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The benefits of lightweight construction 03/07/2017

For many years, Western Australians have had a love affair with heavyweight construction materials such as brick, concrete and tiles to build their homes.

For many years, Western Australians have had a love affair with heavyweight construction materials such as brick, concrete and tiles to build their homes.

Our longstanding love of the traditional brick home is a result of the fact the materials have been readily available and that consumers are familiar and comfortable with the look and feel of this type of product.

While there are benefits to building with heavyweight construction materials, they can result in higher embodied energy and higher construction costs, particularly in terms of site preparations and transport costs.

New innovations in alternative building materials are now providing the market with more options in lightweight construction that are becoming more accessible and affordable.

Lightweight construction materials have the potential to improve the sustainability and affordability of homes, depending on the location and climate they are built in. This is both at an individual home and on a higher density scale.

Lightweight construction materials include timber or lightweight steel framing, structural insulated panels, pre-fabricated products and even polystyrene building products.

These materials generally have a lower embodied energy rating than heavyweight materials and may result in lower overall life cycle energy use.

Lightweight materials can also respond rapidly to temperature changes and cool rapidly overnight in warmer climates.

Materials can be cheaper to produce and transport, particularly to remote locations and they often require less preliminary site works.

Different products can also provide the opportunity for increased design flexibility. For example, polystyrene blocks allow you to shape and finish the material in a range of different and innovative ways.

Polystyrene also provides excellent insulation and can be used for walls, roofs and under floors.

A testament to the rise of alternative building materials is the display home located within the 2017 UDIA Environmental Excellence Award winning estate, Osprey Waters by Mirvac.

The home was designed by architect Sid Thoo and has been built with alternative, lightweight building products including structural insulated panels and recycled hardwood panelling.

On a larger scale, developer Lendlease recently completed the first engineered timber once building in Australia.

The International House Sydney, located in Barangaroo was constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (Glulam).

According to the developers, CLT has a lower carbon footprint than other building materials, the production process produces zero waste and timbers are sourced from certified sustainably managed forests.

It is exciting to see the development of a range of innovative products that are providing an increasing choice to the building and development industry so they can deliver more affordable and sustainable products to the market.

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