MAY FAIR: Our five fave bespoke construction materials

Green St Property is passionate about building and housing excellence because we know there is no better feeling for our clients than turning the key in the lock of the front door on your newly-bought home.

By Amanda Watson

28-05-2019 |

It’s awards season!!

No, no, of course, it’s not the Oscars; they were back in March. We don’t mean the Grammy’s….we had those in February.

In our world of Real Estate, particularly in the realm of new builds, May means one thing: building awards!

Early in May we salivated over the workmanship and skill on show at the Master Builders Building Excellence Awards. Later in the month, we’re glued to the web to see some of the country’s newest and sexiest homes, with the announcement of the Housing Industry Association Housing Awards. Throughout the awards frenzy, our CEO, Pete, can barely contain himself. Some Mondays in May he even comes to the office wearing black tie….

Green St Property is passionate about building and housing excellence because we know there is no better feeling for our clients than turning the key in the lock of the front door on your newly-bought home. When the home is a brand-new build, there is another kind of exhilaration. Building and moving into space you have had input to creating yourself; whether it’s working with builders, designers, project managers, stylists or the myriad tradespeople, is one of the most exciting (and of course challenging) experiences a homeowner can have.

At Green St, we love the thrill of new developments and we are starting to see more unconventional building materials taking the forms of the residential building scene. Modern building materials are becoming more lightweight, cost-effective, durable, energy-efficient and resistant to extreme weather and termites. More builders are gaining experience and an appetite to use a broader range of products as demand increases for home designs that break new boundaries. Grand Designs has a lot to answer for! This year’s housing awards should reflect some of the newer directions in eco- and sustainable housing, as many clients are seeking a lower footprint home.

Despite the rise in popularity, unconventional builds are still relatively uncharted territory, and tricky to navigate if you’re building something new. The additional complexities that can exist in breaking the mold are actually an inspiration for some. A bespoke build by its very nature seeks the new and uncommon – ways to represent oneself in the built form. If you find yourself drawn to the unique and want to carry this into your new build, read on to our Top Five Unconventional Construction Materials for New Builds as a starting point:


Look to Nature:

Once reserved for “off-gridders”, farm houses and alternative lifestyle seekers, natural earth-sourced materials, specifically mud bricks, rammed earth and straw bale homes, are making some headway in urban and suburban construction.

Straw balehomes: Just like you would visualise… straw is baled together a la horse feed, and stock piled for use as the main exterior and even interior walls and insulation for a new home. Essentially, you can use straw bales as the sole fabric for the exterior and interior structures, building your home a little bit like a LEGO home would be built in life size…or you can construct a more typical house “frame” and then add the straw bales for sturdiness and insulation. Both techniques require plaster bagging to seal and finish the build.

Mud bricks: Raw earth is extracted from….the ground, formed and dried into a natural, eco-friendly type of brick. Like straw bale building, there is a spectrum of “rawness” and intervention one can apply to the technique and finished product. Bricks can be formed and then dried by the sun only, resulting in a pure rustic end product or the material can be handled in industrial kilns and made to look much like regular building bricks.

Rammed earth: Expanding on the process for producing mud bricks, rammed earth homes are constructed from aggregate materials (dirt, silt, gravel, clay, and sand) worked into panels for slab-like wall construction.

What we love: the nod to mother nature. We love the variation in styles, colours, and forms that can be achieved from the natural process of material production and building finishes. Natural sources are renowned for their eco efficiencies, too. Heating, cooling and fire resistance qualities are at an advantage to using natural earth-sourced materials.

What to watch: Access to the quantities of nature-sourced raw material needed for a full build. This will directly impact on your costs – supply and demand, all the way. If you want to produce these materials yourself, also include the time required to undergo this labour of love.

More details can be found on the Australian Government’s website .


A Carbon Home?

Don’t let the name turn you off, carbon capturing and transformation is a growing market in the eco-economy in a bid to eliminate CO2 from the atmosphere.

The production of alternative cement building materials is one by-product of the process of carbon capture.
(Carbonisation is)….technology for transforming CO2 emissions into valuable products for use in advanced manufacturing and in building products such as cements and plasterboards.

MCi, University of Newcastle.

