Recycled Red Brick Wraps Two Affordable Rental Homes in Australia

In a Melbourne neighborhood, two infill residences combat urban sprawl and raise the bar for sustainable rental housing.
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In their quest to create affordable and eco-friendly housing in Australia, Breathe Architecture has sensitively inserted a pair of rental homes into a suburban lot in Melbourne that sat unused for years.

The owners, who were among the firm’s first clients, trusted that Breathe would devote special attention to the project’s sustainability. The architects surpassed this expectation by designing the homes to score a minimum of eight stars under Australia’s Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS).

Located behind two Californian bungalows, Bardolph Gardens sits on a long-underutilized, subdivided lot. The most challenging aspect of the project was hooking the homes up to new service connections.

"At Breathe, we always prioritize ethics over aesthetics," explain the architects. "We think very carefully about each material we specify for a project, and Bardolph Gardens is no exception."

Named after its street, Bardolph Gardens comprises a subdivided block in Glen Iris. The two contemporary single-story dwellings take cues from the surrounding architectural context—particularly the prominence of brick.

"The form and pitch of the roof planes responds to those of nearby houses, homogenizing the project with the neighborhood’s character," note the architects.

Wrapped in locally sourced recycled brickwork, the two homes feature a pared-back and minimalist material palette selected for durability and low maintenance. Polished concrete floors, timber veneer joinery, and white plasterboard walls make up the light-filled interiors, and every room opens up to outdoor greenery.

Walls of glass and a vaulted ceiling make this open-plan living area feel bright and airy. The room is furnished with Adapt Lounge and Duet barstools, an Agra rug, and a Hoshi armchair by Tom Skeehan Studio.

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Large north-facing glazing connects the open-plan living areas to an outdoor deck. External steel awnings help minimize unwanted heat gain in the summer.

Instead of designing two identical rental houses, the architects modified the floor plans of each three-bedroom home in accordance with passive solar design principles. The buildings share a constant connection to the outdoors, and each includes a two-car garage, a separated study, two and a half baths, and an open-plan living area that opens to a deck with a landscaped garden.

In the one Bardolph Gardens unit, every bedroom has access to a private courtyard. The other unit features a shared courtyard space.

The small outdoor courtyards are surrounded by hit-and-miss brick screens to provide privacy while allowing light and air to flow through.

In addition to taking advantage of natural light and ventilation, the dwellings are designed to maximize thermal performance throughout their building envelopes, which include thermally broken double glazing. A photovoltaic array and a heat pump system supply all of the homes’ energy needs.

A peek inside a light-filled bathroom with cabinetry made of Australian blackbutt timber veneer. "Given that they’re rentals, durability and minimal maintenance were a big priority," say the architects.

"With passive design in mind, the design incorporates plenty of thermal mass, and it prioritizes winter solar heat gain, sun shading, and cross ventilation," add the architects. "Rainwater is collected and stored on-site and plumbed back into toilets and garden taps for reuse."

"The living space is bright, generous, and light-filled," say the architects of their favorite room in the project. "It is rewarding to see how the sun angles correspond to the considered roof angles even during construction—they successfully allow the sun to penetrate deep into the living room plan during winter and provide shade in the summer months."

The Bardolph Gardens rental houses share a driveway, but they have individual entrances.

Bardolph Gardens floor plan

Related Reading:

10 Modern Structures That Use Brick in Interesting Ways

An Australian Architect's Simple Brick House With Impressive Green Roof

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Breathe Architecture / @breathearchitecture 

Builder/ General Contractor: Greg Scott Constructions

Structural Engineer: Vistek

Landscape Design Company: Tim Nicholas

Arborist: John Patrick

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