Strawbuilding in New Zealand

Huff and puff: Is straw the future of New Zealand house construction?

straw-buildingToday’s alternative? Straw houses! According to the organisers of the International Straw Build Conference at Methven in Canterbury last month, ‘straw-earth buildings’ are the way of the future for New Zealand housing, as supplies of cement and steel are forecasted to deplete over the next 15-or-so years, and as the price of heating (and cooling) a house increases.  Read More

I have had a few friends who went to this International Conference, all of them were enthusiastic.  Strawbale construction has developed and is being used in many creative ways.  Keep an eye out for more on this

Read more about the Conference here


Panelised Passive House – looked great

IMG_2033For our last networking meeting of the year Viva visited the  Panalised Passive House presently under construction in Parklands.

A collaboration between ProjeX4 and Vicus Design Group, the house is constructed of panels from LVL, the panels are fully insulated and lined with both an air tight membrane and water tight membrane as well as ply bracing.

A dozen of us gathered under stormy clouds, and really enjoyed looking at this house and hearing its story.  I found the passive house system they are using fascinating, and it was great to see how they are using the LVL.  

We had to gather under what shelter we could as the rain started, but it was an inspirational way to end the VIVA! year!

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Welhaus Wins Award

VIVA! congratulates Christchurch company Welhaus  who designed Beach Barn in Brighton which has recently won an award for Novel Application of wood in the 2015 Timber design awards.

The Beach Barn is a perfect expression of the context for which it is designed.

Welhaus Beach BarnReferencing the beautiful New Zealand coastal landscape, it incorporates a number of innovative sustainability features, and maximises wellbeing in its use of space and combined living areas.

In respect for the coastal environment, the Beach Barn is engineered to stand strong against the elements – a home built for safety and durability. And best of all, it is delivered to you quickly – using our unique, swift-build system.

Welhaus Beach barn interiorEnter the Beach Barn to begin your study in light, texture and space. The Beach Barn makes clever use of horizontal and vertical space to provide a living experience that is second to-none: flooded by natural light, the double-height ceiling of our living space will see your senses expand.

facebookThe Welhaus Beach Barn allows for smart living with combined spaces for cooking, dining and living bringing social functions together; while intelligent design of bedrooms, studies and storage spaces maximises the use of your home.

Welhaus wall panelPanelisation: Welhaus pre-engineered panels are the basic elements of the Welhaus building system. Like other international leaders in panelisation, our designs are based on a 1.2m2 grid system.

Exterior: colour schemes showcase the best of sustainably-grown New Zealand timber, with tones echoing the coastal landscape, and the native flora and fauna that surrounds it.

Welhaus logoInterior: inside your Welhaus, be cocooned in the warmth of wood, interspersed with light, whitewashed spaces to lift your spirits.

 See Welhaus story and building at 12.20ms in CTV News

Hat-trick for LILAC – cheap, green, co-living

LILAC is an inspirational affordable co-housing development in Leeds in the UK.  LILAC stands for Low-Impact Living Affordable Community and it combines low-impact eco housing with affordability and co-housing, possibly one of the first in the world to encompass all of those aspects at the same time.

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See more on their website:

Paul Chatterton from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds presented their story in this TEDx talk.  The story of dogged determination and persistence is very similar to that of the Earthsong co-housing development in Auckland.

Paul describes an ownership model proportional to income which would have a major impact on housing affordability and social housing.

The buildings are built with high levels of insulation and air-tightness along with proper mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (similar to the Passive House approach) resulting in very high thermal efficiency.

Insulation is provided by straw bales, using ModCell‘s innovative modular system.  The system has the advantage of low-, or negative-, carbon construction, yet forms very linear walls indistinguishable from any other modern construction method.

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Viva presentation: The potential for wood in the rebuild

Last Monday, at the latest Viva networking meeting, we were thrilled to have Jason Guiver from the wood industry talk with us about the amazing possibilities of timber, both for Viva, and for the Christchurch rebuild generally.

Nelson Pine has developed its LVL (laminated veneer lumber) product in collaboration with the engineering department at the University of Canterbury and the Structural Timber Innovation Company, STIC.  It is strong, lightweight and flexible – with twice the strength to weight ratio of steel and equivalent to concrete for compression strength – making it perfect for earthquake resilience, even in multi-storey buildings.  Wood has the added benefit of corrosion resistance in aggressive environments and good fire performance (in some cases wood is actually used to protect steel from fire, counterintuitively).  It is also inherently carbon neutral and renewable, and locally produced.

Jason went on to present some innovative local examples of uses of LVL (including curved sections) along with some international examples of construction from wood.  To underscore his point about the structural strength of wood, his final slide shows an older wooden house with half of the foundations removed by a flood, yet still standing level and structurally intact.

See Jason’s presentation here: