David Morehouse: A window into the business of getting what you pay for

Quick Chat

If you paid between $6-10 million for your building, you’d want to know you’re getting what you paid for, right?

David Morehouse of Advanced Fenestration Research and Certification Lab chats with The Green List about how he can save money and stress around buildings.

Good morning, David.

Good morning.

Let’s start with a quick elevator pitch: what does your business do?

AFRC Lab specialise in compliance certification for fenestration, thermal imaging and acoustic and air pressure simulation, as well as providing scientifically sound market research.

How did you get into this industry?

[A wistful sigh] Well back in — let’s say the 2000s for round numbers — I was offered two jobs: one in real estate, one with fit-out materials. I turned down the real estate role because I didn’t fancy knocking on doors on my weekends. Going with the fit-out role we were wholesalers oft imber windows, doors, kitchens, wall paneling etc. from there I sort of fell into windows, and just haven’t been able to get out since.

What made you go into certification specifically?

I suppose after that, around two and half years ago with my experience, I decided certification was an issue. There were, or are, a lot of cases where people submit certification documentation for windows without the empirical proof or workings to back it up.

A lot of the time this is because they don’t know the services like AFRC Lab even exist — we are very niche after all — but they end up falsifying values, or meeting the wrong standards. The result is a product that doesn’t do what it should, in essence, so that they can sell the windows they have quoted on to the builders etc.

And that’s a massive issue in our patch, especially when you’ve got people paying six and 10 million for buildings. We try to help make sure those people are getting what they paid for, which is why we offer free peer reviews of certifications for ESD (environmental sustainable development), builders and surveyors, so we can raise awareness about the kinds of evidence you can actually get, and to help educate people to start asking questions.

Really, I hope my work can help demystify these sorts of things.

Here is an example of what AFRC Lab can demonstrate: visualised is a comparison video of a thermal break and an aluminium window on a north-facing wall during a Sydney summer.

What’re you working on right now?

We’re always working on a range of things, but at the moment we’re doing a lot of R&D work, helping companies tweak their products ahead of the National Construction Code updates that came into effect in May.

Many builders and providers are about to have heart attacks, so we’re trying to help them make small changes — before they start spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on compliance. And we’re doing this for everyone, from groups working on homes and small businesses, to 60 and 70 storey buildings.

What’re some of the challenges in your line of work?

Well what we do is incredibly niche — no one we’ve found globally is doing what we’re doing, particularly not with acoustics visualisations and such — so a lot of the time it’s difficult to convince people that it actually works.

Once we demonstrate that the simulations are just as accurate as physical testing though, people are on board. And I think it will become more common in the future, particularly as things like buildings catching on fire and apartments falling apart in recent times. These sorts of things really drive demand for compliance.

What are you sensing in the market in your patch?

We’ve had an uptake in requests recently, even from Queensland, which is unusual. Really we just need more of that, for surveyors to continue saying, “hey, where are you getting those values from?”

Other than that, at the moment we’re feeling a slow down from the slow down in the building of new apartments. Investors and people who would usually buy these developments don’t feel like they can trust what they’re getting at the moment. So we’re certainly busier because of all the issues in the building space, which is good news for us, but not necessarily for everyone else.

What about more in the future, what are your predictions in the fenestration and certification space?

I think the performance levels will keep tightening up over the next 15-20 years, and I also think compliance is something builders and ESD workers will increasingly understand needs to be done correctly. People are starting to understand the need for legitimacy, that it’s important to have the right information to the right standards.

What are you doing after this interview?

I’ll be going straight back to modelling some new window systems, then hopefully baseball training after work. It’s a nice day here in Victoria so I’m looking forward to that.

Read AFRC Lab’s profile for more information.