Where do you get your information?
I have my own database of information, which I’ve built from scratch. It’s the product of hundreds of hours spent combing magazines, websites and talking with reps and product users. It’s never complete and I always appreciate people bringing new products to my attention. My training as a critical thinker means that I don’t take marketing materials at their face value. Yep, I’m one of those annoying people who’s always asking, “But …”.
Can you brief my builder?
I’d love to brief your builder! Would they like to be briefed by me? I make a point of respecting builders’ knowledge and expertise. Most of them have been on the tools for years. I’ll work to develop a positive working relationship with your builder, so that we’re all on the same page.
How will I know the products you suggest are the “right ones”?
Using products that are not fit for purpose is not sustainable. When they fail, it usually means things end up in landfill. It can also land people in court. I work hard to ensure that the products I suggest are the right ones for you. In the case of products where aesthetics matter, I’ll suggest a few choices, so you can choose what best fits your look.
What if my designer or builder won’t use what you suggest?
The earlier you start specifying products, the better. Ideally, your preferences and choices will be reflected in writing: in your building permit documentation and building contract.
If your building practitioner refuses to use what you suggest, I can help you to work out what their objection is and find a workaround.
In some cases, a building practitioner might simply be worried that what’s being asked is going to necessitate too much hard work. In others, they might have a genuine concern about the suitability of a product. These issues can be teased out, with care and mutual respect.
If you feel your building practitioner won’t listen to you at all, then perhaps that signals some deeper issues that need to be addressed.
Who takes legal responsibility for the products my builder uses?
Your registered building designer/draftsperson/architect takes ultimate responsibility for many of the products used in your build. This is a responsibility shared with several other professionals.
Your engineer specifies structural components.
Your energy rater specifies the performance required of your insulation, windows (etc) to achieve the rated thermal performance – but not the actual branded products.
Your builder is required to use products that are specified by the professionals above. Where products are not specified in the documentation, the builder may use their own knowledge, but all products must satisfy the Building Code of Australia, relevant Australian Standards and other requirements set down in regulations or law.
It’s neither appropriate nor legal for me to actually decide on what products your builder uses. Rather, I advise on products available that your registered building practitioner could use. Ultimately, they are responsible for ensuring fitness for purpose.
If, for any reason, your registered building practitioner is not satisfied that what I’m suggesting is fit for purpose (and can prove it isn’t), I’ll work for free to find an acceptable alternative.
Can you manage my project?
It depends on what you mean by manage! I’m not a registered building practitioner, so there are legal limits on what I can do. Let’s chat about what you’re looking for and if I can’t help out, I will at least assist you find someone who can.
Can you design my home?
Yes! My design and documentation work is done via my employer Ingrid Hornung. Ingrid supervises and signs off on my work while I develop the skills and experience needed to become a registered building practitioner.
I’m building a project home. Can you help?
I’d love to help, I really would. It all depends on your contract and the company in question. One of the chief ways that project builders cut their costs is by volume purchasing. This means they’re unlikely to allow you to substitute materials or products. Where you have a choice of products, I might be able to help you choose the least worst option. You’re welcome to get in touch and we can see what’s possible.
Can you recommend solar (photovoltaic) panels, heat pumps, water tanks and appliances?
Every small business operator has to draw the line in terms of what’s their core business. Mechanical gadgets are beyond my expertise. If you're in Melbourne or surrounds, I suggest you contact Tim Prohasky at Solar Flow.
Outside Victoria, the Alternative Technology Association is often a good place to start looking for this kind of info.
For appliances, Choice has been testing products for years. You can often access their website via your local library, or become a member and support an organisation that’s been a very loud voice for consumers over decades.
Is it better to use a green builder?
In a word, yes. I’ll go even further and suggest you find yourself a Deep Green builder. Here’s something I wrote a while back.
There are lots of reasons, however, why you might end up with a pale green builder or someone who’s um, purple? My role is to help people whose builders don’t usually select products with a lower environmental impact.
Can you cater to different BAL levels?
Yes. Selecting products for higher BAL levels gets tricky. I’ve been trained to look carefully at the data sheets for fire-rated materials, including those with BAL ratings. I can also produce detail drawings. Your registered building practitioner needs to sign off on all your BAL-rated materials and products, as these form part of your building permit.
My project is interstate/overseas. Can you help?
I’m based in Melbourne, Australia. While there are some variations within Australia regarding prices and product availability, I’m reasonably confident that I can help anyone on the east coast and possibly in other parts of Australia.
Every marketplace is different and I’m not sure I can help you if you’re in a different country. I’m happy to give it a go, though.
Please note that any assistance I give you will need to be via phone, email and Skype. Any energy savings you make in products would be chewed up by either of us flying around the country for face-to-face meetings.
I'm interested in earth building. Can you help?
There are heaps of earth builders out there and this simply isn't my area of expertise. I suggest you contact the Earth Building Association of Australia. I can help with your fit-out though!