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When Melbourne couple Ian Court and Sue snapped up a one-and-a-half-acre property in rural Birregurra, a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, their aim was to build a sustainable yet sophisticated home – but the result of their efforts surpassed anything they had set out to achieve. With tenacity and foresight, the couple took the project to a new plateau, achieving an astounding eight-star energy-efficiency rating from Sustainability Victoria. “The rating has given us a real sense of achievement,” says Ian, “and hopefully it’s a good example of the future direction of housing design.”
Built over three levels excavated into a hillside overlooking the local township, the house ticks all the boxes on the energy and sustainability list: its ‘green’ features include a solar power and hot-water system, passive solar heating, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and low-energy lighting. Not only does the couple produce their own power, their solar panels are integrated with the electricity grid, so they can sell any excess to the power company. “I first became interested in global warming and renewable energy five years ago,” says Ian, who’s a non-executive director of Pacific Hydro, a renewable energy company focused on hydroelectric and wind farm-produced power. “When we started designing the house, we wanted environmental sustainability done in an attractive way,” he says.
A low-maintenance home was also high on their list of priorities, as the couple split their time equally between Birregurra and their Melbourne apartment. “We didn’t want the house to be too big – three bedrooms is fine,” says Sue, the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner and now a director on numerous boards. They turned to Andreas and Judy Sederof of Sunpower Design, whose environmentally aware ideas give the house its air of casual comfort. In the heart of the home is a spacious living and dining area, with double-glazed windows and doors that open out to a sumptuous deck. It’s shaded in summer by sails that can be removed in winter, when the sun generates passive heating by warming the concrete slab on which the house is built. Throughout the house, recycled kauri timbers are reworked into signature furnishings, while spotted gum hardwood, sourced from a Victorian plantation, lines the floors in the main bedroom and stairways. To complete the pared-back look, the couple scoured vintage stores until they spotted a collection of late-’60s Danish-style furniture pieces, all made of Queensland walnut timber.
Although Ian and Sue can now unwind in their welcoming home, they’re not the types to rest on their laurels; their next big project is already underway. “We have a whole acre and a half of gardens to develop,” says Sue, “so we’ve started building up the soil and putting in vegetable beds. In a few years, it will be transformed. In fact, if we get a goat, we’ll be able to live here completely self-sufficiently!”
Photo by Craig Wall Jul 23, 2012
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