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Innovation may be considered an overused buzz word by some, but there are good examples of inventive and clever product design coming out of the construction industry, evolving with changes in Australian housing and how they’re being built.
In the past decade we’ve seen a trend towards smaller housing on smaller lot sizes. According to data obtained by HIA Economics the median size of land in square metres declined by 13 per cent between 2009 and 2019, and in some parts of the country, such as NSW, this has translated into smaller floor areas for new houses. What hasn’t changed though is that people still expect to retain modern amenity and comfort in their homes, while reducing their reliance on expensive essential resources. They will be looking to purchase smarter products that offer durability, good design, energy efficiency and more.
As we step into a new decade, forward-thinking companies are focused on providing workable solutions to consumers and industry alike. So, whether it’s a solution to a building need, responding to evolving housing trends or even climate issues impacting on how we use our buildings, HOUSING has rounded up the brands committed to improving efficiencies, both onsite and in the home.
A household name for more than 50 years, Daikin has a history of innovation in the global airconditioning industry. The company behind inverter technology, and other developments that improved our heating and cooling appliances, understands the importance of responding rapidly to changes in market dynamics and tailoring its products accordingly.
Raj Singh Daikin Australia national product manager says innovation is important to the business’s philosophy to stay ahead in the market and evolve with consumer desires and needs, regulatory changes and home designs.
‘In 2020, in response to changes in home construction in some capital cities, such as smaller blocks, Daikin will introduce a large capacity ducted unit in a compact side discharge configuration,’ he says. ‘The market is looking for more compact solutions with changing home designs, and homeowners are seeking convenient control and operations of their airconditioning while out of home.’
Raj says that current airconditioning units that deliver 18kW and 20kW come with large outdoor units, for example, 1680 (H) x 930 (W) x 765mm (D), which makes installation a challenge since the side access of modern homes are typically less than 1000mm.
‘The new introduction will see the outdoor unit depth reduced by more than half to 320mm, enabling convenient installation into the tight side access area,’ he says. ‘While not new, these units can be connected to our WLan adaptor (Airbase) to enable remote access, so homeowners can control their airconditioning when not at home through their smart devices.’
In the face of other trends impacting consumers, such as extreme summer temperatures and rising energy costs, Raj says Daikin is also responding by launching the R32 refrigerant for its zero ODP properties and low GWP impact.
‘We’re always improving the energy efficiency performance of our products, so operating costs are kept low for consumers,’ he says. ‘Daikin will continually innovate our product and services offering to deliver on occupant comfort, energy performance, ease of installation and after sales-support. This will ensure our products remain top of mind for the Australian building industry.’
One of the best ways to improve the performance of a home in the Australian environment and ensure comfortable temperatures year-round is by finding a product that minimises the impact of the external environment on a building. Decades of scorching summers spent working atop metal roofs throughout Australia inspired the founders of Vent-A-Roof to offer innovative technology that is capable of minimising the impact of the weather into the home by using improved methods and materials.
Vent-A-Roof was developed in response to a lack of ventilation solutions in the market and provides builders and homeowners with an alternative solution to whirly birds, reducing penetrations and leak hazards to the roof. It complies with the regularly updated requirements of the NCC, the latest of which come into effect in most states and territories in May 2020.
Family-owned and operated, Vent-A-Roof is a patented system of ventilated louvres concealed under the ridge capping which encourages a continuous flow of air. This system allows ambient air to flow through while extracting the hot air, providing homeowners with the best ventilation possible. The solution is cost-effective and architecturally attractive, suitable for all metal roofing projects, including commercial, residential or smaller scale applications such as metal sheds.
What makes Vent-A-Roof so effective is its holistic solution for industry. It meets relevant industry standards, including a bushfire rating of up to BAL40, a cyclone rating for all wind categories in Australia, and it works as a condensation management solution for NCC Part 3.8.7. Vent-A-Roof says that its metal roof ventilation system has also proven to be an effective solution for mitigating mould and humidity, and contributing to improved health and safety for homeowners.
With its use of natural airflow, Vent-A-Roof’s ventilation and condensation management system aids in reducing energy consumption by keeping a home or building cooler in summer and warmer in winter without any moving parts, power or noise. It’s this impressive feat that is demonstrating continued innovation in the market of building products from home-grown brands and companies.
Over the past decade parts of Australia descended into one of our nation’s worst-ever recorded droughts, throwing the scary possibility of acute water shortage into stark relief. 2019 was a particularly dry year where water restrictions became the norm and towns such as Stanthorpe in southern Queensland had to accept the prospect of officially running out of water and becoming reliant on trucks to bring in supplies from other dams.
Despite some parts of Eastern Australia receiving a dumping of rain at the start of 2020 (not enough unfortunately to so far stop the trucking in Stanthorpe), water scarcity remains a reality for many, with an uncertain future ahead in the midst of increasingly warmer and dryer summers and winters. Australians understandably will be looking for water-free, sustainable waste handling solutions that can be installed swiftly and efficiently without the need for sewage.
They say necessity is the mother of innovation and one company has been at the forefront of water-saving technology for decades. Cinderella Eco Group, which has been producing Cinderella Incineration Toilets for more than 20 years in Norway, has now made the product available in Australia and New Zealand. Award winners in design and execution, they were presented with the 2019 Good Design Awards, Australia for Best Engineering Design and Best Product Design, Home and Building. The water-saving, eco-friendly incineration toilet may yet be an answer to a number of Australia’s current concerns.
