Episode 09: Hamish White, why did you become a passive house builder?

In this episode, we speak with one of the biggest influencers in the sustainable building sector of the moment: Hamish White from Sanctum Homes. We have been following Hamish for a while, and were lucky enough to meet in person on one of his builds a few months back – the Hempcrete house that is.

We talk about the details of this very special project, as well as about his motivation to become a builder and why he loves the certification process of a passive house – even though it does come with its very own challenges.

He also shares some information about Builders Declare, a community of professionals from the building industry who are striving for change in the face of the climate emergency.

Hamish is a great motivator who is always open to share his insights, and that’s exactly what he did with us. We hope you enjoy our conversation.

Episode Transcript

Sandra Redlich  00:05

Good morning. And thanks again for joining us today Hamish. It looks like you’re sitting in a makeshift office. Probably pretty authentic on a construction site or am I wrong there?

 

Hamish White  01:34

No, no, no, I’m actually in an office that we recently finished in my own home, because we got rid of the office up the road. And we’ve just lined it with OSB we have a, you know, little tilt and turn window behind me here. Everything’s double glazed. But we’ve tried to reclaim as much material as possible and turn it into a little studio up the back. And it looks down over, you know, the nice new extension we’ve just done. So it’s a really nice place to work.

 

Sandra Redlich  02:03

Oh, nice. Yeah, very authentic then to what you’re doing, which is a good segue over into my actual first question, which I’m sure you’ve answered a lot of times, but still, we want to introduce you properly to our listeners here. So you have a sign behind you that says Sanctum Homes, which is your building company. And we would like to know how you got started in the building industry, because as I understand it, it wasn’t a super linear or straightforward decision right out of school to get a foot in the building industry?

 

Anthony Jenkin  02:35

No, not at all. I never intended to get into the trade or become a builder at all. I finished school and went to university, so I have a Bachelor of Business in marketing and tourism. And I then finished school, jumped on a plane and I was gone for about four years in the ski fields in America and Canada and traveled Europe. And then my partner ,who’s now my wife, who I met over there, we drove all the way from Whistler down to Panama, all the way through the states along the way, and yeah, had an amazing time. But in my time when I was in Canada, and in the UK, I started laboring, and I did do a little bit of laboring when I was back home because all my friends from school coincidentally are all tradesmen. And I guess it never seemed like an option for me. I don’t know why, but, you know, there’s no tradesmen in my family. It just never occurred to me to do it. But I started laboring, and I found that I wasn’t too bad at it. So I just started buying tools and just started working with my friends and working when I was overseas in Canada as well. And made the decision that when I was gonna get back to Australia that I was going to pursue a career in carpentry. So I did that. I didn’t take the traditional route and do an apprenticeship. I started an apprenticeship for about two weeks, but then didn’t really like the pay that came with that. So I just started laboring. And yeah, from there, I worked with some really great tradesmen and carpenters. I worked for some really good friends of mine who were really formative of how I approach the quality of work that we do. And then fast forward five or six years, went for my builder’s license, didn’t get it. Went into partnership with someone and our values for the business didn’t quite align. I always wanted to be a sustainable builder. At the time. I didn’t really have any clarity around what that exactly was. So we parted ways. We started Sanctum Homes, with the view that we want it to be sustainable. We want it to be, you know, green builders. I did my Green Smart professional course. And it still didn’t give me, I don’t think, exactly what I was after, and then Sven from Maxa Design, who happens to train at the same CrossFit gym as me, we caught up for a coffee one day and he said, Have you ever heard about passive house? And I said, No. That day I went home. There was a course coming up in two weeks, I booked into the course. And the rest is history. Within 30 seconds of sitting down, listening to Burkhard – because Burkhard was taking the course at the time – I was hooked. It was so clear to me that this is how we should be building homes that we literally pivoted within three or four weeks, that’s what we wanted to do. Well, obviously, there’s quite a little bit of time that it takes to, I guess, get your first passive house project, and it probably took us about 12 to 18 months. Fortunately for us, we managed to convince some good friends of ours who are building a project in Kyneton, which Anthony, I believe you’ve been there.

