RSSArchive for July, 2009

Green Housing

What’s a Green House? Well, it has nothing to do with the colour you paint it!

In the old days a green house was somewhere out the back where you would grow things. Now a Green House is where you live. Whether you call it Green House Design, Energy Efficient Housing or Sustainable Housing this is an area that is wide in scope and has a significant impact on the building and construction industry.

Talking about the environment these days is now up there with religion and politics. Indeed,  if you want to start a fight then its not a bad place to start! But regardless of where you sit you have to be aware of whats happening in this space.

As a potential owner builder you now have to be up to speed on Green Housing Design and Specifications. Energy efficient housing is the future for all new homes whether they are Project Homes, Kit Homes or Custom Design Homes. This is now mandatory and being driven by the State Government Building Regulators. Every state is different and please note: The Energy Efficiency Compliance Requirements on building approvals for new homes is going to get more regulated and require more active input at the design stage to get approval.

Here is one of the many things you should consider when starting:

Creating a Green HomeThe first thing I ask a prospective customer/owner builder is: “Does your home need to be that big?” We are going to be driven by Governments towards smaller, more efficient homes so we need to get used to this concept. It is the single biggest way to reduce green house gases and costs. Big homes are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. They suck alot of energy to cool and to heat.

The cost in 1 square metre of construction for a new home is in the vicinity of $1100 to $1500 depending on where you are building. How much wasted space is there in the average home? Well usually there is quite a bit. Smart design and compromise will be the future of economical, effective and efficient design in the future.

Therefore every metre you save in design the more money you can put to good use to buy either energy efficient appliances or renewable energy systems. For example photo voltaics to produce your own Green Energy. There are a variety of products you can implement into the design stage to create passive means to heat, cool and light the home reducing the need for costly energy.

There have been Owner Builders who have created their own design not realising that it is going to cost them thousands of dollars per year in energy costs. Yes, thousands! The cost of energy is going to go up and exponentially so in the years to come. It is possible, if you start thinking about it early enough, to design a home where the future energy bill will be a fraction of today’s relative cost. That’s good for your pocket and good for the environment. This is what the Government wants you to do and so you need to get good advice from the outset.

Kit Homes can and are often designed to suit owner builders who want a quality energy efficiency outcome. But you have to tackle it early else you will get bogged down in a compliance nightmare. We’d be delighted to help you create a great outcome in energy efficient design.

Matthew Last
Building Consultant, Green Loans Assessor and Energy Efficiency Design Consultant
UBuild Homes

Adequate Cover with your Insurance

“As an Owner Builder does your Insurance policy provide you with adequate cover?”

Owner Builder Insurance in Plain EnglishIt’s a great question and one that you must answer clearly before proceeding with a policy purchase. When it comes to Owner Builder Insurance you need to be very careful because not all policies are the same. You are the Prinicipal Contractor as an Owner Builder and the buck stops with you. Please make sure you do your research and get the right insurance protection.

Insurance Policy documents can, at the best of times, read like gobbledegook. For this reason Simon Pascoe at FDBeck Insurance Brokers has provided a plain English breakdown of the jargon used in policy documents to help make things clearer for you.

Owner Builder Construction Policy in Plain English

Generally speaking, most owner builder construction policies will cover fire, storm, impact, malicious damage, theft and public liability.

A word of warning – what’s included within the fine print of the policy Conditions or Exclusions can make all the difference in the event of a loss. It’s important that you ask the right questions of your insurer.

The following is what all Owner Builders need to look for when purchasing construction insurance.


Whilst it a good idea that sub-contractors have a minimum of $5,000,000 public and products liability insurance and relevant employers liability insurance, some policies make this a Condition of the Owner Builders insurance policy. As an Owner Builder you may not be on site 100% of the time therefore this Condition of the policy may be too much of a burden.

Some policies also have an Exclusion under the Legal Liability section of the policy for any actions or instructions of any Sub-contractors or their employees. This restriction may leave Owner Builders exposed to extreme risk.

Voluntary Workers

Cover for Voluntary Workers can be a grey area due to the Workers Compensation laws varying in each state. You should avoid policies that have a specific Voluntary Workers Exclusion contained within the Legal Liability section.

It is recommend that even if you don’t employ or plan to employ, you should still seek a simple, basic (or casual) workers’ compensation insurance policy. For more information on Workers Comp visit the Owner Builder Insurance webpage on Workers Compensation Insurance.


Unless you have complied with the Australian Standards Fire Precautions standards it’s common for policies to apply a welding exclusion under the Legal Liability section of a policy. However, this should only be excluded under the Legal Liability section of the policy relating to third party damage or injury. It should not be a General Exclusion applying to damage to the contract works covered under the Material Damage section.


Again it’s common for policies to apply a demolition exclusion under the Legal Liability section of a policy. Avoid policies that have a blanket Exclusion applying to all sections of the policy. If you are not careful you may find that you are not covered for damage to existing structures when demolishing internal structures.

Cover for Vibration, Removal or Weakening of Supports

Policies that exclude this cover can leave you vulnerable to very substantial claims, e.g. where vibration or excavation has caused damage to a neighbour’s property. If excavation or underpinning work is done in accordance with approved engineer’s plans, specifications, condition and geotechnical reports then your insurance should cover you. It’s always a good idea to provide your insurer with these reports prior to going on risk.

Removal of Debris

Some policies limit this amount to $10,000 regardless of the size of the contract. If your contract works incurs a major loss well into the construction period the demolition, disposal of damaged or undamaged contract works and the removal of debris can be significant. If it’s a large project $10,000 will not be enough cover. Consider a policy that covers you for 10% of the contract value.

Professional Fees

Again in the event of a large loss; architects, engineers, surveyors and consultants fees will be incurred for the replacement or repair. Be aware of policies that limit this cover to only $10,000 as it may not be enough. There are policies available that provide up to 15% of the contract value.

Existing Structures

Do you need cover for any existing structures that are not part of your project? If you are renovating or extending, your existing domestic house insurance will generally either cease altogether, or in some cases will continue but with some major restrictions. Cover under your Owner Builder policy is not automatic so be sure to check with your insurer.

Escalation Expenses

Avoid policies that don’t have a special provision for escalation allowance. If your project is damaged and you have to rebuild, you may find that the costs have gone up. Look for insurance that allows for 15% of the contract value.

Cover for Vacant Land Prior to Construction

Don’t be afraid to start cover early because most insurers will charge you a premium based on the contract value for a 12 month period. Therefore if you believe your project will be less than 12 months don’t hesitate to start the cover early because in most cases it will not cost you any additional premium and you will have Legal Liability cover for your vacant land.