Owner Builders and Sustainability
Following on from my recent post about Owner Builders and the importance of considering solar power, I thought I would throw a few more ideas to consider in respect to sustainability.
Owner Builders need to consider two specific areas of sustainability and conservation, one when they are building their project, and in the design phase.
Design considerations will including how you position your dwelling on the block to capture breezes or to make the most of other site characteristics to minimise your energy footprint.
Double glazed windows are great for reducing energy loss in the house and owner builders will also benefit from the acoustic benefits they bring. I am living in an apartment Monday to Friday on a busy Melbourne suburb with traffic and trams at the front door.
There is a rooftop bar across the road, and without the double glazing, the unit would be impossible to live in.
Consider the size of your eaves, in Queensland of course the wider the better to shade the house and minimise the impact of the harsh Northern sun, certainly not as necessary in Victoria.
The installation of water tanks is of course a huge benefit to the owner builder in terms of the money they can save on water rates with them rising year on year. Also, it is extremely important to the environment, and water will likely become a, more and more scarce commodity in the coming years.
It is interesting that councils have done a 360 degree loop on water tanks in residential suburbs and go from banning to mandating through the inevitable cycle.
During the construction phase you can look at water saving initiatives and encourage all your contractors to minimise waste. Use recyclable products, refuse single use plastics on site, do simple things like encourage keep cups and discourage bottled waters.
Owner builders need to be considerate of their local environment and other residents that may be affected by the works that are being undertaken.
They are all little things but they all add up and they all make sense.
I am not a greenie by any stretch of the imagination, but everything I have mentioned in this post can be done quite easily and I do believe that every little bit will help.
Happy Owner Building,
I am getting a lot of questions from our owner builders asking why they can no longer complete the White Card course (General Safety induction Training) online.
That is a question that you would need to ask WorkSafe.
To be quite honest, I know the answer...
There were simply too many RTO's out there not doing the right thing by owner builder students or anyone else need to do the training. There were many offerings of 'shonky' course which did not provide the fundamental thing required of a training course. They simply did not transfer knowledge. They were only interested in your money.
It is very sad that operators out there exist and that they make it impossible for the good operators to complete. Not only is it sad, but it is incredibly worrying when the knowledge and skills that need to be transferred to a student are for the sole purpose of keeping them safe. Achieving genuine transfer of knowledge through online learning is not easy. It takes a skilled and experienced course writer to author a course and set assignments, task and questions that truly allow the candidate to demonstrate competence.
Over the years we developed a great system for achieving this and expended an enormous amount of effort and resources to make certain not only our students (owner builders and others) got value for money and truly developed skills and knowledge that would help to keep them safe in a construction workplace. Importantly, as the vast majority of our students were owner builders, we contextualised the course over the years to ensure it had even more relevance to them in their role as Persons in Control of A Business Undertaking (PCBU) or as a Principal Contractor.
An owner builder has the added responsibility to ensure eveyone employed on their sites remain safe and have access to appropriate facilities. Further, they are responsible for ensuring each of the contractors engaged on the owner builder site that is undertaking a High Risk Construction Activity, is doing so under the provisions of a Safe Work Method Statement or similar.
All that said, the rest of the states have not yet followed suit, even though Work Health and Safety legislation is supposed to be harmonised across the states and territories.
So,guess what? Those same RTO's who did not do the right thing by their previous students, continue to wrought the system by offering the White Card online and issuing a Western Australian card. (they have the least stringent requirements in respect to ID and record keeping).
Hopefully, sanity will prevail at some time soon and we will be able to compete again in this very competitive market.
Sales even for our owner builder courses have dropped off considerably because we can non longer offer a package deal.
Is that fair? Probably not, but we will continue to only offer a quality product to our students, so if you can get to our offices, we are more than happy to offer the course face to face.
Best Regards and Happy Owner Building
Owner Builders Blog
Are owner builders entitled to builders or trade discounts?
I get asked this a lot by many of my owner builder course students.
When I respond, I always think of a famous quote;
“you get what you negotiate, not what you deserve!”