 

Anthony Jenkin  03:09

Yeah.

 

Hamish White  04:25

And we, I guess, managed to convince them that building a passive house was the right thing to do, particularly in that climate. But prior to that, I guess like other builders who are getting into the space, we essentially bought our own experience by investing time and money on other people’s homes, buying the good building wraps, and taking the time to tape everything and training my guys up on site. We did do I guess quite an intimate session with Burkhard out at his factory at Sunshine. And he ran my guys through some window installs, and wrapping correctly and detailing internal air tightness membranes. So we had the experience. And that was built up over a couple of years, and then we let fly on our first passive house project in Kyneton. And fast forward 12 to 18 months, we now have three certified projects under construction at the moment, with another four or five starting over the next 12 months.

 

Sandra Redlich  07:19

Yeah. Amazing. That’s seems like you found your path. I’d be interested to know, because you mentioned you were quite clear from the start that you wanted to do sustainable building. What was the motivation behind that? What led you to want to focus on sustainability a bit more in your practice?

 

Anthony Jenkin  07:39

I think there was a couple of reasons. One, I always loved being outdoors. And from a younger age, you know, in my 20s, I knew that climate change was real. And then I knew that we as society should be doing something about it. I guess at the time, I didn’t have a direction in my career. So you know, I couldn’t apply what I believed in to anything in particular other than knowing that we should be doing something better. My wife’s actually an ecologist. So flora and fauna. So she studied environmental science at Deakin University. And I guess, you know, the cliche ones, we were always about recycling and we’re always, you know, try not to take the car where we didn’t have to take the car. And I guess when we started Sanctum Homes, we really wanted to be, I think, as I said before, like a sustainable builder. So we’re always conscious about, you know, putting good insulation in. We didn’t know anything about building wraps back then. But, you know, we knew that insulation was the right thing and double glazed windows, you know, were what we should be putting in. And we’re always conscious about the waste that we were producing as well. So I think we, you know, we wanted to do the right thing, but I guess, finding passive house really was that clarity and like a measurable approach to building that just made so much sense to me.

 

Anthony Jenkin  09:13

And I think that’s for everyone as well. That’s the beauty to pasive house, is that it gives you measurements, it gives you those performance criteria and values that, you know, the benchmark that you work to and then get to verify. Is it purely passive houses, certified passive houses, that you’re working on now or intend to into the future? Or do you also look at taking on high performance builds as well?

 

Anthony Jenkin  09:40

So we always like to approach all our projects with passive house as the gold standard. So we will be very clear with our clients when they come to us that we only want to be building passive house. Now, our theory behind this is if we, even if we fall a little bit short from a certified building, we are approaching all projects with the five principles in mind. We’re convinced, well convincing, we’re educating our clients that a preliminary passive house assessment is really critical, because it does formulate a lot of the decisions that they are making along the way. So the answer is no, we will do projects that aren’t certified projects. But our approach to construction is with the five principles in mind. I know you guys talk about your hybrid homes, and I guess we do do that. But like one of the amazing things about passive house is that it is measurable, so you can actually make decisions based on data. Classic example, I don’t know if you saw it on our Instagram post a couple of days ago, I was concerned about a thermal bridge that the bottom of the SIP plate or the receiver plate and the bottom of the SIP was going to have on the building. It’s a completely uncoupled slab, so slab edge insulation and slab insulation underneath. And there was a thermal bridge band around the entire building. Now that’s a band that doesn’t have insulation. So I reached out to the architect Fang from Studio Fang and asked whether or not he could model it for us, because it was going to be additional work for us and some additional materials. So whether or not that was going to be something that we could reasonably absorb or approach the client on it. And it was really going to hinge on with what kind of performance or effect on performance it had. Now, as it turns out, it was 0.1 kilowatt hours. And given that we were all already reasonably quite low at 14.4, so well within the parameters of passive house, we made the decision to move forward without doing it. But the simple process of actually going through that, it was literally five minutes of the architects time to test that. And we had the data, we could go forward making a decision based on evidence, which is incredible. And that’s really like what passive house is about, it’s been able to test and measure

 

Sandra Redlich  12:18

Is that from your point of view, the biggest difference to a, let’s call it volume build or code build home? Or what is the biggest difference between a passive house in construction and a current standard build home?

