Australian Modular Kit Homes
6 Essential Considerations for Owner Builders
planning a new kit home Build.
What is a Modular Kit Home?
The earliest concept of prefabricated Kit Homes, originated well over a century ago, in countries like England and America.
These earliest homes, were mainly timber kits, that comprised of many thousands of pieces of lumber and barrels of nails etc., and a very large construction catalogue.
Modern Modular Kit Homes by comparison, are precision built modules or sections, fabricated under controlled circumstances inside a factory.
Prior to the manufacture of each modular building, computer technology is incorporated, with the clients preferred design entered into a unique 3D autocad system.
This system details each component for each module for the manufacturing process, and becomes an integral part of the onsite assembly manual.
After a manufacture lead time of between 5-8 weeks, the modular kit is flat pack loaded on semi-trailers, and delivered to site to be erected as a permanent dwelling.
With that introduction to modular kit homes out of the way. Let’s start with the first consideration before even starting to look for a Kit Home suitable for your project.
1. Site Preparation.
Great preparation is the foundation for success for any of life’s ventures. The same is true for laying a solid foundation your new home.
So, one of the first considerations, is getting a Geotechnical Engineer’s soil report on the actual proposed house site location. A soil report is essential for all new home building applications, so it will be required anyway.
This will show up indicators of likely extra excavation costs when placing slabs or footings, should there be the presence of rock or boulders just under the surface.
It could also reveal a P rating which is a problem rating from a highly reactive solid clay soil or previous use of poor quality fill on the site.
An effluent disposal management or Hydraulics report done at the same time, will also be necessary if it is not a sewered block.
If your site is reasonably level, than a slab foundation may be the most cost efficient option, but if the site has a fall of 10 degrees or more, a raised flooring system may be more practical.
With a substantial fall on the block, cut and fill may create drainage problems, or the need for retaining walls.
Retaining walls over a metre high add extra costs, as they require engineer design as well.
2. Orientation for Passive Design
Passive design in simple terms, means designing your home to work within the natural climatic environment of your particular location, rather than relying on more expensive mechanical heating and cooling methods.
This includes, orientation of your new home on the block to take advantage of the sun’s path for heating, local prevailing breezes and shading from trees and window positioning etc., for flow through ventilation for natural cooling.
A very fairly extensive pdf article on Passive Design can be found here : https://www.innovationhouse.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/YOURHOME-%20Orientation.pdf
The Australian Government website : http://www.yourhome.gov.au/ has some great information for the new home builder.
There is a lot to consider with passive design, so if it becomes a little overwhelming, there are professionals like : http://www.ecolibrium.com.au/ on the Sunshine Coast that specialise in just that.
They will work closely with you to design a sustainable, energy efficient home from scratch or modify a plan you have in mind to achieve a passive design specifically for your block.
3. Consider adding a covered outside entertainment area.
When you have decided on the best orientation for your home on the block, an important consideration for the Australian way of life, is to consider the addition of a covered outdoor entertainment area, or veranda with your new kit home.
We all enjoy having friends over for the traditional Aussie BBQ, or even somewhere to just sit and relax in a comfy chair with a cold ale and watch the world go by.
Whatever the reason, with our mostly sunny climate, a covered entertainment area will be worth it’s weight in gold and can add great resale value to the property.
Should the budget not allow that expense upfront, and thinking of future extensions, it is worth considering to build to a 2.7m wall or ceiling height on the main dwelling.
This will allow you to add an awning roof out to 3m wide from the eaves with a 5 deg. pitch at a later date and still have an approximate 2.4m clear under roof at the outside edge.
For the span of an attached awning, from my experience, anything less than 2.4m out from the building would not be a viable investment.
You need at least enough room to be able to sit around a table and chairs without getting sunburnt or wet if it’s raining.
Insulated panel awnings generally 75mm thick with a flat white colorbond underside, are a good option for controlling the heat under the roof, but are also one of the easier ones to clean on the underside, where moths have a habit of laying their egg cases.
4. Look for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability in your new Kit Home. (Consider future generations)
There is no escaping the reality anymore, that Climate Change and Global Warming is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity.
