anything beyond general snobbery – although if Allhomes is anything to go by, it’s also an excuse to add another zero to the cost of a large house on a small block.

And I got my handle on Bauhaus through a four year art history degree and a general (subjective) affinity for genuinely ugly buildings. They’re like baby hippos – so ugly that they make it work, somehow.

Maya123 1:28 pm 04 Mar 16

rubaiyat said :

Brisal said :

To be fair, the poor consumer doesn’t have a lot of choice in this. If you go to a house builder you will be presented with a selection of the current fashionable Bauhaus-inspired designs, which, I predict, will date very, very quickly (if you don’t believe me, have a drive around Crace). Given that the average punter isn’t a skilled architect and can’t afford an architect-designed house, there is little choice except to accept what is offered. Any deviation from this simply ratchets the construction price through the roof (pun intended).

If you dare to mention environment or sustainability concerns then you will be looked at as a bottomless pit of cash ripe to be ripped off. In a recent foray into investigating a house build myself I asked about double glazing and was told that it was a luxury – never mind that in the ACT’s climate extremes *triple* glazing should be a realistic option. Cross-ventilation, what’s that? Change the eaves to maximise winter sun and minimise summer heating, ka-ching. Incorporate thermal mass, no can do.

I’m no fan of nanny-stating all and sundry but when an industry refuses to change its ways to provide better outcomes for consumers then maybe some construction standards need to be mandated for new dwellings. Solar hot water, rainwater tanks, double (or preferably triple) glazing, correct overhang of eaves, pelmets and curtains, minimal downlights….and some decent design!

We do not need double let alone triple glazing. Good design and pelmetted curtains will suffice.

NUMBER 1. Face the @#$% sun!

Nearly everything else falls in place after Number 1.

Single glazing will only work (maybe) if the home owner is there to close the curtains as the sun goes down, or they have expensive automatic, insulated closing blinds; otherwise, if the curtains are not closed until the person gets home from work or elsewhere (in other words, more closely matching real life) the heat from the house will begin to leave through the uncovered single glazed windows, and the house will cool more than it should. In real life, the windows could be uncovered at night for hours, before anyone gets home to close the curtains. Having experienced both single and double glazing in a solar passive house I can say there is no comparison with which one works best. Good double glazing wins hands down.

crackerpants 1:09 pm 04 Mar 16

rubaiyat said :

Brisal said :

To be fair, the poor consumer doesn’t have a lot of choice in this. If you go to a house builder you will be presented with a selection of the current fashionable Bauhaus-inspired designs, which, I predict, will date very, very quickly (if you don’t believe me, have a drive around Crace). Given that the average punter isn’t a skilled architect and can’t afford an architect-designed house, there is little choice except to accept what is offered. Any deviation from this simply ratchets the construction price through the roof (pun intended).

If you dare to mention environment or sustainability concerns then you will be looked at as a bottomless pit of cash ripe to be ripped off. In a recent foray into investigating a house build myself I asked about double glazing and was told that it was a luxury – never mind that in the ACT’s climate extremes *triple* glazing should be a realistic option. Cross-ventilation, what’s that? Change the eaves to maximise winter sun and minimise summer heating, ka-ching. Incorporate thermal mass, no can do.

I’m no fan of nanny-stating all and sundry but when an industry refuses to change its ways to provide better outcomes for consumers then maybe some construction standards need to be mandated for new dwellings. Solar hot water, rainwater tanks, double (or preferably triple) glazing, correct overhang of eaves, pelmets and curtains, minimal downlights….and some decent design!

We do not need double let alone triple glazing. Good design and pelmetted curtains will suffice.

NUMBER 1. Face the @#$% sun!

Nearly everything else falls in place after Number 1.

Not for other environmental considerations, like noise reduction? If I was building in Gungahlin I’d want double glazing for that alone.

Mysteryman 10:53 am 04 Mar 16

Brisal said :

To be fair, the poor consumer doesn’t have a lot of choice in this. If you go to a house builder you will be presented with a selection of the current fashionable Bauhaus-inspired designs, which, I predict, will date very, very quickly (if you don’t believe me, have a drive around Crace). Given that the average punter isn’t a skilled architect and can’t afford an architect-designed house, there is little choice except to accept what is offered. Any deviation from this simply ratchets the construction price through the roof (pun intended).

If you dare to mention environment or sustainability concerns then you will be looked at as a bottomless pit of cash ripe to be ripped off. In a recent foray into investigating a house build myself I asked about double glazing and was told that it was a luxury – never mind that in the ACT’s climate extremes *triple* glazing should be a realistic option. Cross-ventilation, what’s that? Change the eaves to maximise winter sun and minimise summer heating, ka-ching. Incorporate thermal mass, no can do.

I’m no fan of nanny-stating all and sundry but when an industry refuses to change its ways to provide better outcomes for consumers then maybe some construction standards need to be mandated for new dwellings. Solar hot water, rainwater tanks, double (or preferably triple) glazing, correct overhang of eaves, pelmets and curtains, minimal downlights….and some decent design!

You’re absolutely right. I’m sick of hearing “double glazing is a waste of time” from builders who, while they know *how* to build a house, don’t understand the science of what they’re building. I’ve lived in places with proper double glazing, and ones without, and I can tell you right now the difference is immediately noticeable for both their insulating and noise reducing properties.

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