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Four tips for building greener homes at a better price

A leading builder has revealed his top four tips for creating more affordable ‘green’ homes with lower running costs in 2020.

AJP Constructions owner Andrew Payton said the idea that homes with green credentials take longer to build and require a ‘sustainability premium’ was ludicrous.

“It’s ridiculous that some builders attach a premium to making homes more sustainable,” Mr Payton said.

“The facts are by applying clever planning early, you can construct a high-end property that’s faster to build and costs less to operate.”

Mr Payton said one of the great changes in the construction industry over the past two decades has been the idea of going ‘green’ – with the issue’s importance heightened further by this summer’s events.

“There’s no denying sustainability has come into even sharper focus during recent few months,” he said.

“Everyone – from builders to owners and tenants – seem keen on creating the type of structures that are not only beautiful and functional, but also kind to the planet while creating operating-cost savings.”

Mr Payton said this savings cost was a boon to both homeowners and investors.

“Homeowners are keen to reduce their running expenses in times of high costs of living.

“For investors, saving money means they can get a far better yield on their investment property.”

Mr Payton’s top tips for saving money when going green include:

1. Design matters
“The design stage is when you start incorporating your features for a home that both achieves your goals and reduces consumption,” he said.

Mr Payton said by simply understanding orientation and exposure, and your home’s layout, many owners can reduce heating and cooling costs.

“Open plan is great, but if the orientation and exposure to sunlight is wrong, then you can end up paying a lot extra in running costs.”

He also said smart design will take in micro-elements like eave overhangs and patio roof lengths.

“Many small changes can have a big impact in costs – from window placement to avoiding ‘dead space’ in underutilised rooms”.

2. Modern materials
One of the best building strategies for achieving green dream homes is choosing the right materials, according to Mr Payton – and one of the most promising right now is Cross Laminate Timber, or CLT, for framing.

Mr Payton noted that CLT is stronger than conventional framing, and offered a green alternative to builders.

“On a previous large-scale project, our client saved over $20,000 on the contract sum by using CLT. Also, its base material is timber, and the wood crop source is a carbon-sink,” he said.

CLT sees layers of parallel timber beams laid atop one another in a perpendicular fashion and then glued together, resulting in a product that is inherently stronger than standard frames.

Mr Payton said it cuts both construction costs and build-time on projects.

“Some recent jobs have seen three months shaved off their build-time,” he said.

“Because it’s cheaper to produce and easier to work with than steel or concrete, it’s a saving in your construction budget.

“We’ve also found CLT frames are faster to erect than traditional frames, because it comes in panels.”

3. Blurring indoors and outdoors
When deciding on the layout of your home, don’t ignore the wide-ranging benefits of blurring the line between the indoors and the outdoors, Mr Payton advised.

“Opening up to a patio or deck adds square metres to your home. It’s a flexible way to create extra space,” he said.

That flexibility extends to house running costs too.

“By using the right materials for your openings – solar tinted glass stacker doors or more solid bi-folds – you can simply reduce the space when it’s not needed and insulate the area you’re either heating and cooling.

“When things do get warmer, openings to outdoor areas allow breezes to come through, too.”

4. Don’t skimp on finishes
Mr Payton said green-savvy owners are also paying a little more for quality fittings and fixtures.

“This may sound counter-intuitive to the idea of reducing costs, but it’s often worth the extra money to choose recognised brand-name appliances with excellent durability,” he explained.

“While the low-price sticker on a cheap, knock-off import may look enticing, if it needs constant repair or replacement, that’s money down the drain and wasted resources used.

“The same goes for finishes – good quality, durable carpet, tile, timber and paint all pay for themselves pretty quickly.”

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