This project is not the typical commission that our companies undertake. We bought a property where we could make a difference, the objectives being less clearly defined than when we work for a third party client. The architect is my life partner and all engineering aspects were done by myself and the Company. Our aesthetic, sustainability, creativity and comfort objectives played a larger part than the economic impact.

Quality is subjective. It can often be confused with quantitative measures, which are an excellent yet limited way of measuring desired outcomes on a set of parameters. Quality is what it will give to society, not the KPI’s in themselves.

We found an old house where the most radical ideas could still fit, ie, no loss to the universe if it was adapted. Equally no economic loss was likely to take place.

Quality, design, sustainability and innovation are often associated with large price tags. We wanted to achieve the outcome of an “over-a-million dollar” house in a property that has a reasonable cost outcome. Comparable to average home prices in the neighbourhood.

The project evolved beyond the plan. The front house has been completely renewed and divided to allow for a family to live with a semi dependent relative having either complete autonomy, or supervision. We tested the arrangement by having a friend as a paying lodger in the front part of the house for a one year period. The house performed really well.

The house has been transformed with design, colour, materials, spaces, arrangement, layout, landscape and use of the exterior areas. It has sustainable and heritage values running through every decision and every small change. We automated a number of functions relating to the engineering services and installations. Energy use and generation is monitored by an app, and many of the spaces have lighting and ventilation electronically controlled.

We worked out a land sub-division, subject to the limitations of a smaller block size and having a single bedroom dwelling. These restrictions triggered the construction of a small house. Small in Australia has a particularly mild meaning, not shared in Europe, nor the UK. Still, being (relatively) small, gave us the opportunity to provide more amenity, and concentrate our efforts on achieving something very different.

We didn’t have a well-defined budget, but loosely held views about how much it might cost to build it, based on unsubstantiated rumours. We exceeded our loosely defined budgets, both in money and in hours of dedication. Our energy went to:

  • Obsessively sustainable outcomes
  • Re-use of materials
  • Automation and audio-visual systems
  • Creativity on the design

What are the main ideas? Only one way to find out. Book the next ECA talk coming up in May.