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.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Scott Bur­rows

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.”

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