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Planning the perfect house for local conditions

EACH year, Western Australians waste millions of dollars cooling and heating Tuscan villas, English manor and Swiss chalet-style houses totally unsuited to the State’s climate.

But in the Goldfields and Esperance, a new type of housing design, sensitive to the region’s harsh climate, is under development.

As part of the Your Kinda House competition, 85 architects and building designers have pulled out their t-squares and are now drawing up plans for a home that captures the character of the area.

And more than just looking for aesthetically sound design, the competition requires the homes be energy and water efficient and able to withstand the region’s climatic conditions.

Goldfields Esperance Development Commission chief executive officer Colin Purcell said the competition aimed to come up with WA’s version of the “Queenslander”, a popular style of home in Queensland designed to best suit the environment.

Mr Purcell said the houses would not be “eco-houses”, but rather would reflect best design practice.

“Things like block orientation, to take advantage of the winter sun, will be considered, as well as the best type of insulation,” he said.

“And there are plenty of devices that can be installed to increase energy and water efficiency.”

Royal Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter president Warren Kerr supported the competition, as it created awareness on energy and water efficient homes, an awareness many homebuilders lacked, he said.

This ignorance had given rise to the construction of homes inappropriate to the Australian climate that needed to be cooled and heated, thereby using enormous amounts of electricity.

“Sixty million dollars could be saved each year if the current housing stock had been designed using basic energy efficient principles, including correct orientation, appropriate insulation and solar-efficient principles,” Mr Kerr said.

These houses were now a burden on the community, which is forced to bear the cost of generating additional energy.

“Why should the community pay for additional power stations and larger power grids simply to enable residents to live in Cape Cod fantasies or Tuscan villas without eaves, when appropriately designed dwellings would significantly reduce the amount of artificial cooling required,” Mr Kerr said.

“At a time when we as a country are recognising the need to reduce greenhouse gases, it is a ludicrous waste of energy resources to generate far more electricity than we require, simply to cool inefficient housing designs.”

Mr Kerr said homebuilders needed to be educated on and encouraged to build energy efficient houses that would save them money and benefit the community.

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