HIND­SIGHT: OFF THE GRID

A SELF-SUF­FI­CIENT HOME IN BUSH­LAND PRO­VIDES A RE­FRESH­ING AND RE­JU­VE­NAT­ING ES­CAPE FROM THE DAILY GRIND

Real Living (Australia) - - CONTENTS - THE HOME­OWN­ERS EN­GAGED LYNETTE LOO AND KARL WHITE OF TEAM-B AR­CHI­TEC­TURE AND DE­SIGN TO ACHIEVE THEIR OFF-THE-GRID DREAM. TEAM-B.COM.AU @TEAM.B.AR­CHI­TEC­TURE MEET THE AR­CHI­TECTS

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.

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