For Leanne and Scott Thompson, living sustainably doesn’t have to mean a life of sacrifice. In fact, the couple prove this with their recently renovated home—known as Melbourne Vernacular—that doubles as an educational showroom for others to learn how green living can be beautiful, comfortable, and financially sound.
Teaming up with Australian-based Altereco Design and a host of other local partners, the couple transformed an old worker’s cottage in Yarraville that dates back 100 years into a modern, eco-friendly powerhouse.
While the pair was mindful to preserve and reuse as much of the original structure as possible, they also eagerly adopted innovative technologies to cut energy use and carbon emissions.
"Our ambition for the mass adoption of environmentally friendly housing is to prove that a sustainable home is unparalleled in every aspect: style, performance, and technology," explains the couple, who also have created a green consulting business called Melbourne Vernacular, named after the eponymous home.
"As we work to make this a reality, we believe the discourse around sustainability will change its focus from efficiency, saving, and reduction to one of abundance, beauty, and convenience without cost to the planet."
Meticulously restored and expanded, the 1,076-square-foot house follows passive design and thermal mass principles laid out by Altereco Design.
The dwelling has a 4.5kW rooftop solar array that produces a net 2.5MW of solar energy per year—enough to power an average two-bedroom home for six months. In addition to energy-saving measures and highly efficient insulation, the fully electric structure can save over $1,000 a year in utilities compared to similar sized gas-powered homes.
When the couple removed the decayed parts of the original structure, they were determined to salvage and reuse as much as they could. The original red brick from the backyard was recycled into an internal feature wall that acts as thermal mass, while original Bluestone foundation and paving were reused as front paving.
Recycling also appears in the integration of new materials, such as the ECO by Consentino kitchen countertops, which have been constructed from 75 percent recycled glass, mirror, porcelain, and earthenware.
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A Tivok heat pump supplies hot water and hydronic heating, while all of the heating and cooling technologies—such as the Daikin 5kW reverse-cycle AC unit and Haiku L Series smart ceilings fans—can be monitored, programmed, and automated.
All materials and finishes were selected not only for sustainability, but also for their effect on health and wellness. For instance, eColour Zero VOC paints were used internally and externally, while water-based sealants were used in all concrete and timber floor coverings.
The extension for the kitchen and dining room supports an insulating green roof, which is covered in native "water-wise" plants that are also used in the garden beds.
More than just a home, Melbourne Vernacular is a platform for education and outreach. The community is often invited inside for tours and to learn more about the home design, materials, and smart technology. Upcoming open house events for Melbourne Vernacular can be seen on their website.
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