‘The Cinderella Incineration Toilet is ideal for the Australian market,’ explains Anette Helleren of Scandinavian Eco Solutions Pty Ltd. in Victoria, Cinderella’s main Australia-based supplier. ‘They meet the needs of the leisure homeowner looking to find comfortable, hygienic solutions for isolated areas close to nature, the homeowner looking to reduce water usage and workplaces where access to a nearby flush toilet makes a water-free solution much more practical.’
Anette adds that in the aftermath of the droughts and ensuing fires in NSW and Victoria toilets will be a necessity in order to rebuild and restore homes and work sites. ‘With Cinderella Incineration Toilets, this necessity becomes a simple installation,’ she says. ‘The only result from a week’s worth of use for a family of four is a handful of bacteria-free ash, easily emptied in the household waste bin.
‘Housing barracks for construction workers also install the Cinderella and, as there is no detrimental ecological footprint to consider, these sustainable and practical toilets are going to solve quite a few sanitation challenges in the time ahead.’
Until recently there hasn’t been much technological change in certain functional parts of the home, such as the garage, but the brand behind the iconic ‘roller door’ released more than 60 years ago is bringing new thinking to this fundamental element of a home. A door that’s seemingly not a door is the latest evolutionary design to come from the company.
‘B&D has been forging ahead with a new and unique range of styles that allows people to have a high-end impactful look, but also a system that allows builders and homeowners to select their own materials to put on a door,’ says David Adams, B&D Doors group product manager. ‘This means that as well as meeting a desire for a bespoke, personalised look, the facade can seamlessly extend across the garage door.’
A recent home built in Woody Point, Brisbane showcases this new style perfectly. The homeowner chose the material Biowood in Castellated Black Japan, and continued the cladding style across the entire ground level facade. The striking exterior of the dark timber battens is heightened by the camouflaged garage door.
‘It gives you a continuous look; the door disappears into the overall facade,’ explains David, saying the project was a good example of the collaborative service B&D offers its customers to achieve the desired effect. ‘It looks really modern with stunning clean lines and the batten appearance is absolutely on-trend. We’re thrilled that B&D is fast becoming the go-to door brand for bespoke projects.’
Most contemporary homes today have a sectional garage door that lifts in a series of panels. But David says you couldn’t have one with a flush-mount look – until now. ‘We launched this revolutionary flush-mount sectional door kit just last year, which has gained unprecedented traction in the market,’ he says. ‘Homeowners can get the sectional door they want – with all of the benefits of security and conveniences like smart phone control – installed flush with the facade, rather than sitting behind the jamb. It creates a truly seamless appearance.’
As well as desiring a bespoke look, David adds the trend towards smaller housing has also impacted on the popularity of customisable design for sectional garage doors over the ‘outdated and impractical tilt door’.
‘Tilt doors, which are made from one solid panel that lifts up and down, can cause problems because houses are now built close to the road, so there’s not always enough room to park the car between the pavement and the garage door without risking it hitting your car,’ David says. ‘Sectional doors come without this limitation. Another factor is homeowners are also restricted by some councils to the amount of house frontage that the garage can take up. B&D’s range allows them to get the look that they want without contravening local laws around how much overall space the garage door can take up. The benefits are truly staggering.’
From housing products to building methods and structural solutions, another Australian company invested in innovation is Tilling Timber, which has been a participant in the timber industry for more than 50 years. It keeps an eye on new product development globally and has built significant intellectual property into its software and engineered product formulas.
‘Tilling Timber has a highly committed staff culture, and directors who have continued to reinvest in the business for its entire history,’ says Leon Quinn, national sales manager at the Tilling Group. ‘This has made Tilling a highly respected wholesale distributor, and the SmartFrame product range one of, if not, the most popular engineered solutions in the Australian market.’
This ‘extremely’ lightweight range is suitable for timber structures in residential building, from single-dwellings and high-end projects to multi-residential and government buildings. Leon says the SmartJoist is a high-performing floor joist predominantly used in upper floor systems in two-storey homes.
‘To help builders to best use our products we provide engineered design services in our Design Centre which is staffed by three engineers and more than 40 designers,’ Leon says. ‘They provide the design service required to produce 14,000 unique designs, and field over 27,000 individual requests per annum.
‘We would encourage any builder who hasn’t yet tried SmartFrame as a structural solution to ask their timber merchant for a SmartFrame design and quotation, or ask their fabricator for a SmartFrame option as part of your prefabricated package. You can achieve premium performance at a very economical price, and your carpentry trades will love them because it’s a great system to install!’
Leon adds that Tilling’s innovation in recent years has centred on software enhancement, design consistency and communication tools to ensure that builders achieve great performance and compliance, along with the economy needed in a competitive market.
‘We have invested heavily in highly efficient communication of files through a Design Portal, which we call SmartFrameWork,’ Leon says. ‘This interface allows builders and our resellers to access all files relating to the building project.
‘Our engineered design forms part of each builders’ source documentation, so instant access and exchange of files for any amendments or specification changes to a project are accurately captured in real time. Our expansive range of high-performing SmartFrame products like Tecbeam and LVL19 also allows builders to reduce the amount of costly heavy steel in their frames.’
When manufacturers – emerging or established – place invention and clever design at the core of what they do, the marketplace benefits with better, more functional solutions.
This article was compiled with contributions from Daikin, Vent-A-Roof, B&D Doors, Tilling Timber and Cinderella Eco Group.