 

Anthony Jenkin  12:34

Well, there’s so much to unpack there. The main thing that I get potential clients to understand is that the NCC, National Construction Code, is the minimum standard. Like that is the bare minimum standard of home that we should be delivering to our clients. Now, again, I’m not going to throw, you know, volume builders under the bus and say that they’re doing terrible things. My personal opinion is that these homes underperform, and they don’t last. But they are built to the minimum standards. And that is the bare minimum of what a home should be. And that’s from a thermal performance point of view structural. You know, you look at them supposedly ticking six star ratings, what does that mean? There is some insulation in the walls. The biggest difference for me between passive house and a code build home is the checks that are done along the way. It’s actually measured and checked and then checked by a third party. There’s no checks done on your insulation in a normal code build home. There’s no checks done on air tightness in a code built home. You know, our NCC says that a home should be under 10 air changes an hour. It’s written in the code. But does anyone check that? No.

 

Sandra Redlich  13:58

I’m not getting tired to also mention that the actual energy rating also, there is a minimum standard in the code. But no one checks that. It’s a theoretical assessment. No one actually checks on it.

 

Anthony Jenkin  14:09

Yes. Absolute theoretical assessment, for sure. And I guess if we go back to why we like to certify buildings, is that someone actually checks it and we have to provide evidence. Now I can see behind you, Anthony, you’ve got a blower door there in the background. There is absolutely no hiding from a blower door when a home is pressurized and depressurized to 50 Pascal’s like, you can’t fudge what those ratings are.

 

Anthony Jenkin  14:39

Have you heard the term ‘the red door of truth’?

 

14:43

it is the red door of truth and I’ve got a story that we’ll probably get to in a little bit, that that door right there gives me anxiety at the moment and hopefully, I’m gonna resolve that in the next couple of weeks.

 

Anthony Jenkin  14:55

Yeah, I’d like to touch on that a bit further in our chat actually. That’d be good.

 

Anthony Jenkin  14:59

Yep, Sure Yeah. And look, I know where that conversation is going. And it’s a really amazing example of why passive house is so good, because it actually challenges you as a builder to build a better home.

 

Anthony Jenkin  15:14

Absolutely. So, I think that, is it time to touch on what the most challenging aspect is for you, when it comes to passive house construction?

 

Anthony Jenkin  15:24

Yeah, it’s the detailing. From a builder’s point of view, it’s the detailing. I mean, you probably know and some of your listeners know, our approach to construction is that we want to be involved in pre construction as well. In fact, it’s the only way that we go into any project. So what does that mean? It means that we’re involved a lot of the time from day one, working with the designer and the design team. So that might be a passive house consultant, might be the engineer, interiors, architects obviously. And actually working through the details, particularly from a passive house and airtightness point of view, thermal bridge as well. And from a business point of view, we’re gonna try and resolve a lot of those pre construction. And obviously, some things can’t always be 100% resolved. And you know, we’re going to, I guess, try and get to a point where we feel comfortable getting to site and being able to resolve it on site. But by far, one of the most challenging things is the airtightness details.

 

Anthony Jenkin  16:31

So I think that maybe we do bring up that particular project now. So for that particular project, do you want to walk us through that Hamish? And I, what I hope for here is that people learn from what you’ve done. I see you certainly as a leader in this space, and I think there’s a lot coming up, a lot who have been listening keenly and want to absorb and learn. So let’s hope that for this particular project that we’re about to talk about that, you know, they get to take, they get a few takeaways, you know, for their own projects moving forward.

