Updated: Feb 21, 2020
There was never a truer saying in life than “build a good foundation to get a good result” in other words put in the work at the beginning to reap the rewards in the future.
Building is exactly the same, but with foundations, it really is a literal quote!
“Build a good foundation to get a good result”
Although building foundations are not the prettiest part of the project nor the part that you see and reflect on with pride after the build. Failure to get this part of the build exactly right, will cause a myriad of dramas in your immediate future which will stay with you for the rest of your life in that building. Getting everything level and square is really important to ensure that what is built on top of that is also true. However, there are also many evidential benefits to going beyond what is “Building Code” with your foundation design/build, enabling energy savings, better personal comfort and healthier safer homes for you and your loved ones.
To do this you need to know the type of land you’re building on, the soil composition and the height of the water tables, the natural constraints with your new parcel of paradise! Once these have been investigated and established, a plan to work with these parameters enables you to move forward with the project right?
Well sort of. You should also think about how you could use the foundations to become an energy storage unit, sort of like a passive energy battery, which is either charged by the sun for free or hydronically by assisted energy producing plant which does cost, but pays back 10 fold. Put the time and some budget into this in the beginning of the project and the payback with basically free heating is for the life of the building. To make this free energy even more useful, you must think about the insulation of the foundations to the ground and to the edges. Creative design and construction, will preserve this created energy more efficiently, to be used where and when you want it to be used rather than just dissipating away into the surrounding atmosphere.
I was horrified recently to attend a prominent Architectural seminar where a well-known and respected (past tense now) New Zealand concrete slab manufacturer/supplier was letting off skyrockets and balloons in a hyped up, amphetamine enhanced marketing orgy, celebrating the release of their new revolutionary flooring system!
The reality is, that it is worse than their old product (which in itself was only a half way attempt at a decent flooring system if we are being honest) by removing nearly all of the remaining insulation components from its previous system. This basically puts this “revolutionary” process (their words not mine) on a par with a concrete slab laid directly on the finished ground, just as the slab foundations of 40 years ago, before we knew better!
Apart from reinventing the wheel (albeit a broken one), they have only achieved a system which we already know is unhealthy for building occupants, is sapping heat energy from our internal building environment, which in turn is bad for the planet due to the wasting of energy that we pay for and pump into the building to make it warmer, while the increasing energy costs force up the cost of our very existence and those who use the building……….. Forever more! What a revolution eh!!!!!!
Why did they do this?…well they have manipulated the data to meet the NZ building code (minimum standard) which still allows slab laid on ground and it’s cheaper, a bit cheaper to build! Even though it goes against all the evidential data that is available to us on what good building requires. What’s even worse is in their hyped marketing information, they are mis-quoting recent evidence about general slab insulation, saying it is to be banned from building in New Zealand, hence the reason for their “new idea” this is a blatant lie! The only insulating product to possibly be banned from foundations, is the inferior product they used to use in their old system – go figure. The reality is, their old system was to be banned and the new system is cheaper for them to produce, while charging the same amount to the builder, resulting in better profits for shareholders. It does save some time/waste during the build, which is an optional cost saving to pass onto the client by the builder.
But one thing is definitely passed on to the client with this system. It commits the client to a life time of inefficient energy use, high energy cost, inferior internal environment and inferior comfort, for the life of this building.
Anyway more positively, slabs can also be used as a finished decorative flooring feature (eliminating floor coverings and their cost completely) by creating an enduring and attractive floor finishes which are arguably healthier for the occupants, with much less maintenance for the home owner or the owner’s requirement to be replace the floor covering every 12 years or so. In addition to the benefits stated so far, these concrete type floor finishes make the energy storage and energy transference to the internal environment far more efficient, increasing the level of comfort to the users of the building for basically free if the foundation is well insulated (see above).
So you see that foundations and floor slabs are very important, and yet again the New Zealand Building Code is letting us down in the minimum requirement for the quality buildings we should live in. You can’t really blame the suppliers for making inferior products in a price driven world where this inferiority is an option? But it is your choice, and remember this, what you don’t pay for now, you will definitely pay for in both financial and health terms for as long as you stay in your new home, if you get this wrong.
Remember "art for living" G