Green Building – 10-star energy rating

Want to achieve a 10-star home, but don’t want to spend a cash? Think local, think orientation and think size. Most of all, think passive solar. Building a green 10 Star home That’s according to award-winning architect and West Coast Designs director, Terry Hodges.

In answering our reader question of the week – “How can I build a 10-star home for under $250,000?” from Benjamin Spiteri – Hodges says everything has to start with understanding the home’s local climate.

The 10 Star Challenge

Award winning Perth architect, Terry Hodges from West Coast Designs, says it is quite possible to design a 10-star rated energy efficient home.

“The Building Designers Association of Victoria run a competition every year for a house designed in this way and there are many designers who achieve it,” Terry says.

Sustainable house design

Local climate should play a key role during the building design process in order to achieve a 10-star rating. “A 10-star rated building would not need any artificial heating or cooling,” the West Coast Designs architect advises. The climatic zone of the region that the house is located in has an impact on the measures required to be taken to achieve a 10-star rating.”

Terry says that the best starting point to building a 10-star house is to make sure that the house has the correct orientation, so that the basic principles of passive solar design can be employed.

Passive solar design

“Add to this wall, floor and roof materials with high thermal resistance, combined with the use of double glazing where required,” Terry says. The architect also recommends that the size of the house be taken into account first, before working out the building costs. “The cost of a house is a function of the size, that is floor area and also volume.”

Want to create a secret room inside your home?

Secret rooms, moving bookcases, panic rooms – and high-end spiral wine cellars to die for. The humble hideaway is making a comeback.

Secret passages, hidden rooms and priests’ holes have been used for centuries to hide valuables and smuggle goods. Once confined to ancient castles and stately manor houses, since Jodie Foster’s 2002 movie Panic Room there has been growing interest in building them into contemporary homes.

So how do you do it?

Hidden spaces can be anything from a niche concealing a safe to clever under-stair

On the low end, converting a cupboard into a panic room with plywood reinforcement can cost in the low thousands or can even be done by a competent DIY-er. On the upper end, panic rooms, popular with the wealthy (and the paranoid), can cost anywhere between $50,000 and $500,000.

In Australia, builders, carpenters and manufacturers are all starting to muscle in on the act.

Underground wine cellar with a twist
Underground wine cellar with a twistSpiral Cellars, a UK company that recently added distribution to Australia, has created an inground cylinder with spiral staircase accessed by a trapdoor. Promoted as a wine cellar, it can also store treasured objects on shelves around the walls. Prices start from around $30,000 for installation into an already-dug hole.

Buyers tend to be those undertaking a new build or major renovation, says Neil Smallman, the Australian distributor of Spiral Cellars.

“They’re home builders or renovators looking for a stand-out feature in their house. They want something top of the range, the ultimate item in their home, and that’s what we do.”

Hidden doorways and moving bookcases

“If you really want to create a hidden room, there can’t be any trace from outside – no wires and no joins in the woodwork that might give it away,” says Peter Illings, a Brisbane-based cabinetmaker and owner of Illings Own Fine Furniture.

He says he is usually asked to make one hidden doorway a year, and that price depends on materials and how elaborate the doorway is. They start from $10,000, with a cedar bookcase doorway costing around $12,000 to $13,000.

Illings says that while people can build their own moving bookcase, safety needs to be considered, from devising an exit strategy to adequate ventilation.

Hiding the thing can also be a challenge. “DIY-ers can certainly make a revolving bookcase that hides a room, but whether it looks right is a different story,” he laughs.

The other challenge is keeping it a secret. Once you start showing it to all of your friends, it’s not really a secret anymore.