 

Hamish White  17:04

Look, and if people can learn from our experience, then I’m all for that. So I guess I’m going to start this off by saying, from my point of view, it’s okay to fail. I think, you know, by putting yourself out there and trying to challenge the norm, that’s how we’re going to see change in the industry. So to put a bit of context around that comment, at the moment, we have what we’re hoping to be Australia’s first certified hempcrete passive house. And I’ve tried to do some research online to find a certified project. And I think maybe there’s one in the Netherlands. And I don’t know of any other ones. Now, I’d love to hear about some others, if any of your listeners do know about them, I guess just so we can have some takeaways from it. But this project is by far the most challenging project that I’ve ever done. I took on the project, because the clients are amazing. The design team are also great, we work with Gruen Eco quite a lot. So there’s a lot of big ticks on this project, which I guess led to us making the decision to take it on. But this project was a really great example of the the pre detailing or attention to detail that you need to do for a success of a passive house project. The biggest concern or issues that we found with this project was the detailing of where the hemp and the windows meet. Because we had no library to draw on of how to detail an airtight window opening. Typically, in a hempcrete home, the hemp is built around some formwork around a window opening, so you have a rough opening, and then the window actually gets installed. And then it gets rendered in. Now we’re like no way we’re not doing that. Because how can we then try and detail airtightness? All we’re doing there is just relying on that render, where it butts into the window to create an airtight barrier. Now there’s two things for me: I’ve never tested a home relying on a renderer for airtightness and I’ve never, you know, detailed a passive house or installed any windows in a high performance home where we haven’t taped the windows to the membrane externally and membrane internally or the SIP internally if we’re doing a SIP project. So I guess the challenge for everybody was that we wanted to have these windows in first. So we spent, I would say, hundreds of hours just scribbling on bits of paper to try and work out how we’re going to do it. And as it turns out, I think the details that we.. I’d say most of the details that we did do were quite successful, we used a number of Pro Clima products. And again, I’m not, you know, no ties to Pro Clima, but the Pro Clima products are excellent. We use their Contega PV product, which was actually a tape that had mesh on it, which could then get rendered in. We use their Extora tape to tape the windows to the timber frame. And we also use their spray on liquid membrane, the Aerosana Visconn. And we use that in a number of different ways in a number of different combinations to try and get our airtightness details. For example, where the SIP reached the top of the hemp wall, we taped the Contega PV to the SIP roof and then bent it around the corner and then that get troughed in. So you’ve got a really nice, tight air barrier there. Did the same at the bottom. But we did a combination of that and the Aerosana Visconn. Where we’re seeing the challenges at the moment are around the windows. And it’s not all windows, it’s some of the windows. Now just to put things in context a little bit. Currently, we’re at 0.68 air changes in our pressurized and depressurized. So we are agonizingly close to having a certifiable building from a passive house classic point of view. One of the areas that we couldn’t really test to see whether it was leaking was the lime render, because the lime render wasn’t actually finished when we tested it. And that’s actually getting its final coat on now. The other thing to note too, is that we actually haven’t put any lime render externally either.

 

