Reinforcing Mt Hotham Apartments Against Extreme Weather
True sustainability isn’t just harnessing eco-friendly materials – although that’s essential. It is creating buildings that stand the test of time, however, challenging the external environment. Thermotek recently worked with a client to tailor our innovative window and door systems to the extreme climate of Mt Hotham.
Nestled atop the Victorian High Country, the beautiful ski resort of Mt Hotham is the highest alpine village in Australia. It also presents some of the most extreme conditions for construction.
Built along the ridge line at an average height of 1700m above sea level, buildings in Mt Hotham are exposed to very high winds, snow, and driving rain.
Thermotek client Dana manages a multi-level residential apartment building in the ski resort. Constructed in 2006, it has been experiencing severe water leakage ever since, principally due to the original installation of the doors and windows.
The original developer chose products and construction principles more suitable to urban areas, which were not up to scratch for the more demanding environment of Mt Hotham.
“Ultimately, it created the need for complete window and door placements in a structure less than fifteen years old,” says Dana.
The original windows and doors used aluminium that had not been thermally broken and did not seal well – a major flaw in such a highly exposed environment. Drafts and condensation became a frequent problem.
“Nothing could be done with the original products to rectify this,” says Dana. “Issues with the original installation included flashing details, fastening, and sealing with no considerations for water or drainage. This allowed for excessive water ingress, leading to damp and mouldy conditions.”
Dana approached Thermotek for a new window and door solution that would solve the ongoing problems and future-proof the building.
Thermotek collaborates closely with architects, designers, builders, and owners to provide systems that need to meet specific requirements, aesthetics, and durability.
We came up with a solution for Dana’s Mt Hotham residential complex that has effectively created a fortress against the challenging elements. One of the qualities of our window and door systems that gives them strength is the material we use in the frames – uPVC.
Thermotek uPVC windows and doors are less conductive than standard aluminium doors. “Even when compared to thermally broken profiles, the hardware incorporated is ideally suited for this environment,” says Dana.
uPVC – or unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride – is the robust, unyielding counterpart to the more flexible, traditional PVC. Its inherent strength makes it our choice for crafting windows and doors that last.
The term ‘Unplasticised’ reflects that no chemical plasticisers are required in its composition. Instead, uPVC is composed of potent impact modifiers and fillers, which bind together to give it a toughness that’s ideal for construction.
Within uPVC, there are long, spaghetti-like strands known as polymers. During the manufacturing process, these strands intertwine, fortifying the material.
It has a surface hardness akin to aluminium, making it perfect for window and door systems, and it exhibits exceptional resistance to impacts and abrasions.
Another positive is that uPVC can become up to 6% stronger after its initial recycling. Subsequent recycling rounds continue to bolster its strength, albeit with a little less strength each time.
Allied with this strong material, the innovative design of Thermotek systems also protects against the elements.
“The Smart Slide Profile in particular, with multiple locking points, allows for the door sashes to be compressed and sealed against a continuous gasket, which is perfect for this exposed environment,” says Dana.
For the Mt Hotham apartments, creating a door opening that was as watertight as a shower base required a product that could be fastened to the opening without compromising the waterproofing membrane.
The mounting hardware and trims available for Thermotek’s doors and windows allowed for this to easily occur, achieving the kind of airtight installation usually only found in Passive House installations.
A considered, bespoke installation for a challenging environment
“Generally (and understandably) in Australia, the installation of uPVC windows and doors is done by the manufacturer to maintain a high-quality install,” says Dana.
“However, our remote location, combined with extreme weather, meant that would be highly impractical. Our project also required extensive remediation around the door/window openings once the frames were in place, rendering a swift installation timeline impossible.”
“We required a manufacturer that could understand the challenges this environment created and that would be willing to work closely with us to overcome issues not commonly seen in urban areas.”
Made in Melbourne with world-class engineering
“While we were comparing different manufacturers, I was able to tour Thermotek’s facilities and see how their doors and windows are produced.”
Thermotek has been making German engineering accessible to the Australian market since 2012. We have a long-term partnership with Aluplast, the maker of the most advanced uPVC profile systems in the world.
This is combined with our extensive local knowledge and commitment to tailor the systems to the Australian climate. All our window and door systems are sustainably manufactured at our factory in Melbourne.
“I was able to meet one of the Thermotek directors and discuss issues I foresaw occurring by using similar products, and together he and I came up with solutions to avoid these issues, on the spot.”
The Mt Hotham location did present unusual challenges. However, Thermotek’s willingness to always work with the client to solve specific issues and to refine our products is a huge point of difference in the industry.
“I left this meeting with complete confidence that we could work together and that their product would be able to overcome all the issues that were present with the original windows.”
“It has allowed us to achieve one of the highest performing installations of doors and windows on this mountain,” remarks Dana.
“We are currently approaching our fourth summer season of door and window replacements, and I still have the highest confidence in the products and installation.”
Creating comfortable, energy-efficient homes with longevity
The building, with its previous reputation for leaking, has now become one of the driest and healthiest on the mountain.
Another positive is that owners of completed apartments have reported that their energy consumption has gone down by 20-30%, which is an impressive side effect of installing a high-performing product.
“We are not finished yet, but the contrast between the original windows and doors, not only in performance but also aesthetics, is amazing to see,” remarked Dana. “I’m looking forward to completing this project too and seeing the final result.”
Unique locations require deep experience
Adapting windows and doors to the specific climate and environmental conditions of a particular location requires a significant level of knowledge.
Designing for areas with extreme weather conditions like Mt Hotham can be complex, requiring attention to detail to achieve optimal performance.
That’s why it is important to work with expert suppliers like Thermotek. We understand the unique requirements of the Australian construction industry and customise global engineering and innovation to suit your project, assisting with project management and field support.
If you’re an architect, builder, or owner about to embark on a demanding project, we’d love to help you harness the power of Thermotek to achieve an energy-efficient build with longevity.
Contact us today to start the conversation.