Grand Designs home plans?

We have all seen Grand Designs on TV and one thing is for sure. Whether it is a long held plan or a just a scrawl on a napkin after a few reds, the idea for a unique dream home always starts with passion. That’s all you need – until you start to try to build it. That’s when you need someone with building experience that is committed to high standards and working with you every step of the way.

“That is where Grand Designed Homes comes in,” says managing Director Anton Engelmayer, launching the business from the companies stand at the Building and Renovation Show in early July. “Capturing your passion and blending it with our own is our passion” says Anton.

“Not only can we help you interpret your own “grand design” ideas but we can bring other ideas to the table with techniques and materials that you may not have been aware of. We can help with architectural ideas or work with your architect if that is what you would prefer but we also take a whole of house and land approach. That means giving your home the best possible siting for both aesthetics and energy efficiency. We can also make every element, (things like your landscaping gardens, driveway etc.) say something. The idea is that every element can have a life that contributes to the whole in a coordinated way. Not only does this involve the best in green building techniques and savings on energy and maintenance but an effect where your home extends outward and is not just stuck on the land like a sore thumb. That is what separates a real Grand designs level of vision from something that is just souped up ordinary. Just like in the Grand Designs TV show there is always a budget and because we know the supplier, the material and a the design options we can make sure you get the result you want but also the value.

This is what we have done at our Machu Picchu home as our own grand designs project and it is there for you to see. If you are looking for something individual that will be here for the long term Grand Designed Homes offers a unique and personalized service to deliver just that. With over 30 years experience in building we will make sure you not only avoid the traps, but also don’t have to water down your dream because you didn’t know how to get something done. If you want your home to outlast fads and be there for your children we can help you do that. If you want it to save you money throughout the time you own it and one day generate a handsome return through its sale price we can help you do that too.

We are not interested in being a volume builder but would rather do great work that both we and our customers can feel 110% proud of – it’s that simple.”

“One of my strong beliefs” adds Anton “is that knowledge has to be shared to be any value. We are always doing new things and building is what we do every day so we are not precious about what we give away. I don’t mind if someone rings me up to find out about something and I am happy to give some of my time to help them”

Anton Engelmayer is an award winning green builder who won the 2013 Master Builders Association of Victoria Award for the best sustainable home under $650,000 for his Machu Picchu project.

If you have a plan to build your own grand designs green home or would like help to develop one call Anton on 0418 177 380 or email on [email protected]


Passive heating and cooling.

If you have done some reading we are sure you will have come across the terms like “passive heating and cooling”,“thermal mass” along with  “solar bank” which is another expression of the same idea.

More and more you hear the idea of passive heating and cooling bandied around when people are talking about green home designs and you might hear it said that thermal mass guarantees good passive heating and cooling. The truth, however, is a little more complicated.

So how do you sort it all out. Here is a brief try.

Passive heating and cooling is where a building uses materials and design to absorb and direct both heat and cold to create a sustainable home  that requires only minimum heating and cooling or none at all to be comfortable year round.

The thermal mass of a building is the way its materials reflect the ambient temperature of the environment around it and the degree to which they both resist and retain energy inputs of heat or cold. High thermal mass materials include stone, solid brick, rammed earth and concrete. These materials are slow to heat or cool but once heated or cooled tend to retain that state for a long time and only need minimal energy input to retain it. It is a bit like pushing starting a car. It takes an initial burst of energy to get it going but once it is going it is comparatively easy to keep it rolling. This is why, for example, a stone floor in a north facing room (with the right windows and eaves) will allow you to feel the warmth of winter sun long after the sun has moved on. Conversely, on a hot day pipes running through the earth under your home can use the cool ambient temperature of the earth to cool you down without air conditioning.

Where it gets tricky is that merely having high thermal mass materials is not enough to have really effective passive heating and cooling  as the property of retaining heat or cold can work against you if your thermal bank is:

  • Not isolated properly where you want to isolate the heat or cold in one zone
  • Not connected properly to where you want to transfer the heat

Rammed earth for example, is a beautiful sustainable material and a great thermal bank but it relies on its mass to resist change from say hot sun on the outside of a building. Because it has high mass it is slow to heat but if he sun were to stay on it – say over a series of hot days long enough to heat it right through that heat would be transferred to the inside of your home and would remain in your wall long after the weather outside had cooled down.

A better way to go, to resist summer heat as well as winter cold, is to have a high thermal mass wall that is insulated on the outside. That way you stop it heating up or cooling on the outside so you benefit from the walls ambient coolness in summer and retained heat from your internal heating in winter. The way an uninsulated high thermal wall acts in winter is the exact reverse of summer. Cold on the outside actually lowers the ambient temperature of the whole wall, which tends to “suck” heat out from the outside and make maintaining an comfortable temperature inefficient – and expensive.

In our award winning Machu Picchu home we solved this problem with a product called Formcraft ICF (insulated concrete forms) which covers the outside & inside of our high thermal mass concrete external walls with a layer of insulation. This is just one way to achieve this and in another situation the same result might be achieved by the positioning of trees or growing a grapevine over a west-facing wall.

While the design of all our homes is unique we are also able to apply these principles of sustainable design to existing homes to give you a renovation that will not only look beautiful but also reduce your carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

In your new green home we can help you build principles of passive heating and cooling into your design in a way that is not only effective but beautiful as well.

For further information call Anton Engelmayer on 0418 177 380 or email at [email protected]


The Karate Kid and beautiful long lasting weatherboards

Have you ever wondered about that fantastic dark yet interesting finish that you see on Japanese wooden buildings? If you haven’t then you might recognize it from the picture below. While it looks like a stain it is actually much better than this. Who would not want a beautiful long lasting weatherboard finish that requires no painting and can last for up to 80 years?

The Japanese call them Sugi boards. These are made by burning off the outside layer of cedar weatherboards and then brushing and washing off the burnt carbon. The result is that the remaining top layer of wood becomes harder and resistant to water as well as taking on a beautiful dark brown patina with highlighted grain. While conventional weatherboards need to be regularly cleaned and painted along with wooden shingles Sugi boards are one of the ultimate low maintenance building claddings.

Traditional Japanese builders also used the Sugi technique to create beautiful and long lasting floorboards. We have recently applied this to a radiata pine floor in a home in Berwick and the result, as you can see below, was sensational. Not only does it look beautiful but it is a healthy low environmental impact finish that completely eliminates the work of sanding and the application of toxic finishes such as two pack that emit VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) which can cause a range of health problems.

Call Anton Engelmayer on or email at [email protected]

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