Family home renovation with sustainability at heart

PERFECTLY PASSIVE: From two-bedroom inner city cottage to robust, sustainability-driven family home.
PERFECTLY PASSIVE: From two-bedroom inner city cottage to robust, sustainability-driven family home.

With the clients' dream in mind to create an eco-friendly, pet-friendly, robust family extension on a two-bedroom inner city cottage, while protecting a mature magnolia tree and maximising garden area, architect Green Sheep Collective had a multilayered challenge ahead.

Nevertheless, Magnolia Soul was the result. A transformation of a single-fronted, inner Melbourne, timber Victorian cottage into a highly sustainable, modestly-sized family home.

Green Sheep Collective Director and project architect Shae Parker McCashen said the home utilised passive solar design principles, combined with environmentally-friendly materials that aligned with the architect firm's ethos for an environmentally conscious, ethical, and community-minded approach to architecture.

Building form and passive design

A unique folding roof form envelopes and cradles robust living spaces, whose lowered floor level is embraced by adjacent decking.

"Views of the magnolia tree are intentionally framed by the roof structure, through a high-angled window and bay window seat - a lovely place to relax, read a book, admire the flowering magnolia or sit on the edge of the garden," Shae said.

High angular ceilings offer views of the magnolia, allow dappled light into the residence and provide stack-effect ventilation. A sunken living space takes advantage of the existing raised floor level by creating a playful step down to the garden, while decking at the original floor level doubles as informal living and dining seating.

More lifestyle:

The lowered living area provides a visual connection to the garden, immersing the family in garden foliage. A bamboo courtyard, which doubles as a cat run, brings planting close to the centre of the home, provides cross ventilation, evapotranspirative cooling and allows natural light into the nearby living and bedroom spaces.

"The building envelope and form are designed to accommodate a temperate climate," Shae said.

"The building's orientation is the primary contributor to the thermal comfort and energy efficiency of the home."

Natural heating is provided in winter by means of north-facing windows, thermal mass, doubling glazing, and insulation to walls and ceilings.

Unwanted summer heat is prevented by appropriately designed eaves, a batten screen, blinds, cross ventilation, a pergola with deciduous planting, and "stack effect" cooling.

Minimal building footprint

"The design considers the spatial requirements of internal spaces to reduce built form and maximise garden area," Shae said.

A flexible approach to design and clever joinery resulted in fewer construction materials, less maintenance, reduced heating and cooling costs and a lower overall environmental footprint.

Low-maintenance products and materials with low-embodied energy and long life-spans were selected to maintain the energy performance of the home.

Products and materials included in the design have a positive impact on energy efficiency with low to zero emissions (such as E0 cabinetry, and healthy adhesives); ethical procurement, harvesting and work practices (radially sawn timbers); recycled and renewable components (Ecrete concrete floors, plywood ceilings and recycled red bricks); low transport emissions; and water savings (rainwater tank for laundry and toilets).

"This beautiful design has successfully addressed site constraints and opportunities, taking advantage of the site levels, orientation and a delightful garden," Shae said.

"The resulting form is a unique, robust and exciting, positive space that people want to live in, maintain and cherish for years to come."

  • ARCHITECT: Green Sheep Collective
  • PHOTOS: Emma Cross Photographer
  • Produced with BowerBird
This story A robust family home that treads gently on the environment first appeared on The Canberra Times.