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.
◆ PAST MEETS FUTURE: Ronaldo Cortes at Cortes Kiln in Gapsted.
◆ INGENUITY: Fabian Burder with images of The Snail House, his home in Yackandandah that he designed and built himself.