HINDSIGHT: OFF THE GRID
A SELF-SUFFICIENT HOME IN BUSHLAND PROVIDES A REFRESHING AND REJUVENATING ESCAPE FROM THE DAILY GRIND
A self-sufficient home in the bush provides a refreshing escape from the daily grind
The concept of living “off the grid” has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, and if this house near Wyong, NSW, is anything to go by, there’ll be a few more converts soon. With this impressive project, Karl White and Lynette Loo at Team-B Architecture and Design were given the brief of creating a “permanent luxury camping” experience. Much like a tent, the house would blend seamlessly with its natural environment via roller shutters and sliding doors, while providing refuge from the elements and withstanding the threat of bushfire. Oh, and it would have all the modern conveniences of a suburban home, including a fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities and bathrooms.
Finding the right site took some time, but eventually they found it – a property in Cedar Brush Creek, a 90-minute drive from Sydney, which offered much-desired privacy and bush views to die for. An even lengthier search yielded the project’s builder/site foreman, an experienced and enthusiastic local, who was willing to live on-site for the duration of the build. “He was a real off-grid devotee,” says Lynette. “He shared our vision and worked tirelessly to ensure the other trades delivered to his high standards.”
Photovoltaic panels and rainwater tanks were installed to provide electricity and water, but there’s no mobile phone or TV reception – and that’s the best part, says Karl. “You have no choice but to switch off and engage with the natural surrounds, which is really grounding and refreshing.”
1 A TRICKY LOCATION COMES WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES
This first lesson was learnt early on, when Karl and Lynette began the tender process. Not only was it hard to find builders willing to come out and quote on the job, the few who did wanted to charge a premium due to the remote location and unconventional design.
The process took a long time and to no avail, so with all avenues exhausted, the owners eventually decided to projectmanage the job as owner-builders.
2 BUSHFIRE COMPLIANCE WILL BUMP UP YOUR COSTS
Building in a bushfire zone means you are often limited to fire-retardent materials and may have to include extra safety measures in your design. Additional requirements such as Gyprock Fyrchek plasterboard, plywood, fire shutters and screens added a significant percentage to the build cost, not to mention upgrades to the doors and windows that were required to comply with strict bushfire regulations.
3 CHECK COUNCIL RULES BEFORE PUTTING IN A WATER TANK
There are certain regulations and restrictions that apply if you’re planning on using rain water. You may also need to submit a building or development application so it’s advisable to seek guidance from your local council. You also need to make sure you will have enough water for your needs. “Because the property is 100 per cent reliant on rainwater, it’s always exciting when it rains, and you know you’re topping up your own supply for drinking, washing and bathing,” Karl says.
4 OFF-GRID LIVING CAN TAKE UP A LOT OF SPACE
A solar photovoltaic electricityconversion system was a necessity out in this remote location, and Karl and Lynette put careful thought into how they would incorporate the equipment within the space without it becoming an eyesore. In the end, the sizeable panels, control systems and batteries were placed in a clearing behind the property. “The batteries work beautifully, and it’s surprising how much power they can generate, even on a cloudy day,” Lynette says.
5 NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
Despite the lack of local contractors and tradesmen working within the area, this eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise. The companies on hand were primarily agriculturally based, and proved to be a real asset to the project. As Lynette explains, “There is a level of innovation that comes with having to make do with the materials and services available on a remote building site, and many of the trades had a remarkably broad skill set, which they enjoyed showcasing.”
6 BUILDING FROM SCRATCH COMES WITH ITS ADVANTAGES
“Being able to build from scratch was a great opportunity, as it meant we were able to integrate a lot of systems in a discreet manner,” Karl says. “For example, dealing with the bushfire regulations and providing access for fire trucks without impacting on the trees.” Not being locked into an existing structure meant the team could simply move the house around on the plans to allow for an adequate turning circle. Water tanks were also installed under a storage workshop.
Step outside A minimally landscaped courtyard separates the living areas from the private bedroom space, and acts as a suntrap in winter. Recessed cabinetry in the living space houses the owners’ large collection of records.
One vision Architects Karl and Lynette worked with the owners to achieve their self-sufficent dream home with all the mod cons.
Feel the heat An Agra Knot wool rug from Armadillo & Co softens the burnished concrete flooring, which also features in-floor heating installed by Comfort Heat Australia. A Hans Wegner Shell chair adds a touch of luxury to the space.
Tree change Floor-to-ceiling windows in the ensuite provide beautiful sweeping views of the surrounding bushland. A Caroma Cube basin sits atop the blackbutt timber vanity and works beautifully with the Methven Kiri wall-mounted basin set. The plant...
Shelf life A simple timber shelf is used to display a Kubus By Lassen candleholder from Fred International and Devil’s Ivy plant in a black pot from Garden Life, with a framed artwork by Sefton Segedin adorning the wall.