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Anchored to the land and solid as stone, these Firth Masonry Villas are designed to look good for years to come

Safe as houses

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Changing houses every few years may appeal to some people, but for many families, building a new home is all about putting down roots.

This desire to create a secure, permanent home is reflected in the increasing interest in solid masonry houses, such as the two Firth Masonry Villas featured on these pages.

Warren Pointon of Town & Country Residential says the house shown above was designed by an architect for his own family. As the site is frequently exposed to very strong off-shore winds, there was a need for a solid homestead that would go the distance.

"The house features a Firth Hotbloc construction," says Pointon. "These blocks incorporate a layer of polystyrene for added thermal and acoustic insulation. The solidity of the Hotbloc also provides thick columns and walls."

Other Firth products used in this home include a RibRaft floor, which has been coloured with the Peter Fell system and cut to resemble large flagstones. The second storey of the house utilises the Stresscrete Unispan flooring system, which ensures sound is contained within each floor. This precast flooring system can span up to 8m without any intermediary support, which allows for spacious ground floor rooms.

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Pointon says a wide concrete staircase further enhances the solid feel of the home. The walls, both inside and out, were plastered directly onto the Hotbloc.

"We continued the look outdoors, with a concrete block fireplace and columns surrounding a sunny courtyard."

Designer Mark Wilson of Masonry Design Solutions says Firth products were also an obvious choice for the country house featured on these pages.

"The design of this house was influenced by traditional Spanish and Italian villas, which are renowned for their thick walls and deep reveals," he says. "A Firth Hotbloc construction was a way to re-create that same sense of substance and permanence. It also allowed us to reproduce the small, deep-set windows and narrow doors of those traditional villas."

Firth products also feature in the living areas, which are coloured with the Peter Fell system. Similar concrete is used for the outdoor living areas.

As with most Firth masonry homes, both these properties were designed with energy efficiency in mind. Glazing on the northern side of each house ensures they can be solar heated in winter – the concrete mass of the walls and floors stores the heat during the day and releases it at night.

Katherina Lewis, marketing servicesmanager for Firth Industries, says other advantages of masonry construction include good fire resistance, and the ability to withstand moderate to severe earthquakes. The dense construction also helps make masonry houses pest proof.

"Low maintenance is another benefit that can't be overlooked," she says.

For more information on Firth products, contact Firth, Private Bag 99-904, Newmarket, Auckland, freephone 0800 800 576. Email: info@firth.co.nz, or visit the website:www.firth.co.nz .

First published date: 28 April 2006

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