Hamish White  22:01

For those who aren’t familiar with how the hempcrete is installed, it’s installed around the structural frame. And it kind of goes up in 600 lifts. So it’s wrapped around this frame, and then that 300 wide hemp creates like a 300 thick bit of insulation, it’s also got thermal mass. But air can get sucked through that hemp. And you’re relying on the render internally and externally. Externally is your WRB, so weather resistant barrier. And internally, you’re relying on the lime render as your airtightness. Now, it was just all anecdotal for us whether or not the lime render was actually airtight. I know that there was another hemp house in Tasmania who got one air change an hour. And talking to them, I know that there was a wall that wasn’t rendered, particularly internally, I’m pretty sure it was externally, but internally it was exposed. And they put their windows in after. But because we were going for a certified building, we obviously need to get down to 0.6 or technically 0.649, because it can get rounded down. So that’s basically where we are now and there’s other complexities in that project as well. You know, we’ve got a couple of different building materials that we’re using. One part is a structural slab, and then that goes into a sub floor. And then you’ve got some structural walls with hemp and timber cladding, some with hemp and just render, we’ve got some with a timber frame and wood fiber board, just so we can have some consistencies in the external finish because hemp in those areas wasn’t gonna work. That’s a broader discussion. But the project alone, take the hemp out of it, is a challenging and tricky project to detail. So I guess, the fact that we’re sitting at 0.67, 0.68, and sort of fluctuating between those two numbers at the moment, I’m pretty proud. But I’m also pretty gutted. I’m really just hoping that, you know, the works that we’re doing now are going to make it more airtight. In a typical passive house, we’re relying on Intello. And, you know, someone could cut the Intello without knowing once the plaster goes on. It’s not quite the case on this project because we’ve got visibility of these walls. So yeah, that’s where we’re at. One of the other really interesting things we found on that project though, as I was crawling around on my hands and knees trying to find air leaks. I could feel, I thought I could feel air coming up through the chipboard. And it wasn’t like if you’ve ever been in a home that’s pressurized, or sort of depressurized, you can actually feel the air come through, it’s quite obvious where that is coming through. I couldn’t feel that very definite air path, I could just around me I could feel air moving. So I had this one morning on Saturday morning, when I had, you know, the legends, you know, Mark from MBH Construction and Jack from Nook Construction and Drew from Passive Tech there. I had a couple of the Bay Edge guys there, they’re all just, you know, helping trying to find these air leaks, I’ll be forever indebted to those guys. I’ve got a big cut, like a big section of Extasana, so our wall wrap, and taped it to three sections of the chipboard floor. And it actually blew up like a big jumping castle you see at a big caravan park. Which was really, really interesting. And off the back of that I don’t think I’ll ever rely on a chipboard as my airtight barrier, which I know, some listeners might do that. For me personally, I certainly wouldn’t after experiencing that. So to get around that, we actually waterproofed the whole floor, because we just needed to test, we needed to see what impact that air leakage had. And we actually managed to drop 0.1 changes, went from about 0.75, 0.76 to kicking it around about 0.67. So it actually made a significant difference to the airtightness. Now, you know, for those who know passive house or gotten a passive house, like we are talking like, such a small hole here, like it’s maybe the size of a 50mm… or Anthony, maybe you can touch on this, you know, 0.5 point  air changes?

 

Anthony Jenkin  27:12

Yeah, you’d be testing me on what that looks like as far as like a size goes for that change rate. But yeah, it’s very little, I will say that.

 

Anthony Jenkin  27:26

And look, we’ve had extensive conversations with the clients around, you know, what it looks like if we don’t get to it. Now, we do have a certifiable home. As it stands right now, we have a certifiable PHR low energy home. So it is a certifiable building under the passive house institute in Germany. But you know, we want that badge, right? We want to have the first certified hempcrete passive house in Australia – and call that arrogant. Call it stupid. I don’t know what you want to call it.

 

Sandra Redlich  27:53

Pioneering. That’s what I call it.

 

Hamish White  27:57

And look, it’s been a really great journey, I guess, for my own education. But the other thing, and I’m going to touch on this, and I touched on it before. The other thing that I have really loved about this project is the support that you’re getting from the community of builders, of architects, I know you guys have been out. Of even our clients and people that follow us on Instagram. Like, and I know we are going to touch on the Builders Declare thing in a second. But, you know, we want to build better homes. And if we can educate people to build better homes, and show them the things that we’re doing, and they’re going to become better builders, better carpenters, better trades, better designers. That’s awesome. But what it really showed me particularly on that Saturday, when all those boys were there, they didn’t have to be there. You know, they were there on their own free will. And they’re like, no, we want to get this across the line. So we’re here to help. And it was amazing. It was really amazing.

 

Anthony Jenkin  28:55

Yeah, I was so inspired by that. I was like, I had a bit of FOMO to be honest, I was like, God, I wish I was there just you know, helping out. So yeah, I had a bit of extra spring in my step that day.

