Well & Good
When you design your home with wellness in mind you’ll reap the rewards, as this Queensland family has discovered, writes Sarah Pickette.
Building principles of healthy living into our homes.
What price do you put on your health? It’s an interesting question and one that many of us don’t even stop to consider when we’re in the thick of decisions about building or renovating our homes. It seems so much more important to get tradies booked in and budgets under control, but creating a home that’s going to support good health might just turn out to be the best investment you’ll ever make.
That’s the view Lee-Anne and Lee Stevens take both professionally and personally. The couple own a Queensland business called Healthy Abode – a consultancy and project-management service for anyone needing guidance on how to create a simple, natural and healthy home. Recently, they ‘walked the talk’ by building a new home that’s a paragon for healthy living.
“From the first meeting with our architect, Shaun Lockyer, we expressed to him that our top priority was creating a home based on healthy living principles,” says Lee-Anne. “We wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing and liveable as well. Those things needn’t be mutually exclusive.”
Shaun delivered, with a compact yet generous-feeling single-storey design for the family’s block of land near Brisbane. From there, Lee and Lee-Anne used their expertise (they have project-managed, renovated or built 150 properties) to select the best materials and finishes.
The home is sited on 2.4ha with no mains power or water and has been tested by Building Biology Queensland to ensure it has little exposure to electromagnetic fields or radiation. Outside, the home’s ironbark weatherboards have been oiled (rather than chemically treated) for protection and are teamed with recycled bricks.
Viridian low-e glass windows and doors, R6 Earthwool ceiling insulation and a core-filled western wall ensure the home’s reliance on energy is minimal. Four rainwater tanks meet the needs of the family of four, with water delivered via BPA-free pipes and a filtration system.
Inside, solid hardwoods were chosen for the trusses, rafters, joinery and floorboards, and non-toxic E0 MDF and low-VOC paints used throughout. The home is powered by a 10kW photovoltaic system with its inverter
placed in a shed so the electromagnetic fields it creates are kept at a safe distance. In fact, the house is entirely hard-wired, so there’s no WiFi or the electromagnetic fields associated with it, plus power circuits to the bedrooms are isolated so they can be switched off while the family sleeps.
“We’ve also chosen to furnish and decorate our home with locally made pieces in natural materials that work well with the home’s non-toxic finishes. I love that they bring a certain energy and joy to our home,” says Lee-Anne.
For the couple, one of the most health-giving aspects of their home is its connection to its surroundings. “Living close to nature has been so good for us. Our four-year-old spends her days collecting sticks and bugs while sporting the biggest smile. The peace and quiet is almost meditative; I’m not sure we could ever move back to the city.”
As sustainability becomes more mainstream, healthy living could be a new frontier on the home-building and
renovating front, says Lee-Anne. Across the world, there’s been huge investment in materials and technologies that support wellness. In September, US-based company Delos launched its Darwin Home Wellness Intelligence platform in Australia. It monitors the quality of your drinking water and indoor air, and ensures your home’s lights replicate natural light to support your circadian rhythms and sleep patterns.
Australia’s architects are setting the benchmark on how to factor health into homes. Architect Anthony Clarke, of Melbourne firm BLOXAS, designed an exceptional house for a family with an autistic child; they wanted their home to allow their son to develop a sense of independence yet feel nurtured and safe. Anthony has also designed an impressive sound-absorbing extension to a Melbourne home for an owner who suffers chronic sleep issues.
With life expectancy lengthening and climate change creating its own challenges, it’s arguably more important than ever to focus on the health impact of your surrounds. “We make informed decisions around what we eat, how we clean, what we use on our skin,” says Lee-Anne, “so the flow-on is to ask, ‘Could my home be making me sick?’” Healthy Abode; 0433 501 345 or healthyabode.com.au.
Shaun Lockyer Architects; lockyerarchitects.com.au.
Natural light and fresh air flood into Lee and Lee-Anne’s bedroom. “We wanted to create a safe haven to sleep in, because that’s when your body does its rejuvenating,” says Lee-Anne. The timber bed frame is by d-Bodhi. It has a non-toxic latex mattress and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified linen from Elkie & Ark.
“The sense of connection to the landscape and nature is so good for our wellbeing,” says Lee-Anne. “In the summer months we keep the whole house open to capture the breezes and freshen our indoor air.” The exterior of the house features untreated ironbark weatherboards set beneath a Zincalume roof topped with a 10kW photovoltaic system, which powers the entire off-the-grid property.
Four-year-old Poppy tends the organic kitchen garden. The family keeps chickens for eggs and bees for honey.“Our goal is to create awareness around the lifestyle and wellbeing benefits of creating a healthy home,” says Lee-Anne. She says the secret to successfully building a healthy home is to use an understanding builder and tradespeople. “Everything is so much easier when they share your vision.”