At the end of 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Australian home sizes had shrunk to 22-year lows. CommSec’s Home Size Trends Report showed that at 183.6m2, the average floor size of a new home was the lowest it had been since 1996. Interestingly, that same report showed a correlation between decreasing dwelling sizes and increasing focus on luxury interior fit-outs including kitchens, bathrooms and heating options. Rather than a bigger house, homeowners are now opting for a smaller, more personalised space with greater emphasis on interior feature pieces. This has had far-reaching impacts for the construction and architecture industries - and for designers and specifiers in particular.
Below we will look at the growing trend towards modern wood-fired heaters, which are increasingly specified as luxurious additions to homes. They provide the traditional elegance of a fireplace whilst maintaining efficient, consistent levels of heat to the home. Local importers like Castworks make acquiring these statement pieces a breeze for the Australian design industry.
Modern luxury is changing
Consumers are redefining luxury. Gone are the days when luxury meant the biggest, the brightest or the most expensive. These days luxury is about authenticity, experience and craftsmanship. Rather than a larger home, people prefer smaller homes that they can personalise. The same goes for the appliances and fittings they include in their homes. Statement pieces like wood-fired heaters and design-focused in-wall fires are seeing a resurgence not just for their practical ability (though with smaller, high thermal mass homes this is ample), but for their design aesthetic and the timeless homely appeal of having a wood fired heater in the house.
Luxurious, efficient and sustainable
By using sustainably-sourced wood as fuel and opting for a high efficiency, low emission wood heater, specifiers can add a luxury feature to the home whilst remaining eco-friendly. Since 1992, AS/NZS 4013:2014 has regulated the emissions and efficiency limits for solid fuel burning appliances. The Standard has recently been updated and will impose stricter controls on products installed after August 2019. Products installed before August 2019 must have emissions of no more than 2.5g/Kg, and achieve efficiency of 55%. Products installed after this time must have emissions of <1.5g/Kg at efficiency of 60% or greater. These compare with emission rates of up to 12g/Kg for non-compliant heaters or 17g/Kg from an open fire.
Smaller heating for a smaller space
Not only are modern homes smaller than their predecessors, but they are also built to a much higher standard of thermal performance, in line with increasingly specific energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code. Across the country a minimum 6-Star energy standard has been widely adopted, meaning that where once there was demand for oversize or centralised heating solutions to heat spaces of 300m2 or more, the trend is now towards smaller heaters which heat only certain areas of the house. Cast iron radiant heaters like the Morso range have reduced clearances and small footprints so they work well in smaller rooms. Options like direct air intake kits make them perfect for tightly sealed, highly energy efficient homes.
Modern designs for modern homes
When people think of a wood heater, many would likely conjure the image of the traditionally boxy mild steel stoves that were common in the late 20th century. These have now largely been replaced by streamlined, modern designs like the AustroFlamm Clou Xtra. New designs tend towards curves rather than corners, are taller than they are wide so fit neatly into smaller house sizes, and feature large windows to provide excellent views of the fire. These units provide excellent radiant heat capacity and can amply heat a space of 150m2 - almost enough to heat an average freestanding Australian home (183.6m2). Modern designs also recognise and amplify the aesthetic appeal of having a fire in the house with large windows to allow better view, a nod to the timeless tradition of families sitting round the fire.
The luxury of choice
The annual report by Australian Post Office predicts that by 2020 one in ten items will be purchased online. This highlights Australian consumer demand for value, convenience and - above all - choice, and this has had a huge impact on the construction and design industry. The global economy and connectivity provided by the internet mean that Australian designers, specifiers and clients are now taking their design cues from trends all over the world, and the influence of Europe is hard to overstate. For many years, Europe has undoubtedly been the market leader in wood-fired heaters, championing the rustic-yet-modern, curved design that has made these appliances popular as statement pieces as well as for their practical applications. Having locally-based distributors like Castworks with networks all across Europe means that selections are broader, and easier to import and acquire than ever before.
The rise of the feature fire
AS/NZS 2918:2001 regulates wood heater installation in Australia. The standard covers installation requirements including flue size and position, as well as clearance within the dwelling. Building permits are not required for freestanding wood heaters and some fireplaces, meaning any installation work can be carried out for a nominal fee by a certified plumber. With such hassle-free installation, specification of ‘feature fires’, or fires which serve a strong aesthetic value while supplementing existing heating solutions within a dwelling, is an attractive option. Wood-fired radiant heat provided to specific spaces will reduce reliance on convection or other centralised heating systems, providing efficient dual heat sources and decreasing the overall energy footprint.
For over 20 years Castworks has pioneered the wood-fired stove industry in Australia, specialising in bringing the sleek, elegant and modern designs of Europe to the local market. Castworks wood fires are stunning feature pieces for any residential or commercial dwelling as well as being highly functional and efficient. Castworks offers heating solutions from ADF, Hergom, Austroflamm and Morso, as well as a full catalogue of accessories and maintenance products.