It all began, conceptually speaking, in 2012. After many years of communicating and demonstrating how to make homes more sustainable in the media, it occurred to Josh that he could do more than just retrofit and repair older homes. Perhaps he could start from scratch and build a home that not only performed well, but also provided performance monitoring publicly. There was also another, much simpler motivation – it was to be their family’s first home.
‘We had always rented, so this was something my wife and I were interested in doing,’ he says ‘We had always worked on older homes, looking at draft management, insulation and shade deficit, now it was super exciting to do it properly from the word go, returning to 101 to get the design right. If built right, homes can perform much, much better.’
There was also another reason for the need to ‘show not just tell’. Josh and his team were motivated to test some misconceptions in the housing industry – particularly that high-performance energy-efficient homes were boutique, expensive and complicatedly out of reach.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Working with volume builder and HIA members Highbury Homes, that had never built a 10-star home before, and on a tight budget, the long-term presenter of ABC’s Gardening Australia set about to design and build ‘Josh’s House’ with products that were easily attainable.
First, there was the subject of orientation. Josh and design partner, Griff Morris of HIA member company Solar Dwellings, wanted to capture warming winter light with rooms zoned for optimum thermal performance. It also needed to ‘feel’ comfortable along with being energy- and water-wise. This meant being generous with space, with ceilings slightly higher and doorways slightly wider, while windows were carefully positioned to allow for plenty of natural light and garden views.
By responding to the block as a whole, they intentionally built a modest home, predictably making the most of the garden space. This included incorporating home-grown produce, using fruit yielding vegetation to also create shade and thermal control, room for composting, and every egg-loving homeowner’s feathered friends – chickens.
‘It was also important for us to create a garden you wanted to spend time in, seamlessly transitioning inside to out, with room for outdoor entertaining in comfort, children’s play zones, cooking facilities and even private spaces by the master bedroom,’ Josh says.