There are greater levels of Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere now, than ever before in human history.
Australia, unfortunately has the unenviable distinction of having one of the highest ecological footprints of any world nation, at around 3 times the global average.
The average Australian Home is responsible for around 7 Tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, with the largest consumption of that from household energy, more than 40%, resulting from heating and cooling accounts.
With these figures in mind, it is worth considering a stronger and safer designed, more airtight and energy efficient construction, like Panelock Building Solutions, structural insulated panel kit homes ( SIPS) for your new build.
This style of construction requires very little energy to maintain a comfortable temperature range internally without having to rely heavily on expensive mechanical heating and cooling.
Air leakage in the average home is responsible for over 40% of heat or cooling loss, but SIPS homes have routinely been tested to be up to 5 times more airtight, than the more traditional stick framed houses with fibreglass insulation.
The lighter weight of Structural Insulated Panels as a building material, contradicts their superior strength, as they share similar structural properties to I-Beams.
Each 100mm thick wall module, with rigid EPS foam insulation core acts as the web, while Bamboo Fibre Board ( one of the greenest building products on the planet) cladding, adhered to each side, fulfils the function of the flanges.
The BFC board lining has some great advantages over a lot of the more commonly used building products, as it is water resistant, mould resistant, insect resistant and almost impenetrable by fire.
As an internal lining the BFC board is much tougher and more difficult to damage than plasterboard, yet still has the smooth internal finish of any master built home, making this style of dwelling ideal for investors rental properties.
Panelock Building Solutions modular kit homes will not only save on power bills for the life of the dwelling, but the kits are delivered to site in a prefabricated modular form, reducing on site waste and the job site debris disposal, more common with a traditional build.
Double insulation in the roof, and double glazed windows and doors come as standard with the Panelock system, to complete the picture of very energy efficient and comfortable homes.
5. Add property value with your kit home design & finish.
The era of modular kit homes being thought of as cheap, low quality construction, suitably mainly for site offices and mining camp Donga’s, has long since passed.
Evolving from decades of engineering design and construction refinement, and manufactured under controlled factory conditions, using the latest computer technology, virtually any custom house plan can now be built as a modular home.
Modular kit homes can now not only rival any site-built homes in strength and stylish design, but exceed them with energy efficiency, sustainability and functionality.
A fine cement rendered finish in the colour of your choice, along with the modern Saw Tooth roof design, will allow your Home or Granny Flat to blend seamlessly with new architectural designs, and add value to your property.
For photo’s, floor plans and design choices visit :
6. Consider Fire Safe Construction Material
A consideration that many home builders give very little thought to, is the fire safety of the construction material, and internal finishing products of their new home.
Over 8,000 house fires a year, is a figure that relates to just the three states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and that is not counting homes lost to bushfires.
This creates, a tragic loss of precious lives, loss of possessions, and ruined futures.
The estimated escape time from fire in a typical modern home, built with standard common building materials, is only 3 to 5 minutes, in comparison to homes of 30 to 50 years ago of 15-17 minutes.
More natural timber products were used in the older homes, for walls, floors, kitchens and furniture, with natural fibres like wool and cotton used for furniture coverings, curtains and blankets etc. All of these materials had a slower rate of combustion when exposed to fire.
A lot of the building materials and contents in the modern homes are either plastics, or synthetic material, and these components are mostly petroleum based.
This causes a modern house fire to burn up to 8 times faster, and produce up to 200% more smoke, also full of toxins.
Accidental house fires and fatalities, will always be an inevitable part of human existence, but I believe there is so much more that governments and the building industry could be doing to save precious lives.
Just the use of, more fire resistant products, like Bamboo Fibre Cement Board or Magnesium Oxide Board for walls, ceilings and soffits would help to allow more time to escape and save lives.
A Canadian company with a magnesium oxide board panel construction, conducted a controlled fire test to show the difference between the magnesium panel construction and a more traditional build.
The video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nxZFo-ICPo
So consider your family’s safety for your new home, and take a good look at a Modular, Structural Insulated Panel kit home, from Panelock Building Solutions.