Positive change

Builder Dave Martin is focused on bringing positive change to the built environment, and is aiming for all his sites to be zero waste by 2020.

Photos courtesy The Sociable Weaver Group


Laura Valic

Dave Martin
Builder Dave Martin of The Sociable Weaver Group is bringing his passion for sustainability to the housing industry.

With a passion for high quality, responsible and sustainable design and construction, builder Dave Martin is determined to challenge the status quo and to make a positive difference to the built environment and the world.

The former co-founder of successful modular housing company Archiblox, Dave is currently the co-director of a string of companies which form The Sociable Weaver Group, including The Sociable Weaver, Martin Builders and Small Giants Developments.

The Sociable Weaver Group is the culmination of a lifetime spent innovating and imagining what a truly sustainable construction industry could be. 

Q: When it comes to sustainability in housing what are you most passionate about?

DM: Building homes that perform well and that basically live in harmony with nature. I think that’s the ultimate goal, where we can build homes that have no mechanical heating and cooling; contain solar power that energises the whole house without relying on top up electricity from dirty, coal-powered stations; and [have space for people] to grow their own produce. That’s really where we’re heading: nature to inspire us through biomimicry. I’m also interested in building biology, the health of a home, and look at non-toxicity for the inhabitant and the planet. They’re the elements our business is concentrating on in bringing into the home sector.


Q: Are you seeing an increase in demand for sustainable products/design in housing?

DM: Yes, we’re finding the general consumer, home buyer or renovator are becoming a lot more educated and there’s so much information out there available online to help them. People are even suggesting new products to us that we haven’t seen before, from our clients to our contractors and consultants. We’re ultimately seeing a larger demand than ever before, with people really focused on more sustainability and the performance of homes.

In lightweight construction we use a material called phase change which is almost like a lightweight type of mass. We’ve been using that for some lightweight scenarios, trying to get mass into a building. A client told us about a product, which comes in two-metre long sheets, at half a metre wide. You lay it on the plasterboard ceiling and then your insulation goes on top of that. It helps to keep the internal climate between 18 and 26 degrees. We hadn’t seen it on the market so we looked into it, and discovered it was a lot more sustainable and more cost-effective as well.

10 Star Home

Our vision is to have all our sites zero waste by 2020 and carbon positive, so we’re offsetting our neighbour on the carbon emissions we release over the life of a build.

Q: What changes need to happen to further enable sustainability in housing?

DM: We need to have a clearer strategy around waste to make it financially feasible, and to up our energy rating system from six to 7.5 stars as a minimum. [To enable this] we need to offer a good rebating system to incentivise builders and consumers to use more solar PV and water tanks. They’re the basic principles. It wouldn’t be hard to do with good incentives and rebates. Most want to do it, but the financial bottom line is generally most important to a person’s budget. But that would make a huge difference on the grid, plus it would improve the performance of a home, making it more pleasurable to live in. I’d love to collaborate with a big volume team to show the code we’ve cracked to design and build what we do.


Q: Is there a big jump to go from six to 7.5 stars?

DM: It really comes down to design. We’re the preferred builder for a sub-division of a 220 lot eco village called the Cape, down in Bass Coast Shire Council. The eco village has a mandatory 7.5-star energy rating, 10,000-litre water storage and a minimum 2.5kW solar PV system. We’re finding through smart design and optimising sun penetration that it’s not a huge cost increase. A lot of it comes down to good insulation, getting good thermal mass and getting as much sunlight in as possible to make a home habitable.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the past 5 years in this space?

DM: Double glazing has really increased; it used to be niche and expensive. We haven’t used a single glazing product for 10 years, because we’ve seen double glazing really change and become [more accessible]. We’ve also seen a big uptake on solar panels, and we’re finding more and more people have an understanding of passive solar design or passive houses. Other gains have been improved efficiencies in hot water heating through solar and heat pumps.


Q: When it comes to green building what would you like industry to do more of?

DM: Waste is a big one; and a great opportunity. I would like to see every building site be zero waste, or waste is sorted and recycled, rather than going to landfill. Our vision is to have all our sites zero waste by 2020 and carbon positive, so we’re offsetting our neighbour on the carbon emissions we release over the life of a build. I’d also love to see other builders bring in more passive solar design elements, striving to get as much northern sun into homes, as well as good insulation, more solar PV and double glazing; that’d make a huge difference to sustainable housing.

Q: In what ways are you apart of it?

DM: Within the Sociable Weaver Group our Sociable Weaver housing design and construction arm has a minimum 7.5-star energy rating and we push the bar to an average of 8-8.5 stars. We’re really trying to incorporate into our clients’ budgets water storage, solar PV, passive solar design, non-toxicity and building biology. We also have a zero waste philosophy. We also have our development wing, Small Giants Developments, and within that we’re really taking a lot of the elements that we’ve learnt and incorporated in the Sociable Weaver housing and put them into the development space.

We’re starting to collaborate with other likeminded businesses who want to also bring that positive change to the built environment. It’s great talking about what we’re doing, what they’re doing and what the world might look like in 10, 20, 100 or 200 years’ time.  


Q: Are there any exciting green projects you’re working on at the moment?

DM: Yes, the Commons Hobart just had its foundations poured and is due for completion in 2020. There will be 30 apartments, and a retail and commercial space on the ground floor. Every apartment is north facing, and location-wise it’s a great site, with views of Mt Wellington, plus it’s close to communal markets. It’s carbon positive with a nine-star energy rating, which is off the charts. It may be the first for Tasmania, or even Australia, with this type of build.

With this development we’ve focused on [accommodating] electric vehicles, and car sharing and bikes spaces to reduce car parking. The design focuses on providing a connection to nature through rooftop gardens and communal areas, such as the laundries and entertainment facilities. We’ve set up spaces to allow people to run into each other and create a community within the building. I’m really excited to see that go up and be completed.

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