How about making home designs meaningful for Baby Boomers?

Why is it that designers and builders are not meeting the demands of the 55+ market?

Over half of the population will be over 50 years or more within five years. The focus is the construction industry is to kick start the first home buyers.  But …the 55+ market is responsible for close to 50 percent of consumer spending.  Alas, the perception is the traditional model of senior housing and retirement villages and this drives the designs.

Reality check needed here!  ACTIVE is the word          .Baby Boomers Active (2)

Stop and think about the cultural, social and personal values that this demographic group place on how they live. Everywhere you read about the 50 plus fighting fit and have more time to be committed to their health and travelling. Yes they have a strong desire to seek new housing opportunities that will enable them to age in place.  Offer of “maintenance free” living is mighty appealing.

Ditch the traditional layout with stairs and small bedrooms for little kids; it is about time for hobbies and interests. It is all about smart technology, being connected. This translates to our living spaces with private indoor and outdoor spaces.   I am being asked for contemporary designs, a sense of vitality to living spaces brimming with natural light.

People are choosing still to work and working from home. The designated home office room and desk is something of the past. “Working from home” has evolved from desktop computers to laptops that can be moved around the home.

Today’s 55+ homebuyers are sophisticated and active. They are seeking homes designed and engineered for a lifestyle that reflects this.  I am being asked for a more open-plan approach, a seamless flow of elements like lighting and flooring.  Uncluttered spaces utilising a statement pieces like a stunning focal light feature or a fireplace bring personality into the design.

The other word to describe the Baby Boomers is something different.  Remember the Baby Boomers were trail blazers and now they have money to spend. Let me know if I can help with the design of your new home.  After all I understand. I am a Baby Boomer myself.


What’s trending in house designs for 2017?

I have already been asked “what do I see the trends in house designs for 2017 “so let’s take a look on some of the emerging trends.

The kitchen takes priority as the heart of the home and proving to be more flexible with functionality and also for extending into the entertainment zone. Open floor plans with integrated kitchen and family room are the preference with homebuyers according to recent surveys.

Black  is the new fashion statement right down to the fridge, oven, cooktops and

Black stainless steel sits right up there with contemporary finishes for kitchens . It is so versatile and timeless. Manufacturers  have covered the   smudge proof and finger-print proof  factor resulting in  less maintenance and cleaning.

The home office is on its way out. It all about being mobile. Laptops and desktop computers move around the home with the owner. “Working from home” takes on a new backdrop as it can be the patio, the breakfast bar nook


or a quite space in the family room.

The designated  home office room is replaced by open plan flexible areas.  Architects and designers are drawing in  cosy nooks and more practical places for family to gather.  Probably symptomatic of generational changes as the younger generation don’t really mind where they work. You can find them even in the local coffee shop working with the IPad.

One good advantage it frees up some square meterage to provide more open  family space!

Can’t forget the oversized showers and the statement luxuriously large free standing bath. Wall to wall glass showers provide that resort feel.  It is all about indulgence and your personal retreat to relax.

And just to round it off with a very sustainable product on the market,  Eco by Cosentino® have released some stunning stone finishes for kitchen and bathroom benchtops.
The stone is manufactured  with 75% recycled  materials and  pretty well all the water utilised in the process is  Certainly this product is setting new benchmarks in design, uniqueness and sustainability. All good cabinetmakers can supply this so take a look at their website.

Why isn’t Housing Innovative in Australia?

Other industries such as medical science, education and technology are forging ahead with progressive measures. However, housing lags behind citing extra costs, consumers aren’t demanding it and generally taking the very cautious approach.

We are seeing considerable inertia in the take-up to sustainable initiatives in housing.
I believe most people today in some way or another recognise the need to be a little sustainable conscious.  And they believe that companies should be embracing more a sustainable policy to the business practices.

Why is it so hard to build green?

Personally I don’t like to use the term “green building” as the term appears to be kicked around too much and brings to mind different connotations to people. But it is about building an energy efficient house.  Why wouldn’t we jump at that if it paid dividends in lower power bills?

Why wouldn’t that be part of our purchasing decision?

Better technology makes innovations like solar panels cheaper.  Electric heat pump heating and cooling systems and hot water systems are pretty mainstream and very cost effective.

Something so simple in the orientation of your home can create pay back not just in power bills.  Take away the less obvious benefits of a lower power bill, hello it is a more comfortable house to live all year round. When I am judging for the HIA Greensmart Awards, I have owners bragging about the bi monthly power bills between $10 and $40.

Rainwater collection feeds the toilets and washing machines irrigates the garden. Now that is not too hard, is it?

There the little things that can make a difference. What about looking at the bigger picture? Do we need to build double brick just because that is the accepted business model for companies?

Outdated practice.jpg  We are seeing, ever so slowly, the big established builders introducing timber framed homes. Innovative polystyrene cladding is changing the way we construct.

Some simple concepts like the selection of materials which have a recycled content component.  For example, Gyprock has released a plasterboard with high recycled content,
( EC08) but of course it is slighter more expensive. If this was the norm for Builders to specifiy, demand would bring the price down.

