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Heritage home gets a high-performing sustainable upgrade

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Library wall surrounds desk
Timber chairs in front of sustainable new house addition
Interior of loungeroom looking towards kitchen

What do we do when our old homes no longer suit the way we live, and don’t provide us with a comfortable space which is affordable to heat or cool? If we knock these old, historic homes down and rebuild, then we might miss out on the opportunity to create the best of both worlds. Why not keep these heritage homes and give them a high-performing sustainable upgrade? This was the approach taken by Anderson Architecture when working on Sol House.

The owners needed their home to better suit their lifestyle and they also wanted to minimise the amount of energy used to run the home. Old homes can be beautiful, like this Interwar double brick Californian Bungalow, but they can also be dark from small or poorly placed windows, and have insufficient insulation making them either too hot, too cold or draughty. This can result in expensive bills to keep the home well-lit and at a comfortable temperature. These bills could be significantly lowered if the home was sustainably redesigned.

The original heritage home had to be sensitively re-designed and it was agreed in the early stages of the project that the original façade of the home could be retained, with a reorginisation of some of the existing rooms. In doing this, they were able to reduce their building costs plus they minimised the amount of demolition waste. This upgrade to the old layout also helped improve the original building’s thermal performance.

Woman sits on timber window seat looking at garden
Timber kitchen with timber shelving
External view of brick bungalow and white new extension behind

Sitting behind the existing house, the new addition is connected through a ‘bridging’ element between the Interwar Californian Bungalow and the new wing. The new materials palette was chosen to provide a contrast between the old and new buildings with the new colours of whites, creams and light greys are used on both, connecting the buildings together.

Both the new addition and the upgrades to the existing home have been designed with a focus on making the house as comfortable and sustainable as possible. The architects have made good use of cross flow ventilation, thermal mass, sunlight access and sunlight control, along with the use of sustainable and thermally efficient building materials.

The home owners were keen to ensure their home was both healthy and sustainable so they collaborated with the architects and builders to explore sustainable design strategies, construction methods and healthy and sustainable materials and products.

Indoor air quality was given great consideration throughout the build and to achieve this, recycled materials and zero or low VOC finishes were used as much as possible. In a typical home, paints and sealers can lower the indoor air quality and cause health impacts by off-gassing potentially harmful VOCs into the indoor air. However in this home, zero VOC paint was used throughout and zero or low VOC sealers were used. To further improve the indoor air quality a decentralised Stiebel Eltron heat recovery ventilation system (HRV) was also installed, which aside from filtering the air it also maintains consistent temperatures in the home. No more sweltering nights or freezing mornings for this family!

Street view of renovated californian bungalow
View from side path of brick bungalow

The owners love their new home, saying they now have a “light filled space that feels connected to the sky and garden. The expanded kitchen and pantry afford our focus on cooking and eating together, and the open plan addition with an office and projection wall at the other end suits how our family relaxes together.”

The owners weren’t the only ones who appreciated this home, so successful was the design and outcome, it was shortlisted in the 2021 Houses Awards in Australia.

Related: Bungalow Upcycle by Brave New Eco

View from hallway through to living area with concrete flooring
Timber bathroom vanity with bright shower tiles

Sustainability specs:
– Heritage home given a high-performing sustainable upgrade by reconfigured poorly functioning internal spaces, saving on new building costs and demolition waste
Cross flow ventilation
– Light-filled home
– Well-insulated new concrete floor in new additional provides thermal mass benefits
– Boral Envisia concrete was used – a mix that uses less than half of the Portland cement of conventional concrete and has a carbon footprint that is 35% lower in comparison.
– No air conditioning required
– Ceiling fans are used to cool the home in summer
– Operable high-level windows allow hot air to be purged from the living space in summer
– The windows within the existing house were replaced for higher insulating glazing
– Existing materials were recycled where possible
Zero VOC paint from Ecolour
– Zero VOC joinery sealer from Mirobond
– Very low VOC timber window and floor sealer from Synteko
– Stiebel eltron heat recovery ventilation system (HRV)
– Any bricks removed from the renovation of the existing house were reused as new blockwork and in the new landscaping

White facade of new addition with high windows
Large windows flood this home with natural light

Top 3 tips to use in your own home:
– Closely consider whether you need to knock down your house. Could it be upgraded or reconfigured to suit you better?
– Use as many low or zero VOC materials, finishes and products inside your home
– Try to keep your energy bills as low as possible by creating a naturally lit home which is designed to keep you comfortable all year round without needing a lot of heating or cooling.

Images courtesy of Anderson Architecture. Photography by Nick Bowers
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