I guess that goes for owner builders as well. Simple truth is, that with the advent of the mega hardware stores Like Bunnings, the volume they sell and the deals they can source through their buyer dictate the price point that the are able to offer any of their products.
So, does that mean that owner builders should just accept what they are offered at full retail?
No, you always need to ask. I have many a good friend who has been very successful in a variety of areas and the one common theme is that they always buy well.
Then, how can owner builders make get the best price out of their suppliers and contractors.
It takes work and organisation. To get a great deal out of your hardware supplier, the most successful approach is to do exactly what a savvy professional builder or contractor would do. Have the suppliers compete for your business and have them quote on a job lot.
Show them you are serious, go to the suppliers trade department with a well compiled and organised set of tender documents. Specify exactly what it is you want to purchase, provide, quantities, product and model numbers, profiles and colours. Let them know you are seeking offers from other suppliers, make them work for your business.
Making the supplier want to be your provider of goods, is the best way to get a good deal, but make certain you know exactly what it is you want before you present the tender documents to them. Understand that each supplier may have different products they will offer, so be sure you understand your own mind. What is negotiable what is not and what represents a suitable alternative.
Remember that this does not just work with suppliers, you need to do the same work with the selection of trade contractors for your owner builder project.
Always seek three quotes and make certain the tender documents include specifications and work instructions that give you the best opportunity to receive quotations that can be compared like for like and that they are based on exactly what you have specified and that they meet your expectations.
Sounds easy? Well, it’s not. Like all areas of owner building, the best way to ensure success is to be disciplined and organised.
Good luck with your owner builder project.
Owner Builders and Solar Power
Over the last few months, several of my owner builder students have been asking what I know about solar.
Fact is, I actually do know a little, having recently installed a 6.5 kilowatt system at my own home.
6.5 kilowatts is 24 panels and the single inverter which sits nicely on my West North West facing roof.
Owner builders need to consider several things if they are looking to install solar.
Firstly, as an owner builder, you are not legally allowed to do any of the works associated with the installation of your solar system, unless of course you are a licensed electrician with solar accreditation. That should be obvious.
The second thing is deciding what size system will best suit your needs. Thee is some confusion out there generally as to how big a system you can install, with many owner builders thinking that 6.5 kilowatts is the maximum for a single residential property. Fact is you can go bigger but they need to be separate systems.
My son has two systems, that means two inverters and around 48 panel to generate the level of power that he wanted to achieve. He is a licensed electrician and does run a solar installation company, so he did have a slight advantage.
Other factors that should be considered are how and when you use your electricity, what your exposure to sunlight is and what type of roof you have.
How an owner builder will use their electricity is important, particularly because the rebates given these days is far lees than in previous years, so your aim should be to use as much of the electricity that you produce. Retail prices of between 25 to 40 cents per kWh are typical and sales back to the grid will yield you around 16 cents.
If your place is electrically ‘noisy’ through the day, then it makes sense to generate and use as much as you can during daylight hours. We advise our owner builders to run pool pumps, washing machines and dishwasher during peak production times to get the best out of their systems.
The ideal orientation is close to North for these latitudes and the angle of installation can be optimised by matching the latitude so for someone in Cairns they would set the panel pitch at around 17 degrees, 27 degrees for Brisbane and 38 degrees for Melbourne. Owner Builders should check that this is correct, because it may be old thinking and the technology has come so far that it may not still be relevant. That’s the way it was taught to me anyway! (Fraser?).
In any case there are other factors like shade from trees and obstructions that will affect exposure and hence production.
Owner Builders need to be aware that not all panels are equal and that a cheap system may be a nasty system and not provide the same output as a good quality set up.
Of course, the question most often asked is how much will I save?
Well it depends on all the factors I have mentioned above but as a guide, and by my owner experience, the 6.5 kWh system that I have installed has reduced my power bills by around 70%. This is inclusive of a 28% discount I got by changing suppliers at the same time.
So, owner builders need to shop around and get the best deal not only from the installation companies but also through revisiting their retail supplier.
Hope this demystifies solar installation to some extent.
Best Regards and Happy Owner Building
Hello to all our owner builder students and welcome to the latest blog.
Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.