renovation Queenslander exterior

Rundown-to-resplendent

This renovated Queenslander offers the best of eco-conscious design and smart home technology, a proud accomplishment for its Brisbane-based property developers who are determinedly making strides in luxurious eco-friendly housing.

Scott Burrows Photography

Author

Laura Valic

James and Paul McElhenny from Yeppoon in Central Queensland are fourth-generation builders, brothers and now business partners. 

The construction industry seemed a natural fit for the pair after growing up onsite with their father and two older siblings in the family business. However, it wasn’t until they worked together on a large project for Hutchison Builders in Rockhampton that they considered a more permanent arrangement. 

‘We had completed a couple of spec homes for ourselves but working on a Hutchie’s site together was sort of a test run,’ James laughs. ‘[In the end] we delivered a successful project under budget and on time. We really gelled together and worked to each other’s weaknesses and strengths.’

Young, bold and with ambition in spades, the brothers decided to relocate south and start ARP Building Group in 2016, with the goal of tapping into the high-end property market of Brisbane’s in-demand suburbs. James had previously lived in the city while studying urban development and construction management at Queensland University of Technology, and it was here they teamed up with fellow Yeppoon(ian) and friend, Harley Weston, who came on as a third business partner with Solaire Properties

‘The three of us have a vision to complete sustainable, luxury smart homes,’ James says, adding that their strong passion for environmental change led to the start of their development business, Solaire Properties. 

renovation Queenslander exterior
The extensive renovation of a dilapidated 1920s Queenslander has transformed it into a high-end, carbon-neutral family home. 
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography
renovation grey kitchen dining room
A barely-there grey hue is a feature of the kitchen cabinetry, complemented by porcelain benchtops and splashback. 
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography
ARP Building renovation Queenslander living room
A considered interior palette of mostly neutral tones connect the five bedrooms, five bathrooms and multiple living areas over two storeys.
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography
ARP Building renovation Queenslander parquetry floor
Vertical timber panelling, stained or painted, offer texture to the walls, while parquetry Oak timber floors adds sophistication.
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography

For their recent project ‘La Fleur’, an extensive renovation of a dilapidated 1920s Queenslander in Auchenflower, they honed in on the details to produce a stunning carbon-minimised home. Working with Joe Adsett Architects, ARP Building Group and Solaire Properties adhered to three fundamentals for the restoration: a multigenerational future-proof design; maximising energy efficiency; and creating a spacious, functional and practical open-plan interior for family living.

The home’s original architecture was typical of its era: low-pitched roofs, timber cladding and sheltered verandas. However, with properties built prior to 1946 strict character controls usually mean a unique set of challenges. The enormous house had to be picked up and moved for extensive excavation and groundworks, before they could turn their attention to the laborious task of restoring the floors, walls and roof.

‘It takes time and patience,’ James says. ‘It would’ve been easier to just knockdown and rebuild…it took us six weeks alone just to get out of the ground.’ 

But ensuring quality of workmanship is a point of pride for ARP Building Group and Solaire Properties: ‘I’m a strong believer of full-time site supervision, [especially] with such a challenging build. You might spend more money with supervision up front, but it takes less time overall and it increases your quality.’

Of the stunning result, James is quick to offer credit to the designer: ‘The architect has done the home justice. It pays homage to the original Queenslanders up this way.’

La Fleur rises 12 metres from street level and cuts an impressive figure with its white and grey weatherboard-clad exterior accented by Western Cedar timber. The home’s elongated frontage features an abundance of floor-to-ceiling low-E glass, allowing for plenty of natural light and the home to be opened up to Brisbane’s balmy climate. Its facade of vertical white battens encasing the upper storey veranda neatly tie in with the fencing and entry way.

