Gallery: Green House in Melbourne by Zen Architects


It’s easy to see how this very centered home got the nickname “Zen House.” Officially known as the North Carlton Green House, the design offers an oasis of green living in the urban desert of Melbourne, Australia. The owners’ desire to connect to nature through landscaping, architectural form and sustainable design practices has created a beautiful abode. Easily flowing between the boundaries of built and natural environments, indoors and outside, the Zen House stays perfectly balanced with a tiny ecological footprint.

Zen Architects designed this sustainable home, and integrated vegetation and light to create a lush environment for the clients. Many sustainable elements went into the design, like passive heating through north oriented windows and a courtyard. Before you get all up in arms, let’s remember this house is in Australia, where they direct their houses to the north. Just a reminder for any aspiring architects from the Northern Hemisphere – if you intend to design for anything south of the equator, orient towards the north.

Deciduous plants were used for shading in the summer, and passive cooling was accomplished by cross ventilation and a “thermal chimney” through a two story void. A solar hot water system and hydronic heating system provide internal heating, coupled with high performance insulation and double glazed windows.

Rainwater is collected from the roof and put into storage tanks. Both rainwater and grey water are used in the 35 square meter (375 sq.ft.) garden. An additional rooftop garden provides even more outdoor space and insulation for the home. The garden even has a high tech automated irrigation system that waters the subsurface to minimize water lost through evaporation.

+ Zen Architects


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  1. April Nicholas November 10, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Amazing!! I live in Melbourne and would really like to look into buiding an eco friendly sustainable house / living space. Can you point me in the right direction of where to start??

    Many thanks. April

  2. Shelley Crain May 5, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I understand the idea of wanting natural living to include relaxing in few or no clothes when in your own private space. It just takes some careful consideration and perhaps consultation with the architects to get the best of both worlds. The glass is part of a passive solar heating collection and distribution system, and reduces the need for electrical lighting within the home, so it is important to the eco-friendliness of the structure. Passive solar has to reach a certain amount of the floor space I believe, so in addition to blinds it should be possible to use something like rice paper screens a few feet back from the glass to create a translucent faux wall to block private spaces without blocking all of the ambient light. They could also be folded to allow the view.
    Also orientation, elevation, etc on the lot can mean the glass walls are not toward the sidewalk. And heck…maybe if the neighbors could look through all of my walls I would stick to that diet/workout plan I keep thinking about!

  3. Brian Lang June 6, 2008 at 11:51 am

    You could replace the clear glass with the glass that goes opaque at the flick of a switch. Flick the switch again and it’s clear again…

  4. Experience June 3, 2008 at 5:52 am

    I like the floor to ceiling glass. Why would you want to hide yourself away from everyone anyway. And as well as that have you heard of blinds? I choose light over privacy and I like this build.

  5. Scott May 31, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Very well thought out house i think. I like how it fits in with the city block as well.

  6. earthsmile May 31, 2008 at 4:18 am

    Nice design… but puzzling in it’s overuse of floor to ceiling glass walls. What about privacy ? My home is my inner sanctum. I oftentimes walk around without clothes on at home. I can’t grasp this ‘fishbowl’ concept that so many modern designs embrace… which is to say that there’s so much glass used that the inhabitants are in effect the ‘Fish’ in a giant ‘Fishbowl’.

  7. earthsmile May 31, 2008 at 4:14 am

    Sure… nice design, in a way… but I’m constantly puzzled by these floor to ceiling glass walls used so predominantly in so many modern house designs lately. What’s the deal here ? My home is my inner sanctum. I often walk around without the benefit of clothes there. Living in a glass house, like this one and so many others, defeats the notion of PRIVACY. A home that doesn’t provide for such, seems puzzling to me. So sorry… I’d give this design a grade of ‘F’.

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