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The Melbourne home focuses on small and sustainable living, demonstrating just how good design mitigates the need for a larger home. Recycled materials are elevated by the clean, modern lines of the space to give a comforting, holistic feel to the interior. Judges at the 2014 Australian Living Green Interior Awards commented, “Everything in this house has been considered for its environmental performance … from the design to the paint and even the furnishings.”

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The high point of the design is a private, wooden, rooftop deck planned as an outdoor bedroom for heatwave nights — perfect to take in the fresh air and flowery scents of the newly landscaped garden below. The stairs to the deck act as a thermal chimney to exhaust hot air from the house, so living spaces on the ground floor stay comfortably cool. In the day the staircase functions as a natural clothes-drying room, with a high-level drying rack over the landing. North- and east-facing windows flood this area with sun.

The innovative passive solar design includes a mono-pitched roof over the living room and kitchen to bring northern light into the south side of the house. A polished concrete floor and feature brick wall contribute thermal mass to keep spaces warm in the winter. During the scorching hot summer, a courtyard to the shady south side of the house is used to draw in cool air for cross ventilation through the center of the home and as cool air inlet for the pantry. Windows have been located to provide good cross breezes, and air flow is boosted by ceiling fans to the living room and bedrooms.

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The eye is naturally drawn to the kitchen space, where a collection of secondhand cabinets, shelving and fixtures artfully combines with a strong color scheme to produce a Mondrian-esque effect. The extensive reuse and recycling of old materials throughout the abode has added richness and texture to the sharp, modern lines of the remodeled space. All materials and finishes were selected for durability, low toxicity and local provenance. The use of Australian hardwood surrounds for the double glazed windows ensures no rainforest trees have been touched. Instead of cement, Independent Cement & Lime Eco-Blend concrete incorporates slag and fly-ash, which are industrial by-products, to ensure the concrete elements of the structure contribute to a 35 percent drop in carbon emissions compared to regular cement.

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To avoid reliance on the highly polluting, brown coal powered, city grid, renewable energy is used wherever possible. The 1.5 kW, grid-interactive solar photovoltaic panels on the roof provide sufficient electricity for the energy-conscious household. Solar hot water can be topped up with natural gas, which also supplies the stove top. The lighting scheme creates a gentle atmosphere with LED wall lights located only where task lighting is needed to further reduce energy use.

In preparation for both flood and drought, the house and garden collect rainwater for the irrigation of plants. Permeable surfaces to the majority of the open space to allow for on-site stormwater infiltration. Oversized gutters and downpipes futureproof the house against increasing climate change linked severe weather events. The rear garden is also an intensive food production area. There is good connection to the garden from the cooking zone and greywater provides passive garden irrigation. Rainwater tanks protect against future water restrictions. The rooftop deck grows vegetables that require more sun in self-watering planter boxes, the only danger being they could be raided by guests for a midnight snack!

+ Ande Bunbury Architects

Images via Australian Living Green Interior Awards 2014