Post and Infill or Load Bearing Walls

At the beginning of the mud Brick Revival in the 1940's, post and infill structures were virtually unknown. Sonia and Matcham Skipper built a beautiful stable at Montsalvat, the Artist's Colony to Eltham, around 1946 in post and infill construction and I used the system at Tarnagulla in 1948 to form a big implement shed. I do not recollect any other building employing this method in those days, except the large barn Ron Jelbart built on the hill on the eastern side of the Eltham valley. Load bearing walls were the only method that was seriously considered or even thought of. Most early buildings were small dimensioned cottages or studios with romantic dormer windows. Many had derived their inspiration from Montsalvat's French Proven¸la;ial style. As Eltham was the only district near Melbourne that had been persuaded to permit mud brick building and there was sufficient proof by example to indicate that earth walls had ample strength to hold up any live and dead loads they may be required to support. No one doubted their stability.

It was about fifteen years later when I started to design buildings for other municipalities in Victoria that the problem of obtaining permits to build became an issue. building Surveyors, who were generally ignorant of the medium, found little desire to support applications to build in it especially from wild-eyed zealots whose very presence worried them, building walls in 'bloody mud' in their fair municipalities. they felt. was beyond a joke, especially when it was uninformed amateurs who proposed to perpetrate the 'crime'. Friction would occur and sweet reason would fly out the Window.

The controversy that arose concerning the choice of using post construction and mud brick infill walls instead of load bearing walls involved the following issues:

  1. It placated the worries of building Surveyors who doubted the stability of mud bricks carrying loads.
  2. It allowed the general frame of the building and a roof cover to be erected before the mud brick walls were completed.
  3. In building of more than one storey it obviated using the thicker walls that would be required if they were load bearing. In very large or tall buildings the post principle was the only practical solution.

Some mud brick purists feel that being forced to use non-load bearing wall consruction is an encroachment of their liberties but I regard either method as equally acceptable provided the posts are of good shape and dimension and of Australian hardwood timber. It rather depends on the character of the building itself, but the taller the building the further the preference tends towards using posts because self supporting walls become thicker as the height increases. Posts can either be placed in the ground and concreted in, or placed on concrete pads or footings above ground level. If the former method is employed, some form of protection will be needed to repel white ants and other vermin. If the latter method is used, it is preferable to tie them down to protect them against storm and tempest.

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