 

Sandra Redlich  29:07

I think we also really see and can relate to what you just said there is the amount of community this approach to building better homes and to just trying to find ways to improve how we build homes in Australia has created. It’s not that we’re fighting with each other. And it’s a relatively small niche still, unfortunately, it’s getting bigger for sure. But it is still a niche. But what you see is that people are trying to help each other and we’re trying to learn and come together and really, yeah, share information, share details, talk about it, discuss, get inspired by but what other people around you are doing, which is 100% why we were so keen to come out and look at the hempcrete house ourselves. Why we’re trying to network and talk to other people in the industry to learn from them, to see what they’re doing, to share some stuff that we have come up with, to get the word out there. It’s not about competing with each other. It’s about coming together to spread the word. It sounds a bit idealistic. But at the end of the day, I 100% believe that that’s what it is. We’re just trying to improve something that we 100% believe needs to be improved. And I guess that’s the perfect segue to Builders Declare.

 

Hamish White  30:22

Yeah, look, I couldn’t agree more with that comment. And one of the things that I’ve noticed, even over the last few weeks, is the people that are actually taking an interest in passive house. I know one of the old HVAC people that we use, I’m not going to name names, but we don’t use them much anymore, because you don’t need to use them in our homes. He said to me, his words were, at first I thought this whole passive house thing was a big wank. But I get it now. He goes, and to come from him, it’s a big deal, right? It is a big deal. Like, however you want to look at passive house or a high performance home, whether it’s economic sustainability, health, however you want to look at it, you can sell it to anyone, it is relevant to all of us in one way or another. And the benefits of a passive house is going to be huge. It’s going to be massive.

 

Hamish White  31:26

Builders Declare. I think it was early 2020, when the Declare movement in Australia really took off. I remember, maybe it was late 2019. I remember being down in Apollo Bay when Simon and myself from Sustainable Homes Melbourne first started communicating via email, because I saw it come up, I think he posted something, I reached out immediately and said, Hey, let’s catch up for a beer. You know, this climate change is a real thing. You know, the architects jumped on board really quickly. But there wasn’t really much action from any of the builders. So, you know, fast forward a few months, there were seven of us. And we had these grand ideas of what we’re going to do, and you know, how we were going to help educate the industry. And it has been a bit of a slow burn. Sometimes it is frustrating how slow things have gone with the organization. But I guess given the fact that we’re all very, you know, seven very busy builders who are, you know, running a business on the side. And so running a business and then doing Builders Declare on the side, we’ve achieved a lot, and we’ve got some pretty big news coming up. What is it? We are a group of seven builders. There’s Brian from ISMART building group, and he’s out in WA. We’ve got Simon from Sustainable Homes Melbourne, we have Jeremy Spencer from Positive Footprints, Jesse from G-Lux, Michael Murphy from Aligned Building, and Michael Limb from Michael Limb Builders and myself. So we have incorporated Builders Declare Australia. And our mission is to help educate the industry, particularly other builders and other trades on how to build better buildings. At the moment, we’re doing that through our podcast, which is the Sustainable Builders Yak and through the webinar series we’re doing, which I think we’re up to about webinar 15 or 16. And I’ve been hosting that. I’m taking a break this month and Michael Murphy is jumping on, that’s going to be a really great one. That’s going to be on the seven star home legislation that’s going to come at the NCC, which can be really great. We’ve got Jeremy Spencer talking about that. But yeah, look, we’ve got big goals for Builders Declare, and unfortunately, some of the things I can’t talk about right now, because we haven’t quite launched it yet. But you know, it’s not going to be secret, we just want to do it right. We want people to take us seriously with what we’re doing. Because, you know, we genuinely believe that the group of us have, you know, our motivations pointed in the right direction of what we’re trying to achieve and that is to help lift the standard of our homes here, you know, particularly our carbon footprint, whether that’s operational or whether that’s you know, cost during build. Jeremy Spencer, that’s his, you know, that’s his bag, like he’s amazing at that stuff. And yeah, and just we, you know, we will pick people with really interesting products, which we feel quite aligned. We’ve done woodfibre, hemp. We’ve had Holcim on talking about the EcoPact concrete, which is an amazing product if you haven’t heard about it, again, not aligned with Holcim, but it’s a great product. We’ve done a webinar on how to – or the benefits of a weather resistant barrier and why we think it’s important. But yeah, our goal is to educate. How big it’s gonna get, I’m not too sure. But we’ve seemed to have found our groove with it, which is pretty exciting.

