Philip Stewart

24 May 2012 – For the past two years Japanese based Ichijo Technological Homes has been quietly building a business in Australia  in preparation for the local launch of its modular energy efficient  homes.

The company is now starting to come into the limelight, with the completion and unofficial opening of its first demonstration house at the Kellyville Homeworld 5 display village in north western Sydney, and orders taken for another nine homes to be built.

Ichijo general manager Phil Stewart says the company brings a superior thermal technology to its homes that can shave 30 per cent off the energy bills, so the next  area for expansion will be colder climate places such as the NSW Southern Highlands, Canberra and maybe Melbourne.

But the sustainable angle doesn’t stop at energy.

“Our homes also feature outstanding levels of livability and sustainability with energy efficient designs that integrate innovative solar, water, insulation and air quality solutions,” Stewart told The Fifth Estate in a recent interview.

An Ichijo house, showing ceramic tiled exterior

The company also hopes its houses, designed to be asthma friendly, will soon be certified under the Asthma Council of Australia “sensitive choice” label.

Mr Stewart, a former builder and architect who trained in Japan for many years, says the key to the Ichijo housing product was a highly modular form, mostly prefabricated in the Philippines.

“The module is key to everything we do in terms of design and building. We’re not making modular parts, but designing to suit a module,” he says.

“We offer a total package from sales and design through to manufacturing and construction.”

Key to the company’s offering is its “i-smart” building system which uses timber frames, high levels of insulation, PVC windows and door frames, and a ceramic tile cladding on the outside, which designed to look like brick.

Thermal performance  is “outstanding”,  Stewart said.

The special wall system is typically 230 mm thick, the same width as brick, and is a combination of timber frame, insulated for heat and acoustics with an expanded polystyrene insulation.

“Typically we use a bracing panel to give wind resistance, and we cover the whole building with an 8 mm recycled timber panel of composite timber.”

Finally there is a cement fibre sheet, which is covered with ceramic tiles designed to look like brickwork.

The PVC windows and doors, says Stewart, are high quality and durable.

Other inclusions include a zoned hydraulic fibro heating system, which is laid on the floor with all the pipes pre-cut.

Typically the houses rate 8.4 on the NatHERS scale.

Solar panels are offered as an add on.

The clincher is that Stewart claims a ridiculously speedy construction timeframe.

“We can go from slab to lock to up in a week for single storey and two weeks for two storey,” he says.

Stewart has been impressed at the Homeworld display village how many people now ask about sustainability and the energy saving aspect of the home.

“Not everyone can afford it. We’re looking to scale up the offering,” he says.

The bad news is that  people still want big homes.

Pricing is in the “upper half of the middle range” of project home range of 800 to $2000.

But it comes with the promise to “save you money and improve your well being.”

Background on Ichijo
Ichijo was established 35 years ago in Hamamatsu, and now has 13,000 employees building more than 10,000 homes a year in Japan. The company claims to be the “leading builder of seismic-proof, energy efficient and sustainable homes in that market.”

The company is currently expanded to the US and Australia “by introducing mainstream housing products incorporating superior structural integrity, energy efficiency, sustainability and an advanced internal heating and ventilation system.”

The company’s “i-smart” technology includes:
Modular external i-smart wall system including 6 X 2 stud frames (termite and fungus treated) at 450 mm centres, 190 mm rigid EPS insulation, entire surface nine mm bracing board, permeable membrane, full cavity, fully sealed and flashed double glazed uPVC windows and doors and a 14mm cement siding sheet with ceramic tile finish. R value of 6.4 and average DB levels 33 db less than ambient external sound levels, Zoned in-floor hydronic heating system, Heat Recovery Heating and Ventilation/Filtration System –            Roof integrated PV system, 8.4 Star rating (NatHERS)