Lightweight Construction Explained

What is lightweight construction, or modern methods of construction? Is it as good as brick?

We get asked these questions so often, and with a shortage of bricklayers and so many more options than just brick construction available to clients we thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about other methods of construction that are paving the way in WA and the myths that surround them!

1. IS IT GOING TO COST MORE?

 

One of the things that people assume is that lightweight construction is more expensive than brick. 10 years ago, that may have been true but not anymore….  As these methods gain momentum and more and more people have made the switch, it has allowed suppliers to reduce the costs.

There have also been several innovations within the space which have had a domino effect to onsite costs such as wastage and this has in turn help reduce the costs.

Another thing is to factor in is the value of the reduced build times….. what are your monthly loan repayments, are you paying rent while you are building? With modern methods of construction drastically reducing the build time compared to traditional brick construction, not to mention the electricity and gas bills which are reduced due to less energy wasted on heating and cooling these homes, these cost savings must be calculated into your final decision.

 

2. SOUND FACTORS

 

Sound insulation tends to govern the choice of construction system because of its daily impact on quality of life, but good design detail and construction practice is critical to the performance of both heavy and light construction.

There is a misconception that in modern methods of construction you can hear through walls and in general the home is not well insulated, however this is a myth and many homes provide wonderful sound protection especially when combined with elements such as double glazing and room placements throughout your home.

Our Dualis Display home located in Aveley is a fantastic example of lightweight construction and was built entirely out of timber frame and masterwall and is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays for you to walk through and experience the touch, feel and sound composition of a lightweight home.

 

3. MASTERWALL – DIRECT TO FRAME SYSTEM

 

Like all successful designs, form and function is a powerful addition to framed construction that delivers outstanding results.

 

It is why Masterwall lightweight insulation and coating systems have been fully engineered to perform in every building detail – delivering a high performance, weather-tight insulative barrier in a range of architectural finishes.

X-Series features our uncoated, M-Grade panel. It is an external lightweight, reinforced, insulating wall system, mechanically fixed to the outer face of the building whether that be timber or steel framing or a masonry substrate. The complete system includes the application of approved acrylic render systems, frame wraps, trims, sealants and opening flashings at openings that combine to create a weather-tight building envelope.

With a range of systems available including Bushfire Attack Level certified systems up to BAL40 and R-Ratings from R 1.7 to an impressive R 4.0 from a panel only 80mm thick, there is a Masterwall lightweight system suited to every Australian home.

4. TIMBER FRAME

 

For many Western Australian home builders, lightweight framed construction is not well understood however Interest is this type of construction is being driven by a number of changing conditions in WA market, predominantly housing affordability, smaller lot sizes and terrace housing being built out of timber frames. Some of the benefits of using timber frame construction include reduced construction time, improved thermal performance, increased internal floor space, lower costs, and a positive environmental impact due to the use of timber.

Our East coast neighbours have been using this method for decades and have demonstrated that this method does indeed stand the test of time.

5. STEEL FRAME

 

Steel is one of the most recycled materials on the planet!!!

Steel framing is fast becoming one of the most popular and preferred systems for house building in Australia. Steel Frame Homes are strong, straight, and completely termite and borer proof when built entirely out of steel.

Steel Frame Homes provide exceptional advantages such as the speed & accuracy of construction & the versatility in design and the inherent strength and durability of steel provide structural integrity and is additionally not susceptible to moisture.

They are also non-combustible and when combined with non-combustible fire claddings, such as aerated concrete panels and provide a superior fire protective form of construction especially in areas with high BAL ratings.

6. DOUBLE BRICK

 

But Double brick is the only way to build!

Still getting this statement at every turn? We surely hear it daily, but this is definitely not true…… here are some insights when considering  brick construction;

  1. Bricks have a high thermal mass and can keep a house cool on summer days however a house may remain very warm and require a lot of cooling when experiencing consecutive hot days as we do here in Perth, so electricity bills may increase due to excessive use of air conditioners
  2. A double layer of brick creates a thick space that drastically reduces room sizes. Multiply that per room and dependent on your plot ratio you could be losing a large portion of square meterage in your home to bricks. On a small lot, this is definitely not desirable.
  3. Due to the weight of bricks more engineering is required in the concrete slab which will be an additional cost.
  4. Due to the requirement of slab curing, in particular a thicker slab engineered for bricks, plus the time it takes to lay the bricks tends to be a significantly longer timeframe to get to roof cover than framed construction
  5. Want a unique architecturally designed home, think again…. Bricks are not as flexible as framed construction and therefore can restrict on design elements, most brick designs will be very standard square or rectangle shapes as bricks are heavy and harder to work with.

 

Above is a collection of images from brick, timber and steel framed constructions we have completed, can you spot the difference?

In saying all of this, we still love our double brick homes and know there is always going to be a place for them in our hearts and homes. There are some beautiful face brick colours and designs that offer architectural elegance that you cannot get from framed construction, so if you have time on your side and truly want to have a double brick home then we are more than happy to help you in that journey.

The purpose of this article was not to try to persuade you into choosing a specific method, but more to educate and inform you of the different options in lightweight construction available to homebuilders and to know that whatever factors are affecting you be it time frames, budget, location, size of block, there is a solution out there for you!

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