Green houses

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WIL­SON

SUS­TAIN­ABIL­ITY and in­ge­nu­ity go hand in hand for those be­hind the homes that will be open to the pub­lic this year for Sus­tain­able House Day this Sun­day. Nes­tled on a wal­nut farm in the tran­quil bush sur­rounds of Gap­sted is one such home - Cortes Kiln - owned by lo­cal res­i­dent Ron­aldo Cortes. The home is in high de­mand on Airbnb, and Ron­aldo said the back­bone of the home is a historic, cen­tury old brick tobacco kiln, in­deli­bly tied to the his­tory of the area. In the ren­o­va­tion, which was de­signed by Whis­per­ing Smith Ar­chi­tects, the orig­i­nal fi­bro shack that was at­tached to the kiln was stripped back, and its tim­ber frame was clad in a translu­cent skin as well as re­cy­cled tim­ber. The over­all aim was a so­lar pas­sive de­sign, which in­cludes in­su­lated liv­ing and sleep­ing ar­eas, an in­ter­nal green court­yard, ther­mo­dy­namic hot wa­ter sys­tem, so­lar pan­els, and ground level gut­ters to re­duce fire risk. Ron­aldo, who lives nearby, said he worked along­side the ar­chi­tect to cre­ate the home’s min­i­mal, Scan­di­na­vian de­sign and added that dur­ing the build­ing process, it was im­por­tant to him to use lo­cal trades­peo­ple and source ma­te­ri­als as much as pos­si­ble from lo­cal busi­nesses. The garden is also filled with na­tive and wa­ter wise plants, with com­post­ing and or­ganic el­e­ments. Ron­aldo said that he also plans to even­tu­ally live in the home him­self and added that it was de­signed for min­i­mal liv­ing.

Just a short drive away, in Yackan­dan­dah, is Fabian and Robyn Bur­der’s Snail House, which was de­signed and built by Fabian, who runs Quan­tech De­sign in Wan­garatta. The house is so named be­cause its shape and de­sign re­sem­bles the shell of a snail, and Fabian said he spent a year in the plan­ning stages, and the home was built over a nine month pe­riod. “It’s in­cred­i­bly ef­fi­cient,” he said of the home, not­ing that while he was de­sign­ing the home, he em­braced the engi­neer­ing chal­lenge of de­sign­ing a straw­bale home that was also con­tem­po­rary in de­sign. “We were de­ter­mined that it would be a straw­bale house with a lit­tle bit of class. “It is de­signed to be en­ergy ef­fi­cient and make full use of pas­sive so­lar and of nat­u­ral light. “The win­dows are dou­ble glazed and there is gen­er­ous in­su­la­tion to com­ple­ment the straw bales. “The power sys­tem is off grid so­lar with gen­er­a­tor backup. “It is a very com­fort­able house to live in and its ef­fi­ciency has sur­prised us.” Fabian said that an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly de­sign is im­por­tant to him. “Sus­tain­abil­ity, ef­fi­ciency and en­vi­ron­men­tal friend­li­ness is just com­mon sense,” he said. “This house is built with plenty of in­su­la­tion, fac­ing, the right way, plenty of light, and the re­sult is a very ef­fi­cient house which is de­light­ful to live in. “The house is very com­fort­able in sum­mer with no air con­di­tion­ing, and in win­ter the whole house is cosy. “It has lots of light and the ren­der and wood­work gives it a nice or­ganic feel. “Apart from the house, liv­ing out of town in Yackan­dan­dah is just won­der­ful. “We both grew up on farms, and it is great to re­turn to that life.” Fabian said he and wife Robyn are also de­vel­op­ing a veg­etable garden to com­ple­ment the home’s sus­tain­able de­sign, and are ex­cited to wel­come visi­tors for Sus­tain­able House Day. Also in­volved in Sus­tain­able House Day are Fay and Char­lie Robin­son from Beech­worth’s Fat Goose Farm, who are show­ing their sus­tain­able garden to Sus­tain­able House Day visi­tors. The pair are able to meet 90 per cent of their food needs with their garden, and Fay said their ef­fi­cient way of liv­ing can be seen as go­ing “back to the fu­ture”, har­ness­ing the self­suf­fi­ciency knowl­edge of gen­er­a­tions past. “We love talk­ing to people about ab­so­lutely any­thing they want to know,” she said.

PHOTO: Ben Hosk­ing.

◆ PAST MEETS FU­TURE: Ron­aldo Cortes at Cortes Kiln in Gap­sted.

PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

◆ IN­GE­NU­ITY: Fabian Bur­der with im­ages of The Snail House, his home in Yackan­dan­dah that he de­signed and built him­self.

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