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It may surprise New Zealanders that 80 per cent of the materials used in home construction in Europe are built with structural clay block - and for good reason.

Europe’s building industry compliance expects a minimum 100 year durability. In New Zealand, councils require a 50 year durability sign-off. New Zealand’s weather conditions can be pretty fierce - we all know New Zealand can experience four seasons in one day at any time of the year. High humidity and high rainfall mean material durability is even more preferable.

Clay by nature encompasses all those qualities needed for longevity including passive heating/cooling and moisture management and New Zealanders are starting to cotton on to its benefits.

It may surprise New Zealanders that 80 per cent of the materials used in home construction in Europe are built with structural clay block - and for good reason.

Europe’s building industry compliance expects a minimum 100 year durability. In New Zealand, councils require a 50 year durability sign-off. New Zealand’s weather conditions can be pretty fierce - we all know New Zealand can experience four seasons in one day at any time of the year. High humidity and high rainfall mean material durability is even more preferable.

Clay by nature encompasses all those qualities needed for longevity including passive heating/cooling and moisture management and New Zealanders are starting to cotton on to its benefits.

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Recently, Porotherm structural clay blocks from Stellaria were used in an e4 Martinborough exemplar project, which demonstrates how a modest two level 100m² footprint home can be built from a monolithic clay material on one of the highest rated seismic zones in the country and enjoy passive solar gains.

It’s a very clever, energy efficient entry-level-type home prototype, says Stellaria’s Chris MacPherson, and the simple clay block construction and tall stature means that a first floor can be instated at a later date when the homeowner can afford it or wants to double the space.

The true test of the prototype home was demonstrated when the builders sat inside the passively cooled home for their lunch breaks, enjoying the 19 degree interior while avoiding the sweltering 38 degree heat outside.

Recently, Porotherm structural clay blocks from Stellaria were used in an e4 Martinborough exemplar project, which demonstrates how a modest two level 100m² footprint home can be built from a monolithic clay material on one of the highest rated seismic zones in the country and enjoy passive solar gains.

It’s a very clever, energy efficient entry-level-type home prototype, says Stellaria’s Chris MacPherson, and the simple clay block construction and tall stature means that a first floor can be instated at a later date when the homeowner can afford it or wants to double the space.

The true test of the prototype home was demonstrated when the builders sat inside the passively cooled home for their lunch breaks, enjoying the 19 degree interior while avoiding the sweltering 38 degree heat outside.

On another morning in the dead of winter, when Martinborough gets close to freezing, builders thought a heater had been left on when they walked inside and found it was still a comfortable 19 degrees inside. It was more than 10 degrees warmer in the inside than it was outdoors simply due to the solar gain from the day before.

“It performs really well,” says Chris. “As you can imagine, it’s monolithic, so it’s subject to solar gain, and it releases the heat – that’s why we started importing it, because we felt there was a need in New Zealand for a very high performance construction material.”

The thermal quality of Porotherm blocks is due to the fact that they are made from a dense mineral structure that is porous by nature and therefore allows the building to “breathe”. Because of this breathability, mould and mildew can’t grow.

On another morning in the dead of winter, when Martinborough gets close to freezing, builders thought a heater had been left on when they walked inside and found it was still a comfortable 19 degrees inside. It was more than 10 degrees warmer in the inside than it was outdoors simply due to the solar gain from the day before.

“It performs really well,” says Chris. “As you can imagine, it’s monolithic, so it’s subject to solar gain, and it releases the heat – that’s why we started importing it, because we felt there was a need in New Zealand for a very high performance construction material.”

The thermal quality of Porotherm blocks is due to the fact that they are made from a dense mineral structure that is porous by nature and therefore allows the building to “breathe”. Because of this breathability, mould and mildew can’t grow.

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The clay also has natural acoustic qualities, which is perfect in apartment situations where there are inter-tenancy walls that need to prevent sound from travelling. Equally, in the same application, a fire-rated wall is usually required, but due to being fired in a kiln at 1,200 degrees Celsius, Porotherm blocks naturally have the highest fire-rating you can achieve.

Unlike other building claddings, such as brick veneer which is commonly clad onto timber frames in New Zealand, the Porotherm blocks aren’t just for show. They are so structurally sound they can be used as the single block construction material for apartments up to 10 storeys high.

“It’s a structural block, there’s no timber frame, no insulation, there’s no lining or Gib board, you just plaster both sides and you’re done,” says Chris.

Any colour of plaster finish is possible, but the plaster must be lime mineral based to retain the breathability of the clay blocks.

“It’s like the skin on your arm – if you Gladwrap your arm for a week it won’t look too good, and that’s what we are doing to our houses when we make them so watertight they can’t breathe.”

Both the interior and exterior however, can be clad in any of the traditional finishes and claddings, such as plasterboard or tiles in the interior and zinc, corrugated iron or brick veneer on the exterior.

“There are no limitations in design for the interior or exterior finishes.”

Europeans have constructed their entire building around cost versus benefit and sustainability and they really mean it, says Chris, and New Zealand should make that same commitment.

“The Porotherm block is 100 per cent organic, but if we use timber we have to treat it – the Europeans don’t allow tanalising.”

Chris says due to the breathable system the clay is self-sterilising at a microscopic level; lime plasters are anti-bacterial which means the building doesn’t retain smells, making it an ideal material for use in retirement villages, child care centres or other commercial applications where sterility is needed.

 

Want to know more about building with structural clay Porotherm blocks? Be sure to visit Stellaria on ArchiPro today or give them a call to learn more.

The clay also has natural acoustic qualities, which is perfect in apartment situations where there are inter-tenancy walls that need to prevent sound from travelling. Equally, in the same application, a fire-rated wall is usually required, but due to being fired in a kiln at 1,200 degrees Celsius, Porotherm blocks naturally have the highest fire-rating you can achieve.

Unlike other building claddings, such as brick veneer which is commonly clad onto timber frames in New Zealand, the Porotherm blocks aren’t just for show. They are so structurally sound they can be used as the single block construction material for apartments up to 10 storeys high.

“It’s a structural block, there’s no timber frame, no insulation, there’s no lining or Gib board, you just plaster both sides and you’re done,” says Chris.

Any colour of plaster finish is possible, but the plaster must be lime mineral based to retain the breathability of the clay blocks.

“It’s like the skin on your arm – if you Gladwrap your arm for a week it won’t look too good, and that’s what we are doing to our houses when we make them so watertight they can’t breathe.”

Both the interior and exterior however, can be clad in any of the traditional finishes and claddings, such as plasterboard or tiles in the interior and zinc, corrugated iron or brick veneer on the exterior.

“There are no limitations in design for the interior or exterior finishes.”

Europeans have constructed their entire building around cost versus benefit and sustainability and they really mean it, says Chris, and New Zealand should make that same commitment.

“The Porotherm block is 100 per cent organic, but if we use timber we have to treat it – the Europeans don’t allow tanalising.”

Chris says due to the breathable system the clay is self-sterilising at a microscopic level; lime plasters are anti-bacterial which means the building doesn’t retain smells, making it an ideal material for use in retirement villages, child care centres or other commercial applications where sterility is needed.

 

Want to know more about building with structural clay Porotherm blocks? Be sure to visit Stellaria on ArchiPro today or give them a call to learn more.

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