‘It’s a beautiful home to be in,’ James says, ‘you step inside and you immediately feel comfortable and relaxed. Everything is very soft, almost as though it has this nurturing feeling about it.’ 

before renovation photo

The home’s original architecture was typical of its era: low-pitched roofs, timber cladding and sheltered verandas...but with properties built prior to 1946 strict character controls usually mean a unique set of challenges. 

renovation Queenslander outdoor area
To enhance the build’s eco-credentials, the team spent hours researching alternative and ethical building products. 
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography
grey tiled bathroom
The standout brass tapware in the kitchen and bathrooms were handmade in Melbourne by eco-conscious manufacturer Sussex Taps.
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography

Much of this can be attributed to a considered interior palette – mostly neutral tones that connect the five bedrooms, five bathrooms and multiple living areas over two storeys.

Vertical timber panelling, stained or painted, offer texture to the walls, while parquetry Oak timber floors adds sophistication. This vertical detailing, in a barely-there grey hue, is a feature of the kitchen cabinetry, complemented by porcelain benchtops and splashback. For the bedrooms and wet rooms, timber inflections combined with stunning GreenTag-certified Italian tiles – which have at least 40 per cent recycled content – perfect the elegant interior.

But the home’s relaxed feel also comes down to passive solar design. By maximising a north-facing orientation La Fleur takes advantage of passive heat gain and loss, and natural cross-ventilation, to provide thermal comfort year-round and to eliminate reliance on mechanical heating and cooling. 

Energy is also generated from a 12.5kW rooftop solar panel array, conveniently stored in dual Tesla Powerwall batteries for use overnight. ‘We’re watching the consumption and storage rates and can see the home is operating at net zero which is great,’ James says, adding that smart home automation helps the occupants further control how much power they use. ‘Solaire created its own GoGreen system with Control4. Pressing a button at the front door or on your phone turns everything on or off except for your essential circuits, so the house might only use around 0.2kW per hour when you’re not there.’

To enhance the build’s eco-credentials, the team spent hours researching alternative and ethical building products. Internally, all paints are no-VOC, the structural and finishing timbers are FSC-certified, and the standout brass tapware in the kitchen and bathrooms were handmade in Melbourne by Sussex Taps.

‘Sussex Taps have a high water-efficiency rating, but the business also remelts the brass off-cuts and swarf and reuses it in their own tapware, rather than shipping the excess off elsewhere internationally.’ 

timber and grey bedroom
ARP Building Group and Solaire Properties’ point of difference is to push the boundaries with what is possible in sustainable building.
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography
timber parquetry floor and stairs
Internally, all paints are no-VOC, the structural and finishing timbers are FSC-certified.
Photo: Scott Burrows Photography

ARP Building Group and Solaire Properties’ point of difference is ‘to push the boundaries with what is possible in sustainable building,’ and one way they like to make a splash is with innovation. This is clearly evidenced in the home’s one-of-a-kind chemical-free solar-powered freshwater pool – that is even safe enough to drink from. 

‘It uses a photocatalytic oxidation method, which is the same technology used to sterilise sewerage water for drinking water, but [on a smaller scale],’ James explains. ‘It’s exciting to be the first in Australia to make use of this technology for a freshwater pool. The owners love it for their kids.’

La Fleur is part of a two-stage development on a block with dual frontage. A second property, also designed by Joe Adsett Architects and due for completion next year, is set to become Australia’s largest, certified Passive House. For James and the team, this is another opportunity to set the benchmark in luxurious eco-friendly design.

‘We’re all focused on doing things differently in the construction industry and leading by example,’ he says.

ARP Building renovation Queenslander outdoor pool and backyard

La Fleur House at a glance

Builder: ARP Building Group
Developer: Solaire Properties
Architect: Joe Adsett Architects
Location: Brisbane

Materials:

  • Roofing: Colorbond, Zincalume
  • External cladding: James Hardie, Scyon Linea
  • External timber cladding: Western Cedar
  • Driveway: Boral ‘Eclipse’ Exposed Aggregate
  • Windows: Viridian ComfortPlus Neutral59
  • 12.5kW solar PV and Dual Tesla Powerwall 2, supplied by CSR Bradford
  • Internal flooring: T&G Australia pre-finished Oak; Ace Stone and Tiles
  • Countertops: Laminam
  • Tapware: Sussex
  • Control4 home automation system.

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