If you want a job done properly, like a high-performance home, do it yourself.

As a builder with a fondness for super high-performance homes, Jesse Glascott jumped at the opportunity to go big on sustainability when building his own place in the outer-Melbourne suburb of Warrandyte, about 30 kilometres east of the city.

With the site next to a busy road, Glasscott, who owns carpentry business G-LUX Builders specialising in high-performance and Passive House homes, wanted the two-storey, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home to attract attention.

“One of the reasons we bought the block is to promote Passive House,” Glasscott says.

Glasscott and his family opted for a more complex Passive House design made from a mix of prefabricated structural insulated panels for the external walls and roof and mass timber for flooring and internal walls.

The prefab panels were selected for their lightning-quick construction times. As the builder on the job, Glasscott wanted the house built as quickly as possible so he could get back to his full order book as he says Passive House homes are in hot demand.

The mass timber, shipped from Europe, was picked for the look and feel of the place as the family wanted and the product also made some of the larger spans possible.

Supply chain headaches

While prefab buildings are much quicker to knock together, Glasscott came up against the same supply chain issues that have stalled building projects around the world. With big costs and lengthy lead times on local supplies of the prefab panel system, it made more sense to ship from the US. But Covid hit and the shipment took an extra three months to arrive.

Despite the delays, Glasscott says the prefab panels do have their perks. More common in other parts of the world, the panels make Passive House-level airtightness a breeze.

“And, if you have good weather, you can get a house up in a couple of days.”

Glascott is also mindful of the embodied carbon in his chosen materials. Boral’s Envirocrete concrete, which replaces about 40 per cent of portland cement (the carbon intensive stuff) with industrial bi-products, and Helix steel reinforcement (reduces the amount of steel required) have been used for the groundwork.

For extra insulation – there’s already some in the panels – they decided on woodfibre. With no local supplier available, this insulation – which Glasscott says ticks all the boxes in terms of performance, lack of volatile organic compounds, good moisture control, no itchiness and made from 100 per cent recycled wood offcuts – was shipped from Germany.

Other Passive House components such as high-performance windows are now easier to come by, with locally made high-performance products available without crazy wait times. 

Glasscott and his family considered the home’s environmental impact right down to the fittings and fixtures, with most made from recycled content and manufactured with renewable energy. Sustainably sourced Australian hardwood claddings meet the BAL29 bushfire requirements.

The all-electric home has all the tech you’d expect in a Passive House, including a heat recovery ventilation system, split system airconditioner, ceiling fans and hot water heat pump heated by the rooftop PV system. It also has underground rainwater storage.

Hooked on Passive House

Coming from a conventional carpentry background, Glasscott was introduced to Passive House in 2017. He was hooked.

“Once you learn how to build a house like this, it’s hard to go back to how you did it before.”

The home took part in Sustainable House Day 2021 despite not being fully complete.

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  1. any thermal mass in there ? unclear from the pic how much if any of the living space has a concrete floor

    our unit is pretty ideal thermal mass with concrete slab floor and ceiling, neighbours above, below and either side, and double brick walls

    my major problem is stepping outside to go somewhere and suddenly finding I’m wearing the wrong clothes, as I was quite comfortable inside and didn’t notice the unpleasant temperature outside !

    if there’s little thermal mass in Melboure area, I’m wondering if they’ve thought about Scandinavian-style heat exchangers.