What is the difference between heavyweight and lightweight construction?
As the name suggests, heavyweight construction typically involved the use of heavy, dense materials such as brick, concrete, tiles, mud brick…etc. By contrast, lightweight construction uses lighter materials as structural supports with less mass content, such as timber, light steel, fibre cement and plywood. When it comes to building your own residential construction, there are several factors you should consider before deciding whether or not to opt for a heavyweight or lightweight build. First and foremost, you have to consider the availability of the skills and materials you have at your disposal, thinking carefully about where you will source them and any distances either will need to travel. Secondly, you have to think carefully about the intended life span of the house you are planning to build, and the materials that will best match the required degree of durability. Also consider how much maintenance you are prepared to have to deal with –of course, low-maintenance builds are preferable. Thirdly, you need to think carefully about the environmental impact of the materials and processes you will use, as well as their recycling potential. Environmentally friendly builds will result in more sustainable energy consumption, and are worth investing in. Finally, and probably most importantly, you have to think about cost. What can you afford to invest in?
Not surprisingly, heavyweight buildings are often the more expensive option. However, you pay for a sturdy, durable build. Particularly if you are living in an area prone to dramatic climactic changes, heavyweight construction is best suited to accommodating extremities in day/night temperatures and withstanding external environmental pressures. Additionally, the benefit of heavyweight buildings is the reduction in operational energy use, i.e. heating and cooling systems. When married with good insulation, heavyweight buildings offer improved thermal comfort for you and your family.
However, lightweight construction also comes with its perks. Not only is it typically cheaper, lightweight builds respond quickly to changes in temperature, particularly useful if you reside in a warmer climate, where lightweight homes can cool rapidly. The lightweight option is also the more environmentally friendly alternative. Where heavyweight buildings are processed with high impact, lightweight materials typically have a lower production impact and avoid the transport difficulties that affect a lot of heavyweight builds – often a factor helping to keep costs down.
Importantly, both options can have different environmental impacts, thermal performances and come at different degrees of expense, depending on the climate of your chosen site, transportation requirements, where you materials are being sourced, site requirements and the extent of exposure to any potentially destructive forces of nature. Be sure to weigh up all these factors and consult with local builders on the kinds of build best suited to your needs.
Remember, you can have it both ways!
Fortunately, building a residential property doesn’t necessarily have to mean a clear-cut choice between heavyweight and lightweight building. More and more full service builder such as Direct Building Services, are dedicated to meeting the specific needs of individual clients. Often, when it comes to weighing up the pros and cons of either build, there simply is no single best solution. Assessing all the factors mentioned above, frequently results in the desire for some kind of a combination of light and heavyweight systems. Arriving at comfortable compromises is important, and often produces the best results both environmentally and economically. Composite systems can include, for example, mixed and matched elements such as lightweight walls combined with heavyweight flooring, or vice versa. Again, be sure to consider the specific needs and wants of your build; it may just be that a hybrid solution means making fewer sacrifices when it comes to building your ideal home.