In Belgrave, in the Dandenong ranges not far from Melbourne, 86 year old former service station owner John Novrotny is persevering with his affordable building revolution, despite a lack of support from the building industry and government. His innovative new method was inspired by a visit to a rural Californian village built by Spanish missionaries three centuries ago. John’s business is Therma-Wall Industries.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that buildings are responsible for more than a third of all CO2 emissions created by human activity.
This impact comes from the manufacturing and transporting of materials and also the ongoing emissions from heating and cooling.
Bricks are the industry bad boy.
John and his son Edward worked with the basic historic ideas to come up with a sustainable housing solution for today’s world and RMIT University’s Dr Indu Patnaikuni, senior lecturer in Civil Engineering, calls it ‘the future of construction’.
At a recent Structural Engineering and Construction Conference this industry expert spoke of the boundless potential of the new wall construction method.
For 150 square metres of wall surface -a 110 square metre/12 square house – John’s method releases only 30 kilograms of CO2 which could be offset by planting 2 trees.
John’s Novoram wall construction system uses a post and beam construction method with a rendered and insulated rammed earth block infill wall.
Lightweight formwork is used as no ramming takes place within the formwork.
Once the rammed earth blocks have been placed in position the wall is reinforced by a thin layer of cement for increased stability.
Reduced costs come from:
The simplicity of the building process means unskilled personnel could easily be trained to construct their own houses and workplaces.
In third world countries local people could use little more than the earth beneath them to construct cheap, resilient buildings.
Despite all the advantages of this construction system, John continues to meet with resistance from industry and government at all levels!
“The biggest problem in this technology not being very widely used by now is that there is far too much opposition from vested interests..
You can’t sell earth, so you can’t make money on it.”
Around 30 Therma-Wall houses have been built in NSW and Victoria, including a Clyde North house that the Sustainable Energy Authority assessed as ‘one of the most energy-efficient ever built in Victoria’.
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