Catching a chill in the Sunburnt Country.
Australia might be a sunburned country, but in winter, the cold reality bites: Our homes are not built to withstand the chill. This realisation has come into focus as thousands of people have left their heated high-rise offices to work from home during the pandemic.
“Sometimes I have to shower just to get warm,” says Rachel Pieris, a lawyer who has been working from a weatherboard house in Stanmore since June, the same month Sydney clocked its coldest day in 37 years. “It’s much more noticeable now that I’m remote. I have to wear thermals, blast the heater, and keep a heat pack at my feet – and I can still feel the cold air seeping under the window frame.” Low building standards, various design features, and a warm-weather mentality work against us in winter. She’s not the only one who is shivering through lockdown. At its peak, searches for space heaters increased by 44 per cent in June 2021 compared to the average for the last four winters. As more of us are spending time inside it begs the question: Why are our houses so cold?
“Australian housing types like terraces originate from England [but] they haven’t really been adapted for the climate here,” says Sam Marshall, founder of award-winning firm Architect Marshall and lecturer of the Faculty of the Built Environment at UNSW. As a result, they’re both hotter in summer and cooler in winter. It doesn’t help that reflective foil insulation for external walls wasn’t a requirement until 1991, and that bulk insulation became mandatory in 2005, which means many older homes don’t meet basic requirements.
While new homes are comparatively better, Dr Trivess Moore, senior lecturer at RMIT University’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management says the standard is low. “The majority of new houses in Australia are only built to meet the minimum building code requirements which are not sufficient to deliver year round thermal comfort, especially with a changing climate,” he says. Perhaps it’s not surprising that one public health professor went so far as to call Australian houses “glorified tents” compared with homes in Sweden, pointing out that temperatures inside a “flimsy” Queenslander dip below 18 degrees Celsius while Swedish houses remain at a comfortable 23 degrees, no matter the season.
“In Europe they tend to seal everything up so you can control the climate. But in Australia, we like the fresh air, we like the breeze,” says Marshall. That warm-weather mentality – and the design features Australians embrace, like open-plan layouts and large shuttered windows to encourage cross-ventilation – works against us in winter.
“The most vulnerable part of your house are windows.”
Sam Marshall, founder of Architect Marshall and lecturer of the Faculty of the Built Environment at UNSW Culturally, it’s compounded by a “toughen up” mentality that sees the cold as something fleeting to be endured. Danielle Mitchell noticed the difference in attitude when she returned to Sydney after living in New York for five years. “The cold is embraced as part of the city’s culture in the US,” she says. Even pre-war buildings feature double (or triple) glazed windows to block sound and retain warmth, and most apartments have a centralised boiler which distributes steam. By law, heat must register at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) between 6am and 10pm when the outside temperature falls below 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius).
Of course, Australia’s climate isn’t as extreme as North-Eastern states like New York, but different building standards and attitudes mean that in some cases, we suffer through colder conditions. Mitchell monitored the temperature inside her 1950s cottage in Thornleigh after she noticed that her four-month-old daughter woke throughout the night with freezing hands. “Our bedroom got down to 12 degrees Celsius on some evenings,” she says. “That’s when we made the call to insulate.”
It seems simplistic to say, but this is why checking the finer details aside from the price matters. Especially when looking to spend more on insulation and a like to yield consistent energy savings. Often its better to take a long term view with anything regarding keeping your space warm. Or Cold. Or whatever your heart desires.
Todays Good Reads
Swapmeet and greet.
A fantastic old tradition, the humble Sunday Swapmeet is still rolling on.
A fever dream from the house of mouse.
In a classic column from 2015, Brian Phillips describes his existential musings during a trip to Disneyland.
The tallest of tall timber
There are few places suited for a Winter getaway than Pemberton
Ways to get the most out of winter with your garden.
Winter has arrived in the Perth area and that means cold weather vegetable gardening time.
Yes, most people think that gardening is a seasonal task, and that winter is not the season for growing. Maybe that is true for some of the coldest climates around the globe. But, in the Perth area, winter is an amazing time for winter vegetable gardening.
Unlike the warmer times of the year, winter planting does require some additional attention to soil preparation, watering, and mulching.
With the right preparation of soil mixtures and blends, all available from Bibra Lake Soils, early winter vegetable gardening will yield a bounty of delectable crops in late winter and throughout the spring and summer months. You’ll be justifiably delighted when creating homemade meals that include those vegetables that you grew yourself.
Here are some helpful tips to use when planning your winter vegetable bed garden:
Gardening experts agree that the gardening climate in the Perth region requires soil conditioning before planting vegetable beds for winter gardening. You can enrich your soil with any one, or a combination of, nutrient rich C-Wise Veggie Mix, C-Wise Mushroom Compost, or Sheep and Cow manure soil enhancement. If you are not sure which component to use for your soil, or to compliment your vegetable bed requirements, call us at (08) 9434 2290 to speak with a professional soil specialist.
The method used to apply new soil conditioners is to lightly blend the new soil mixtures, composts, or manures into the ground soil using a rake to achieve an even, smooth distribution. Continue raking the top soil level until it is level and has the consistency of soft crumbs. The new conditioners provide an added benefit of attracting earthworms that will burrow themselves down into the ground, which will result in opening up tunnels that lets water and oxygen filter into the soil.
There is one more step to ready your garden before planting your winter vegetables. To settle the new mixtures and manure, and to set in motion the nutritional breakdown of the soil conditioners, water the entire vegetable bed well the day before the planting.
When selecting the vegetables to plant, it is beneficial to scatter the planting over a number of weeks or months so that not all of your winter crops come up at one time. You also want to plant winter vegetables that are favourable for your climate zone.
Perth is considered a warm temperate climate zone. Two good references that list which winter vegetables to plant, month by month, are the planting guides provided by the Organic Gardeners, and the Gardening Gals monthly blog for gardening in Perth.
In addition to vegetables, winter is the perfect time to plant herbs that will be ready to augment your vegetables in stews and soups. Those herbs are:
To make your winter vegetable beds less attractive to garden pests, consider companion planting. This system employs the planting of herbs close to your vegetable rows will actually serve to repel pests. Some herbs have a taste that pests do not like and they will stay away from them.
The strong smell that comes from fresh growing herbs such as oregano is not pleasing to garden pests and they will stay away. Another benefit of companion planting is that planting a mixture of vegetables with herbs will help your vegetables to thrive.
Content with more content
Now if you prefer to consume your information through audio instead of through text (which is understandable) come and check out or podcast which lives here. It is a show we are doing weekly which has a nice blend of education and entertainment aimed at the prospective homebuyer.