It seems counterintuitive that building is not recognising the strong business case of an energy efficient house and taking steps to being environmental responsible to choice of materials.  innovative-cladding-2

From little things…grows a house

Everyone is familiar with that catchy tune From Little Things, Big Things Grow

 But it is true!

From the humble mushroom, furniture and wall panels can grow. future-of-construction

Showcased, centre stage at an international Greenbuild Expo this month in the USA, an innovative company revealed furniture constructed from biofabricated material with the mushroom the key component to the patented resin.  The company Ecovative Design even goes further with sustainability, combining agricultural waste, hemp, and recycled wood to create panels for construction.  What is so special is that it is formaldehyde free, VOC free, and fire resistant. And it can be moulded into so many different shapes and forms – perfect for furniture making.

So from the humble mushroom cultivated in a factory the future in construction  will be making walls, insulation, and furniture in a very sustainable way.

3 Good Sustainable Design Principles to consider when building a sustainable home

Size –  yes it counts!

One of the overarching principles of sustainability is a light touch to the earth.  Here in Perth, the market finds it a challenge to reduce the oversized homes or mansions that proliferate the suburbs, claiming aesthetics is the driver.

Perth mansion sustainable not.jpg

All the monetary effort with luxury fixtures etc does not diminish the material and energy demands to build a big home.  We need to consider not just the energy consumed by the occupants but the cost of material processing and transportation.  For cost effective and sustainable construction, think of the investment of every square metre to your house design.

Look for the right builder!

You need to find a builder who is a change agent!

Housing construction operates in an industry that we all know is wasteful, produces lots of carbon with accepted practices that are increasingly being criticised as unsustainable.  There are a few builders now stepping away from the mainstream practices of the standard formula double brick cavity home and looking to incorporate into the design, practices that conserve energy and water resources.

Be in tune with the climate

There is a litany of design mistakes that hark back to overseas influence and lack of respect for our environment.   We live in a hot climate and in Perth generally is blessed by cooling sea breezes in summer.  We need designs that minimise the summer sun intruding into the house but takes advantage of that free energy provided by the winter  sun to warm up the interior.  This will go a long way to making a more comfortable indoor environment and reduce your heating and cooling costs. Good orientation and positioning of your home will facilitate the breezes to cross ventilate through the windows and doors, minimising the need for air conditioning.    Open up the house and let that fresh air flow circulate through. You will be much healthier for it!



Disastrous Outcome for an Owner by a Builder

We do have in place a Building Commission that has powers to deal with disputes about poor workmanship by Builders but in the process, this can be very stressful,  very expensive and not always deliver the just outcome.

A few months back, undertaking a course with the Building Commission, the statistics were that last year alone, the office handled 702 complaints with only two field officers to process these complaints. And the tough news is if the complaints are not submitted in the proper format, your complaint is dismissed.   The Building Commission also has the role to investigate  the conduct of registered  Builders and Industry providers and sitting over the Building Commission is SAT,   a tribunal if the investigated matter warrants further review or an owner is aggrieved by the decision from the Building Commission.  Yes this means time, loads of stress and money!

Unfortunately for several owners, here in Perth, they were caught in a debacle of a Builder going into liquidation and as it has come to light, very substandard work.  I am not really about “name and shame” but this Builder comes with a serious warning.  Do not entertain signing a contract with  Saad Soliman!

Unfortunately, the outcome for these owners  was that Mr Soliman is allowed to trade again with a slap on the wrist of a $5000 fine. fineMany of  his clients desperately tried to expose their financial dilemma through Today Tonight , however, in the end they have incurred serious financial losses. This is not good for the industry nor a party wanting to build a house.

Further investigation revealed that the house did not meet the energy rating requirements specified and in fact was non compliant.  And the only way to achieve this was substantial upgrades to glazing and insulation.  The financial implication  has been enormous.


One deplorable expensive mess!


Trending today and wheelchair friendly tomorrow

I am referring to  some forward planning into a home design to take into consideration that life’s circumstances might change.

A design that makes the house easier to access, navigate with a wheelchair or walking frame. A design that is able to be manageable for a person with a disability or provide peace of mind for a senior person to live comfortably in their own home.

It is so much more efficient to think about adaptability upfront in the design of a new home.

Not just about enhancing the quality of life for the aging baby boomers! Give some consideration to pushing a pram around or someone who has a sporting injury or disability.

Would you be surprised to know that one in five which is around 4 million Australians have special needs due to a disability1.

It is about future flexibility and functionality to a house design. This is real plus when coming to resell your home too!

So it makes economic sense for wider doors and hallway to allow the house to transition and functional as needs change. No threshold to an entry door will be wheelchair friendly later.

A snapshot to our demographics and the Baby Boomers currently comprise 25% of the population so it makes economic and social sense to review our house designs.

It is so important to give consideration to a host of concepts that will allow a home to serve the needs of you, the home owner today, but adjust to the changes as they occur.Hobless shower trending today

Some simple considerations such as

Multiple light switches to reduce the number of trips can make quite a difference to livability.  The need for more lighting is important as we age.  Think hallways, stairwells and under cabinetry.  Plenty of natural light as a person probably might be spending more time inside the house.

