Sanctuary Magazine shows how Australian prefab designers and manufacturers are just killing it

Merimbula Lake House
© Merimbula Lake House, Strine Environments

Ten years ago I called Sanctuary Magazine "the best green shelter magazine available anywhere" and after a tough decade for print journalism, it still is. That's because it is a mag with a mission; it is published by Australia's "Alternative Technology Association, a not-for-profit organisation that has been promoting sustainable building, renewable energy and water conservation for over 30 years." They publish Renew Magazine for nerds, preaching to the converted, and Sanctuary to proselytize, to make green living sexy and beautiful, and to make green homes objects of desire.

But I have a problem with Sanctuary, it makes me sad. I look out my window at the bare trees and the thawing dog poop and just want to move, there is so much happening there. I know Australia isn't perfect, that there are fires and poisonous bugs and Tony Abbott and they make you wear bicycle helmets in the heat, but the houses!!! And this month, an entire issue devoted to prefab. Sanctuary is showing 16 of the highest rating modular and prefabricated homes

We have selected those with a focus on the residential sector and which provide options for high building energy star ratings, renewable materials and cost-effective production. Their approaches fall into two main construction categories – modular and panelised – but within these is a huge range of different products on offer.

Here are a few that caught my eye:

There is so much experimentation happening too, so many prefab systems that come in boxes, panels and even precut sticks like ehabitat's eframe system which "includes all rafters, lintels, posts and bolts, which come cut to length, numbered and ready to bolt together." It's made from "best quality Tasmanian kiln dried hardwood. All our timber is sourced from sustainable regrowth forests, and we use non-toxic cross linking glue. Because all eframe components are made in factory conditions, we are able to ensure precision, defect free components." Really interesting stuff.

The Warrender Studio, by the wonderfully named Makers of Architecture, is a lovely little 65 square meter marvel.

It is not only New Zealand’s first full CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) house, but the entire building has been digitally designed and fabricated using BIM (Building Information Modelling) and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technologies. Remarkably the studio structure was constructed in 3 days due to the precision manufactured CLT panels being systematically lifted into place.

It has everything TreeHugger: "It was imperative that the building responded to the client’s brief consisting of: sustainably sourced materials, chemical free interior surfaces, seismically sound, cost effective, warm and healthy, while engaging with the stunning outlook and environment beyond." Lots more at Makers of Architecture.

This photo of the Inverloch house by Prebuilt Residential left me speechless. The window! The view! The lawn! It also has a rammed earth garage.

A green approach is adopted throughout all areas of construction, with Prebuilt utilising plantation and recycled timber and water-saving plumbing fittings. Other options available to our clients include low VOC-emitting paints and stains, solar hot water and solar power panels, grey-water recycling systems, reed beds and composting toilets.

More interesting modular at Prebult Residential.

Modscape's portfolio is full of big modern modular houses, refined, beautifully detailed. This one is interesting because it is hidden behind a windowless gray front facade. "Rendered brick walls envelope the home to create a protective compound which not only provides privacy, but ensures the prefab home is secure." More at Modscape, who can also do tiny houses, like this Minimalist off-grid modular cabin is designed to disappear into the landscape

Arkit© Arkit Light House

Arkit are not doctrinaire, and build modular, flatpack and hybrid. " We enjoy being involved in a diverse range of projects and the opportunity to explore new applications for prefabrication." But what really caught my eye was their environmental statement which includes a great explanation of embodied energy, and why they build in timber.

Recent research by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting compared the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the manufacture of timber products, with the amount of emissions generated by other common building materials. The results showed that by substituting timber in the construction of a typical family home, greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide, could be saved.

It is the first time I have seen a company take the time to explain this.

cover of sanctuary© Sanctuary Magazine

Perhaps the only problem with Sanctuary is that their website doesn't do the magazine justice with its little photos; it looks much better in print or PDF, which I suppose is a way of encouraging you to subscribe.

Sanctuary Magazine shows how Australian prefab designers and manufacturers are just killing it
So much innovation and variety, so far away.

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