In 2006, Natural Lifestyle Homes won HIA GreenSmart Building of the Year for a sustainable demonstration home in Seventeen Mile Rocks, a riverside suburb located 10km south-west of Brisbane’s CBD. The house, nestled into the surrounding bushland and constructed from insulated wall systems and timber, was built with the specific aim of promoting and generating awareness for eco-sensitive housing.
‘There was a lot of experimental work going on in that house,’ says Natural Lifestyle Homes Director Matt Carrol, who took over the business from its original owners, Leanne and Jim McNulty, in 2008. ‘The McNultys were very keen on sustainability and they built it as a bit of a test house, to see how far they could take the concepts.’
Dubbed ‘Sustainable House Brisbane’, Matt – a HIA member for more than 15 years – says it remained open to the public for a few years before being sold in 2009. The house utilised solar passive design principles, implemented specifically to meet the requirements of Brisbane’s subtropical climate, and was fitted with a range of add-ons designed to minimise its ongoing environmental footprint: solar electricity and hot water, two concealed 5000-litre water tanks, ventilation system and grey water garden irrigation.
Fast-forward 14 years. While the environment and climate change still dominate the public agenda, a range of factors have left their mark on the industry. For Matt, the most significant of these have been economic pressures borne from the GFC (and now COVID-19), and the changing attitudes and priorities of homeowners. ‘Green building’ remains an important consideration, but it’s not always seen as a defining factor. Rather, it’s viewed as an integral component of any well-planned project.
‘After all, when you build green, the home feels better, flows better and is all around more comfortable for those living in it,’ Matt says. ‘We haven’t lost our thoughts on sustainability…we’ve forged some alliances with good architects who are naturally going to design with sustainability in mind.’