The way we live has evolved significantly in recent years. Today, it’s not enough for a house to be comfortable and beautiful; it needs to be sustainable.
Now, more than ever, buyers are seeking energy-efficient and future-focused homes that promise longevity and prioritise the environment around them. Properties that are intelligently built and beautifully designed are increasingly sought-after, which is where MVH Constructions come in.
SHADES was first introduced to Mark from MVH a number of months ago when we collaborated on a project. Blown away by their immaculate sites and unparalleled attention to detail, we sat down with Mark to learn more about the rise – and importance – of sustainable building practices.
- Can you tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in a more sustainable approach to traditional construction?
I have always loved the outdoors. Getting into nature really fills my cup, so incorporating practises into the business that were more sympathetic to our environment and the world around us was a no brainer. We have always been environmentally minded with our builds, but it wasn’t until the last few years that we adopted a Passivhaus approach, and we haven’t looked back. German for ‘passive house’, the technique involves building a house to work with your climate rather than against it.
- What are some of the key principles that guide your approach to sustainable building?
All of our houses are built upon the five key Passivhaus principles – 1. reducing thermal bridges, 2. high-quality windows, 3. mechanical ventilation, 4. high-level insulation and 5. airtightness. Together, these principles ensure the building is an efficient, healthy home that maintains a comfortable temperature all year round using minimal energy.
We similarly take a considered approach to all materials, ensuring they have a low carbon footprint and relatively low – if not zero – VOC for interior products.
- How do you balance the need for sustainability with the practical considerations of building, such as cost and efficiency?
With education. When we discuss the benefits of considered construction with our clients, we’re often met with the response, “why aren’t all homes built like this?”. And the answer is, they should be.
However, a more innovative and sustainable design will always cost more than a glorified tent with terrible windows and no insulation. It’s this unfair comparison that has folks questioning costs and timelines. It’s like comparing a Mazda 121 with a Tesla. They’re both ‘cars’ but what one offers in terms of efficiency, safety and quality is miles ahead of the other.
This is the way we view houses. Those being built by the volume house builders are a minimum standard, which is almost illegal. The houses we build are ‘high-performance homes’ that are free of mould and allergens, creating a healthy environment for our clients. Because where else do you spend more time than in your home?
- What are some of the biggest challenges you face when it comes to implementing sustainable building practices?
Recycling our building waste, is something that’s very high on our agenda. Construction waste makes up 38% of Australia and New Zealand’s overall landfill dumped each year. The bulk of that comes from demolishing old houses to make way from new ones. Over-ordered, offcut and leftover materials are also major contributors.
MVH’s own sustainable building practices allow us to divert a huge chunk of our materials from landfill (in fact, we’re not too far off our 80% target). Each of our building sites has its own MVH Eco site waste sorting station where contractors can separate their rubbish and leave it with us to most appropriately re-use, recycle or dispose of.
- Can you walk us through a recent project you brought your uniquely sustainably approach to?
Our recent Surrey Hills Passivhaus is a great example. The MVH team was brought onto the project prior to its design due to our reputation for attention to detail and quality workmanship, along with our heavy focus on sustainability and building high-performance healthy homes.
We worked with the designer to come up with an easy to maintain, energy-efficient home made from durable and highly considered materials. We incorporated new age timber, which is essentially fast-growing plantation pine naturally treated and thermally modified to better withstand harsh outdoor environments.
The cladding we used was a product from Holland called Accoya, which has a 50-year guarantee and is commonly used to build canals – a testament to its outdoor durability. We then save the native hardwoods for more sporadic use inside the house where they are protected from the weather and can maintain their beauty for many years to come.
- Why is energy efficiency so critical to a sustainable design?
If you can design a home cleverly, you can avoid the added costs and environmental implications of high energy use.
Good insulation is just the beginning. Airtightness in a building is just as important as the insulation itself. All the houses we build are pressure tested to ensure we achieve a level of .6 ACH. To put this into perspective, the average Australian home sits somewhere between 15-20 ACH.
What many Australians don’t understand is that windows are holes in your insulation. Internal and external shading is critical to maintaining a comfortable home all year round that doesn’t see you foot the bill for high heating and cooling costs.
SHADES is proud to have worked with MVH Construction to empower owners with clever houses that deliver on their style and sustainability visions.