Raised garden beds are a bonus as well as a design trend to allow the occupants still to manage their garden hobbies.

And of course careful selection to the bathroom layout is essential.  So seek out advice – There is a host of standards as government moves to make homes more sustainable and livable.

Demystifying what is an energy efficient house.

I find there is much confusion to the term 6 star energy efficient standard.  We have in place a requirement by the Building Code of Australia (BCA), which sets out the minimum standards for sustainability.

It works like this on a scale 1 to 10, current minimum requirement is 6.  Roughly equates to the amount of heating and cooling one will need to make the home comfortably for living.  The higher the star the less you need to rely on energy to provide the internal comfort to your home.  So when you look at it, 6 is not that great!   Just over the halfway mark i.e. just over the pass park.

Podium finish

There is no text book per se.  Honestly, there is no straightforward one-size fits all approach to design. An energy efficient house is underpinned by energy efficient features such as site orientation consideration, appropriate selection of windows and shading, right choice of insulation and correct balance of thermal mass together with   extensive use of natural ventilation.

Design-wise the focus will be about the sun and garden, resulting in  a distinctive design that visually connects indoor and outdoor living, utilising passive thermal design principles which will cleverly respond to the northern winter sun and addresses the harsh summer glare and heat.

Two good examples principles of sustainable house

Two cost effective design principles

It is really important to seek professional advice as it seriously does impact on your heating and cooling bills and the value of your investment.

A sustainable home is principally driven by design but it is also about finding ways which industry can collaborate to minimise waste and bring cost effective solutions to availability of alternative building materials.

People say to me green products are too expensive; and they’re too expensive because they aren’t being specified.  Builders can play a major part to break this stalemate.

There are some very cost effective ways to make your house more energy efficient which I will discuss in further articles. Let’s not mince words but right now we are seeing poor performing homes  being built in West Australia; ones that don’t win any medals.

A follow on to Insulation

I had a few comments that Blow In Insulation was not covered, and the pros and cons  were evident when I was  involved with a building inspection yesterday with Rod Harris from the  Building Industry Advisory Services.

There are some advantages of utilising Blow In Insulation (Cellulose is recycled paper with Borax and Boraxic acid added to it for fire and insect protection) with difficult to get to roof spaces, however, if not properly installed i.e, inconsistent coverage, it just does not perform. A 5% gap in insulation can equate to a 50% loss of efficiency.

Sub standard installation

Sub standard installation

A requirement of R4 insulation means 150 mm thickness which covers the joists and there- in provides a problem for any trades coming in after. Batts are easier to lift or shift if new wiring is needed. Most tradespeople will prefer batts if they are working in the roof space.  What we generally see is that owners organise the installation of downlights after handover to save costs.  LED downlights must be installed correctly with shrouds to avoid hotspots and what is going to happen now is that the insulation will be moved around changing the coverage.

As the picture reveals, these owners have poor performing insulation  which is not helping those power bills.  A wasted investment!


How to beat the winter chill!

That’s the city of Perth peaking through the fog this morning.


We have had a cold winter here and everyone is complaining and say it is the coldest winter they can recall.  Brr…!  this morning with the foggy conditions. So while I was out walking on the Darling Escarpment watching the city slowly reveal itself  I thought about something I  feel quite  strongly about. And that is the value of insulation to a home. A sure way for a cosy home in winter and the best fix to reduce heating costs is investing in the installation of insulation.

Properly insulating a home can use about 40 per cent less energy than poor or none at all.  It will pay for itself in five to six years.  The type of insulation used to maximise energy efficiency will be dependent on the design of the house, how it is constructed and where you live.

Just some technical bits

To compare products, you need to know their R values, the measure of resistance to heat flow. The greater the R value, the higher the level of insulation.

Here’s a quick overview of what is available on the market

  • Shiny foils. Reflective insulation consists of layers of foil with air sandwiched in between.  Principally acts as the first line of defence in the roof. Makes sense as it is the hottest part of the house, reducing radiant heat up to 95%.
  • Cavity Wall Insulation. Principally most of the homes in Perth are constructed with double brick walls and Bradford have come up with a specifically designed pliable composite barrier membrane as a cost effective solution.

Bradford EzyCAV™ Cavity Wall Blanket  Check out their site.

  • Batts and blankets are widely available, made of everything from fibreglass or rockwool (volcanic rock melted and spun into fine fibres) to polystyrene boards and loose-fill insulation made from wool or nylon fibres or from cellulose (pulverised waste paper).
  • Bulk insulation works by trapping still air in layers or cells and air is a pretty good insulator. Tontine produces a very environmentally friendly no chemical or toxins which gets a good tick for a healthy house.

How much is enough?

Generally the more R value for a given thickness the more expensive the product.  You do need to factor in that loose fill settles over time reducing the R value.

The extra cost is small in the grand scheme of your build, but a wise investment considering energy prices will continue to rise well above inflation for the foreseeable future.

It’s always wise to have insulation installed professionally to ensure safe installation around electric/hot features and is imperative to eliminate gaps in its coverage, making it worth your investment.

And if you need further advice please contact me Sallyanne Bond  or  0418857708