Inspiring home of the week: The eco-friendly home with no heating that will 'save 9,000 trees'

The 10 Star Home in Victoria, Australia, has a 'green switch' which turns off the power across the building 

Kashmira Gander
Monday 04 September 2017 10:52
The 10 Star Home is carbon positive (Dan Hocking)
The 10 Star Home is carbon positive (Dan Hocking)

The phrases “carbon positive” and “zero waste” hardly conjure up images of a sleek and comfortable modern home. But the 10 Star Home - a name it has earned thanks to its superlative energy rating - on the south western coast of Australia is just that.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom house on the sustainable living The Cape development in Paterson, Victoria, is carbon positive, meaning it saves an estimated 230kg of carbon emissions per year per occupant. That's the equivalent of 9,553 thousand trees or 48million balloons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in its lifetime, according to Sustainable House Day.

And thanks to the passive solar heating and butterfly-style dipped ceiling in the living area which allows cross-flow ventilation, the home needs no heating or cooling systems - even in Victoria where temperatures can drop to single digits in winter months. The building is also fitted with a ‘green switch’ which enables tenants to switch off all electrical power apart from that juicing up the fridge. And to encourage owners to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, recycled timber pallets leftover from the build have been used to start a compost for a vegetable patch in the garden.

We spoke to Dave Martin of The Sociable Weaver design firm to find out more about The 10 Star Home.

(All images by Dan Hocking)

Please tell us a little about your practice

The Sociable Weaver is a design and building company based in Melbourne, Australia. We create homes that are sustainable, affordable and functional, encouraging those who live in them to connect with nature, with community, and with themselves. We are only a new company, but our team has worked in the building industry for over 20 years, building numerous award-winning buildings over that time. The Sociable Weaver is our way to educate and lead the building industry to create positive impact for the planet and community.

We believe there is so much the industry can do to create homes that tread lightly on this planet – for example, by focussing on passive solar design, functional spaces that grow with the family, and including sustainable features like rainwater tanks, solar panels and permaculture veggie gardens. We want to see Australian suburbs and cities transformed with homes that take the health of the planet and occupants into consideration.

What is your practice known for?

We recently completed our showcase project, The 10 Star Home – a display home that is carbon positive, has a 10 star energy rating, and was built with zero-waste and building biology philosophies in mind.

The 10 Star Home showcases that homes can be truly sustainable, beautiful, and functional, but still be easily built and affordable to a wide range of homebuyers. With this home, we truly demonstrate how any builder or owner and or builder can make simple design, material and building choices to create a home that can heat and cool through passive solar design and cross-flow ventilation, is healthy and non-toxic, and causes no unnecessary harm to nature. The home is permanently open to the public and we particularly invite other builders and designers to visit to learn from the home.

How would you sum with the project in five words?

Healthy, inviting, architectural, comfortable, sustainable.

What was the brief for this project?

We really wanted to get the 10 Star energy rating and carbon positive accreditation – securing a 10 star rating in coastal Victoria which has harsh cold winters is particularly difficult, but we wanted to prove that it can be done. Working with Clare Cousins Architects and our consultants at F2 Designs, along with our building biologist, Narelle McDonald, we were able to get the 10 star energy rating, build a house that is carbon positive (meaning that over the lifetime of the building, its carbon footprint is not only negated but is positively exceeded), and most importantly that the home is non-toxic and healthy for inhabitants and the environment. And on top of all this, we really needed the home to be modern and beautiful – this was about proving that you could build a home that was the 'sustainability package deal', but it was also modern, stylish and comfortable. We think we nailed it!

What did you hope to solve as you designed this home?

We really wanted to prove that you could achieve these incredible sustainability credentials, but also keep the home at an affordable price range – there's no point us building a home that only the richest clients can afford. The 10 Star Home is about using low-tech innovations that are easily designed, installed and maintained so that anyone can afford this sort of home and that any builder can build it. We also wanted to demonstrate that sustainable homes don't stop with the building – to truly keep our spaces healthy for us and the planet we need to be conscious about what furnishings and products we put into our homes. In The 10 Star Home we've sourced furnishings, cleaning products and decor that are all sustainably-sourced, organic, and non-toxic, firstly to demonstrate that these products are easily found on the Australian market, and secondly to show that you can use eco products and still have a beautifully-furnished home.

What makes this space unique?

One of the beautiful things about the space is that as soon as you step inside it immediately feels warm and inviting – often visitors will ask whether we have in-floor heating and are shocked when we say that there is no heating at all. Even on the coldest winter morning, the rooms feel incredibly warm and cosy from the sun. There's a stereotype that to live sustainably you need to make sacrifices, to give up comfort, style, modernity – with this home we're saying that you can have all those things and still tread lightly on this planet.

What was your inspiration for this project?

The inspiration was really just that feeling that the industry could be doing better, but rather than admonishing others for what they're doing wrong, we wanted to show how things could be done in a positive way. And of course, nature is such a huge inspiration – The 10 Star Home has been built in a small coastal town in Victoria, a southern state of Australia where the coastline is raw and wild. The natural surroundings of the area – the wild wind-blown beaches, the coastal scrub, and the kangaroos that graze in surrounding paddocks – these are all things that constantly inspire us and remind us that the industry must improve, before it does irreparable damage to the natural environment.

What was the toughest issue you encountered when this building was being designed and built?

To get the home's 10 star energy rating while keeping timeless design, carbon positive, building biology and zero waste philosophies was like balancing a Swiss watch! There was many alterations and balancing to get all elements to work together and achieve our goals. Finally we hit all elements and it was a hooray moment.

What do you wish you could change in hindsight?

That we created The 10 Star Home five years ago. We see how important it is to build in this style of methodology to cause unnecessary harm to nature. If everyone built this way, the building industry would have a far smaller footprint on the planet, and environmentally our society would be in a much better place.

What sort of experience do you hope people using this space have?

We hope visitors to The 10 Star Home feel inspired to use these design elements and practices in their own homes, that builders feel motivated to do the same in all the homes they build, and for people to ultimately feel the warmth and welcoming nature of the home.

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