Member Profile - Kevin Swain
Q.1. Tell us about yourself and your career so far?
I’m 52 years old and was born in Sheffield, England. I started woodwork at my local boys club when I was 8 years old and as long as I can remember I wanted to become a carpenter. I gained my carpentry qualifications after leaving school.
I arrived in Australia in 2000 and after obtaining my Australian Building qualifications through night classes at CIT set myself up as a sub-contract carpenter and builder. A career that I have done full time until very recently. I feel lucky to have found a job that I can’t wait to turn up to every morning.
Q.2. What attracted you to becoming a designer?
I bought a small, basic house with my partner Fiona in 2015. Our intention was always to renovate and extend and we found a small house that required modernisation and with plenty of potential. We were thinking it would be a typical minimum standard 6-star affair, but around this time I was becoming disheartened with the Australian building scene. For 15 years I’d been a carpenter here and barely anything had changed with regards to energy efficiency in homes, other than having the need to fit insulation into a building (the poor fitment of it didn’t seem to be a concern) and double glazing being fitted in aluminium window frames (that never will make sense to me). As I was looking for inspiration on the internet I saw an advert for the Passive House Tradesmans course with Box Hill Institute in Melbourne. I clicked the ad and read it, and I remembered reading about these building principles before I left the UK. I signed up to the course, and by smoko on the first day I was hooked. After the tradesmans course I signed up for the consultants course with Clare Parry. It was amazing, and amazingly hard and only reinforced my beliefs that this is a great way to build. I then became a level 1 thermographer, an ATTMA level 1 blower door tester and ended up carrying out a blower door test on Grand Designs Australia.
Q.3. How are you making an impact with Passive House?
For over two years I’ve been volunteering in a Passive House shed build in Fyshwick, Canberra. It’s called the Low Energy Super Shed (LESS) and is a community project, converting an existing old building into an energy efficient and sustainable building using Passive House Principals. It’s a fantastic build, using plenty of recycled materials and packed with sustainable building ideas. All this with an ACH of 0.86 @50Pa.
It’s all built by a group of volunteers who get together once a month. We’ve opened it up to the public several times and had a great turn out each time. COVID has restricted any more openings. We ran blower doors tests complete with smoke to demonstrate the building airtightness and the performance of the various windows. Practical demonstrations are always well received.
The shed made it onto the ABC national news as well as the local newspaper. Once finished, we will be opening it to the public on a regular basis.
Q.4. Tell us more about your most recent project, what your goal is & the rating you are trying to achieve?
I’m working on my own Passive House retrofit and extension in Canberra. My aim is to carry out a retrofit to Passive House standards with the minimal amount of disruption to the building’s occupants on a simple brick veneer home, keeping the existing gyprock and timber floor. Putting my money where my mouth is so to speak. I’m documenting the build on Facebook – check out Kambah Passive House - with plenty of detailed videos. I’d like to achieve Passive House Classic standard with the build.
Q.5. How long have you been a member of APHA?
Five years I think.