 

Anthony Jenkin  35:32

Yeah, I’m a frequent listener of the Builders Declare podcast and yeah, wow, what a, you know, brain trust there. There’s so many just knowledgeable people in that group. I have really, really found it educational myself. And I’ve learned a lot from it thus far. So where can people find that information Hamish?

 

Anthony Jenkin  35:51

So, we have a YouTube channel, which you can subscribe to. So it’s just Builders Declare Australia, I guess full disclosure, you could probably just go in there and Google Builders Declare Australia and watch the webinars, but please subscribe, just so we can have some visibility of the people that are watching it. And if you jump on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts from, and just look up Sustainable Builders Yak, there’s been some absolute crackers on there recently, and we’ve got a really great one about to come out in the next couple of weeks.

 

Sandra Redlich  36:27

We’ll make sure to have all of these links in our show notes as well. So people can just go on the page and click it and find all that information.

 

Anthony Jenkin  36:34

Awesome. Look, and I think getting back to what our motivations are. Probably not too dissimilar to what you guys are trying to do here. And that is to educate. And again, this is one of the things that I love about the high performance and the passive house space is people’s willingness to share information and help other people. I don’t know how many times I’ve called other builders in this space, just to ask a question about a detail. And you know, vice versa. It’s awesome.

 

Anthony Jenkin  37:07

Yeah, that’s been one of my my favorite things to do, is just connecting with others in the industry, you know, who are like minded. One, just because there is that community that you’ve already spoken about that you’re just tapping into and also the education that you get from this, like a single site visit to see a one off or maybe even an Australian first, a world first, like to have that opportunity – and thank you Hamish for giving us everyone that opportunity to come and see and learn from what you’re doing there. It just grows from there exponentially. It’s just, it’s great. So where to from here? Where does the Australian construction, home construction go to from here? What are your thoughts on the future?

 

Hamish White  37:53

I would love… Let’s put it this way: Our homes… like let’s look left and right here. Let’s look at New Zealand. Let’s look at Northern America. They have had leaky builders syndrome, right? It’s a thing, right, just because it’s not a big thing here in Australia, I guarantee it’s happening. The point I’m trying to make here is that our standard building needs to improve. There needs to be better checks along the way, whether that’s an installation or a building wrap check that needs to happen from a certified building surveyor. Just insert another check in there, big deal. Like it’s 10 minutes your time. There’s nothing at the moment in the NCC that’s making people accountable for what they’re doing. And I think that’s really important. I’d love to see that. And although it seems slow at times, we are seeing some change. I think the changes that are going to come out in September in the new NCC where there is more talk around airtightness and there’s more – or hopefully we see the seven stars being introduced into the National Construction Code. Where to me, I’d love for it to be accountable. I’d love for us to do blower door tests. I’d love to have a minimum of five air changes in our homes. I’d love to have the, you know, single glazed windows just to be non-existent unless it’s in a non-habitable outhouse or garage. I just love to see the quality of these homes improve. I was saying to one of the guys on site this morning. One of my most exciting times of a project is when we’re wrapping the building with our building wraps and seeing how neat all the joints are and seeing those windows in and then you see that beautiful glorious cavity back and go on which has 25 mm of, you know, air circulation. So that’s a breathable, dry, you know an airtight building, they’re things, they’re the things that excite me. And then I know, we’re just gonna slap cladding on it, never see it again. But I don’t know, what I found with my team, particularly as the care that we take in doing those things now, then translate all the way through to the final product. Because if they’re spending all this time, you know, detailing and, you know, having the attention to detail and craftsmanship to this particular part of the building, there’s no way they’re going to fuck up the rest of it, they’re going to make sure that that’s beautiful as well.

