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Sustainability reimagined

Meticulously constructed from a diverse range of reclaimed materials, this eclectic, highly liveable home demonstrates its builder’s love of design and holistic approach to sustainability.

Photo: Anne Stroud

Author

Gabrielle Chariton

Envisioned and nurtured into life by HIA member and owner of Megaflora Group, Daniel Fitzpatrick, Crace House is a vibrant celebration of architecture, the beauty of the built form, and the diverse provenance of the materials it is constructed from. As the builder’s own home, it was something of a boundaryless project, an opportunity to exercise his creativity, explore new ideas and experiment with different elements of sustainability.  

Megaflora is a rebrand of Daniel’s first award-winning Canberra-based construction company, Architekt Grune Hauser, which he established in 2014 after attaining his construction management qualifications. Coming from a graphic design background, and with a Bachelor of Architecture now among his credentials, Daniel’s overarching philosophy is to resolve the disconnect that sometimes exists between architecture and construction. 

‘Having the design background has enabled me to create a business that operates with a full understanding of where architects are coming from and what they’re trying to achieve,’ he says. Prioritising the artistic merits of craftsmanship and skill over quick profits, the Megaflora team (comprising Daniel and three carpenters) work intensively on just one or two highly detailed, bespoke projects per year. 

 
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The kitchen features a showstopping sink, folded and welded from a single sheet of brass.
Photo: Anne Stroud
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‘The overarching theme was eclectic, it wasn’t that the style of home had to be art deco or mid-century modern; it was a mash-up of a lot of different things, but it did need to feel unified.’
Photo: Ashley St George

This business ethos is articulated in every element of the Crace House. Located on a steep block in one of Canberra’s northern suburbs, nothing within its walls is ‘ordinary’ or off-the-shelf. The two-storey house was carefully designed for maximum thermal comfort and energy efficiency – something Daniel says is fundamental to every Megaflora project. 

‘The key for us is always orientation because that’s the first sustainable principle that is going to net the biggest benefits,’ he says. ‘At Crace, the long boundary is facing north so that was an easy one to work with. Calculating glazing and areas for maximum thermal gain in winter but summer shading was a key driver of a lot of the design outcomes around the build. 

‘And then we used wall assemblies and construction methods that gave us a really great airtight envelope.’ 

Within this framework, the aesthetics of the house took shape almost organically, with Daniel drawing inspiration from the storied beauty of the materials it is constructed from – items salvaged from residential and commercial demolition sites, and leftovers from past projects. The hardwood structural timbers, for example, were rescued from the old sheep saleyards at Goulburn. 

‘They’ve got paint on then, they’ve got lot numbers, smooth edges where sheep have rubbed against them for 150 years,’ Daniel says. Reclaimed steel beams used throughout have a rustic patina, with remnants of old brackets still attached to them. ‘These materials are sustainable and beautiful, they tell a story. I didn’t want to hide them away; I also didn’t want to hide the language of how the building was built.’

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The overarching philosophy of Megaflora Group's Daniel Fitzpatrick is to resolve the disconnect that sometimes exists between architecture and construction.
Photo: Anne Stroud
megaflora
Timber takes a starring role in almost every room.
Photo: Ashley St George
megaflora
‘There is sustainability in using simple materials and treating them with a lot of craftsmanship.’
Photo: Ashley St George
megaflora
The kitchen features a striking green marble island and 3D cube-patterned parquetry flooring.
Photo: Anne Stroud

To this end, the structural ‘bones’ of the house were left largely exposed – an approach that presented a challenge in itself, with absolute precision, care and consistency required in terms of finish. 

‘It adds a layer of complexity when you’re thinking that nothing can be hidden – how do you run services through?’ Daniel explains. Inner workings such as plumbing and electricals that are generally concealed were reinterpreted as decorative elements. ‘You can see where the lighting points come from, the plumbing’s all exposed and it’s all done in copper; even the welding of the copper was on show so it had to be done perfectly.’ 

The interiors are a visual feast – a kaleidoscope of colour, pattern and texture. Old materials have been used in adventurous new ways, with every detail, from brass soap dishes to glazed doors, designed and crafted by Daniel and the Megaflora team. Finishes include recycled brick, polished concrete, Venetian plaster and vibrantly coloured handmade tiles. 

The kitchen features green marble and a showstopping sink, folded and welded from a single sheet of brass. One of the bathroom ceilings is lined with pegboard; in another, an old concrete laundry tub has been given a new lease on life. 

‘The overarching theme was eclectic, it wasn’t that the style of home had to be art deco or mid-century modern; it was a mash-up of a lot of different things, but it did need to feel unified,’ Daniel says. This was achieved, he adds, ‘by giving features room to breathe…and the generous use of timber which probably helped it solidify into something more cohesive’. 

 

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The interiors are a kaleidoscope of colour and pattern, including handmade tiles in this bathroom.
Photo: Ashley St George
megaflora
Builder Daniel Fitzpatrick believes beautiful design and flawless craftsmanship are also integral elements of sustainability – his Crace House a realisation of this holistic philosophy.
Photo: Ashley St George

Timber takes a starring role in almost every room, but sometimes it’s rustic; sometimes industrial; sometimes intricate and refined. The boards that were used for the first floor ceiling/second storey floor – salvaged from a local squash court – were reimagined into an arresting herringbone pattern. And on the kitchen floor, the Megaflora team painstakingly created a 3D cube-patterned parquetry from individually cut pieces of ash, brushbox and grey ironbark – all reclaimed from demolished Canberra homes. 

A true ‘labour of love’, Daniel says building Crace House consumed much of his spare time over the course of six years and he and his family finally moved in towards the end of 2019. Already, they are reaping the rewards of its well-considered, eco-sensitive design, with the interiors staying naturally toasty right though the chilly Canberra winter. 

‘The sunshine coming in the windows on the north side heats up the slab, the thermal mass, but then the insulation value of the walls helps retain the heat overnight.’

However, the home’s sustainability value extends well past our established notions of energy efficiency and materials use. Daniel believes that beautiful design and flawless craftsmanship are also integral elements of sustainability, and Crace House is a realisation of this holistic philosophy. 

‘When a building has architectural value, when it’s been crafted with a lot of love and attention, it’s going to have a longer lifespan,’ he says. ‘There is sustainability in using simple materials and treating them with a lot of craftsmanship; and in building beautiful houses that will be around for a long time as design icons.’

 
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Crace House at a glance

Builder/designer: Daniel Fitzpatrick, Megaflora Group

Location: Canberra

Materials: 

  • Reclaimed hardwood timber: ash, ironbark and brushbox
  • Reclaimed steel beams
  • Recycled Canberra red bricks
  • Burnished concrete floors
  • Venetian plaster
  • Insulation: Knauf KoolWool Proclimba Wall Wraps
  • Windows: AWS double-glazed aluminium
  • Kitchen: brass sink and cabinetry, Vittoria Emmanuelle green marble
  • Tapware: Sussex
  • Timber machining: Thors Hammer
  • Handmade tiles sourced from Turkey, Spain, USA via Rivoland Tiles.
 

Photo: Anne Stroud

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