Fibre cement makes for a beautiful, seamless, characteristic, adaptable and efficient building product that can be carried throughout the exterior and inside of your home. Carbon fabricated cement (and plasterboards for the interior) could be used in much the same way as traditional fibre cement builds making them an easy transition into the unconventional wonderland of bespoke builds while also addressing environmental impacts. Many conscious builders may choose to use this product in place of traditionally engineered cement panelling to enhance the friendliness of their sustainable sanctuary. Cost may be a prohibitive factor as the technology develops, so make inquiries with your builder to see what the options are if you’re thinking of fibre cement and plasterboard.


The New Age Fab

Expanding on the benefits of fibre cement as an unconventional material for building a unique home, additional products are entering the construction marketplace with similar appeal in both building flexibility and impact.

- From The Greener Ideal: Stone Panelling

This product has a very high insulation property that ensures heat does not easily leave the building. It has an elegant look and adds value to the overall appeal of a home. Stone panelling is easy to install, keeping costs down for your builder and is durable, meaning your home will enjoy the benefits of using this product for years to come.

- Plant-based Polyurethane (PBPU)

This relatively new composite material is making inroads as an alternative to more harmful chemicals used in traditional foams and insulation. The technology was developed by a composite maker in the USA seeking a non-toxic rigid foam for surfboards. PBPU rigid foam is derived from plant-based substances like hemp, bamboo, and kelp. When this product is used as insulation the foam offers high moisture and heat resistance, excellent acoustics and protection against mold and pests. It also has a higher R-value than fiberglass or polystyrene, meaning that it has a higher thermal resistance and insulates better Malama Composites.

- Composite timbers

What is not to love about a product that has all the looks, characteristics and variations of timber but requires almost zero maintenance? Composite timber products are made using up to 95 percent recycled materials, such as plastic, reclaimed wood fibres, bamboo, and rice by-products. They are combined with colour pigments, UV inhibitors, fungicides, and bonding agents to deliver very low maintenance and sustainable alternative to the rainforest timbers, typically used for outdoor decking and fencing in Australia – however composite cladding materials are increasingly being used for home exterior finishes. [Futurewood]. Like we said… what’s not to love??


On the Upcycle

Reclaimed and repurposed materials offer a particularly unique component to bespoke builds. The obvious advantage is environmental – reusing or repurposing existing materials as part of your build saves resources in producing something new. Minimising environmental impacts is a major plus, and another bonus we love about these types of builds is the stories that often exist in the materials you choose. History is a hidden value-add in building with reclaimed materials and there are a few favourites of ours we’d recommend researching:

- The shipping container.

These containers have become more prevalent in the last five years, but what will surprise you is how adaptable they have become in common, full-scale residential builds. No longer reserved for a backyard granny flat-style installation, the humble shipping container is increasingly being sought for multi-story, variable designed homes. Their exteriors are now being clad with similarly unconventional materials and finishes to enhance the bespoke look.

- Reclaimed building materials: woods, metals, fittings and fixtures.

Historic building conversions are not the only setting where recycled and reclaimed materials can be used. Builders are now working with reclaimed materials across a range of modern builds. Clients may want to restore an old fireplace or transfer special windows and pressed ceilings from a previous home, repurposing their use in floors, bathrooms or splashbacks. They may wish to source and construct their homes with reclaimed timbers. The look and feel of timber homes will never grow old, and timber, when sourced responsibly and treated appropriately will continue to age to perfection.

A growing trend we love is the use of reclaimed metals such as steel, copper, bronze, and iron. These materials weather beautifully, making them a terrific and unique choice for housing exteriors and the “wow” factor will be priceless.


Steel City

Green St Property is Newcastle through and through, so it comes as no surprise that our home of homes features significant use of modern steel in construction. Forget Colorbond simply for roofing and guttering, fences and garages – put this adaptable material front and centre in your unique abode. It looks simply stunning alongside other materials including timbers, cement, rendered facades… Newcastle suburbs have an increasing number of beautiful examples of Colorbond and other steel forms used in main sections of houses, so take a drive around one weekend to get inspired. We have a few on our books from time to time; get in touch so we can arrange an inspection as soon as a listing arrives.

See our favourites on our Bespoke Build Inspiration Board on Pinterest

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