 

Anthony Jenkin  40:34

Yep, set those precedents, expectations from the very beginning and follow it all the way through. So yeah, I couldn’t agree more with that, like, that’s the verification of as built. I mean, this is something that we have, we have a service that does this, with the intent of it becoming regulated, we’re kind of trying to pave the way, I guess, to show Hey, this can be done. And this is how we’re doing it. So you know, we use blower door, we use the infrared thermal camera inspections, we’ll inspect installation before plastic goes on, make sure it’s all installed, you know, as per in accordance with the energy rating, including under slab or slab edge if it’s present. And it is disappointing. You suspect, you know, your suspicions of there being leaky home syndrome and in some of the inspections we’ve done, that validates that. So hopefully, we can work towards bringing that in as an inspection, happy to pass on our knowledge to anyone who’s interested. So get in contact if you want to know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So yeah, I suppose I’ll turn back to Hamish here and ask like, what’s next? What’s next for Sanctum and yourself and the team?

 

Sandra Redlich  41:44

Another hempcrete house or are you done with that?

 

Hamish White  41:48

So, it’s funny you say that. Our pre construction manager asked me that a few weeks ago, and I said, No, I’m never doing one again. And literally the next day, I got a phone call from an amazing off grid house in the Otway Ranges, which my head was saying say no, say no, say no, say no. But I think those, I think those clients are coming out to our hempcrete house in the next couple of weeks, we’ve actually also been contacted by a developer in Massachusetts, because they’re hoping to do the next wave of homes there and use hempcrete. So we caught up a couple of weeks ago, and they may get us on to do some consulting work. I would like to think that we could start doing some of our own projects, where , you know, I’d love to demonstrate to developers that these homes are going to have value, that building a high performance home is going to be a good investment for them and a good return on their investment. And that hopefully, that bigger is not better, that smaller homes can serve the same function as a larger home. So I’d love to do that. And I think if we start sort of changing that, you know, from a developer’s point of view, that these things have good, I guess, economies around them. And hopefully, we start seeing that side of the industry change. But I would love to… So developing is one of the things for us. I’ve, you know, Builders Declare, I think it’s like, I love educating. I love I guess sharing our experiences and you know, giving talks on our experiences, I’d like to do a little bit more of that, too. So who knows. But first and foremost, we really want to dial in our product. Over the next two or three years, I think we’re starting to get a really good team around us, both pre construction and on site. So we’re gonna feel we’ve got a little bit of work to do on that, to make sure that’s all nice and dialed in. So then we can start shifting our attention to some other projects.

 

Sandra Redlich  44:14

Well, I can only say, we definitely will be watching. We’ll be following along the journey. We’ve been fans from day one, we appreciate the time you take and the the questions you answer. And the information you share as part of this important movement that we 100% want to be a part of, are a part of and are supporting. And yeah, thank you very much for your time.

 

Hamish White  44:42

One other thing I just want to jump in. What is next for Sanctum Homes? I think there’s gonna be a Sanctum Homes and Outlier project coming up. So let’s make that happen.

 

Anthony Jenkin  44:50

There absolutely will be. It’s really interesting that I didn’t realize some of your next steps are actually aligned with ours as well. So we’ll expand on that for sure.

 

Anthony Jenkin  45:00

Perfect. I know exactly where that’s heading. Sounds great.

 

Anthony Jenkin  45:05

Thank you again Hamish, I really appreciate it. You’ve been someone that I’ve found very educational and have probably influenced our own process and operations without even knowing it as well. So thank you again.

 

Hamish White  45:20

And look at you guys with this podcast. I mean, I can find myself cooking dinner sometimes when, you know, the kids are having a bath or going to bed and I’m just like listening to windows and to the solar one the other day, like it’s awesome. I live and breathe this stuff. I love hearing other people’s experiences. And, again, take my hat off for you guys to getting this up and running. So I think it’s a really great valuable source of information.

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