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Eco-Friendly House Floats Above a Creek

The completed rebuild of a unique, eco-friendly and highly energy efficient (equivalent 10-star rating) house in Melbourne, featuring Stegbar windows and doors, has resulted in an extraordinary sustainable home in an exceptional setting that provided many challenges to overcome – including a running creek prone to flooding.

Located on Jeffery Street – a National Heritage street in Blackburn known as one of the most unique native environments in residential Melbourne, the project consisted of building a new four-bedroom home with three bathrooms and three living areas, including an alfresco entertaining space.

The original house was a 1950s flat roof home with big plate glass windows, and, according to designer, Peter Earnshaw of Earnshaw & Associates, it was very modern for its time. “The person who designed it had really taken into account the bush setting and the creek,” says Peter. “It was quite a modern house for its time and it was originally thought that we might try to renovate, but, unfortunately, it hadn’t been built well and had been quite neglected over the years, so it was ready for demolition.”

The design brief stipulated two key areas – to take advantage of the unique surroundings with north-east aspect and views to create an open plan home connected to the landscape, and for the home to have good green credentials, while sitting lightly into its environment. While developing the design, Peter embraced the surroundings and used Stegbar’s Siteline composite windows and doors, which were fundamental to the project.

“This a unique but difficult site that deserved special consideration when it came to the materials used,” says Peter. “In order to enhance and picture frame the unique bush setting from inside, we wanted the beauty of timber windows but, due to the steep terrain on the banks of a creek, we needed the benefits, simplicity and low maintenance of aluminium. Low maintenance is important on this site because getting access will be very difficult with the creek running around one side of the house. Add to this the Green Credentials that were also high on the clients brief and Stegbar’s Siteline windows ticked all the boxes.”

Siteline windows and doors are a unique design combining the beauty and warmth of a timber window on the inside with the durability and practicality of aluminium on the outside. The high thermal properties of Siteline contributed to the high energy rating in this home.  

In addition, all windows are fully double-glazed, WERs rated and perform well at retaining heat in winter and keeping the house cool in summer. 

Taking advantage of the bushland setting and views, the master bedroom suite and living areas all feature large picture windows, creating an uninterrupted connection to the surroundings. Two corner windows are placed together in the lounge that looks onto the tree-lined creek, while sliding doors open up to the entertainment area and glide right back into the cavity for full access.

The choice of Siteline strong sealing awning windows throughout the rest of the home is ideal for the cold winters that are typical of Victoria, and the north-facing windows use grey toned glass to reduce the heat that enters in summer.

Also contributing to the high energy rating is the property’s low water use, landscaping with native plants and the use of recycled timber and stone elements from the original home. A smart energy system uses moisture evaporating from the creek for cooling and distributes heat from the fireplace to warm the home.

The windows are a key feature of the home, not only playing a huge part in the sustainability of the house, but also creating the visual aspect of being one with nature. The fact that the home is in such a beautiful spot means the windows will actually seem like a picture frame, complementing not only the home’s design, but also the environment behind it.

The home was built by award-winning builder, Anton Engelmayer from Calm Living Homes, an expert in building green and sustainable houses. “When you’re in certain parts of the house, the elements of the creek will become like a painting,” he says. “To enhance this, we used big windows that look out over the creek and the trees – you’ll see the birds flying around and the ducks on the water, making it look like a big, living picture.”

One of the key features of this new house is its relationship with the surrounding environment and the way the design responded to the creek is especially dramatic. “It’s a modern contemporary style and it’s been designed to blend in with the native gardens, tying the building into the landscape and feeling like you’ve become a part of the natural environment,” says Anton. “Incorporating natural materials like stone and keeping with neutral colours not only ensures the longevity of the design so that it doesn’t date, but also helps the house blend into the environment.”

Another important consideration was the theme of living inside/outside and when you step inside the front door and walk into the house, the natural materials and the large window gives the feeling of being part of the outdoors. “The whole environmental message is delivered automatically,” says Anton.

A unique challenge to this project was the fact that the house is built over a creek that constantly floods. According to Anton, everything that was a hindrance became an asset. “When the creek floods, the water comes right up underneath the house, so it appears to be floating on its own little island,” he says.

“The clients wanted a really special home and, through the design, we wanted to make sure that it took complete advantage of its setting by drawing the outside in and then the ability to enjoy the architecture of the house when you are outside,” says Peter. The end result is a stunning, green, sustainable house in a very special location with an exceptionally unique setting.

The home won the Single House – New Dwelling category in the City of Whitehorse 2017 Built Environment Awards.

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