Once onsite, the first thing Blue Eco Homes completed was the installation of a 120,000-litre water tank to ensure a stable water supply throughout construction since there were no service connections available. With the area also in drought, water was a significant consideration. While the house would be connected to, and run off, the rainwater tank, a new water bore was also installed, along with an exposed roof water collection system – designed this way to prompt conversations about water efficiency. The installation of an aerated wastewater system would also enable black and grey water to be treated and reused for landscaping.
Although not overly large, the striking Upside Down Akubra House includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open-plan living area, with a study nook, as well as a generous storage room. Internally, the use of concrete in the floors (polished) and walls (off-form) provide thermal mass to retain heat in winter. Aesthetically, its resulting coolness is offset by the warmth of the Blackbutt and pine joinery along the ceilings, in the kitchen and on several walls in the bedrooms. Timber also frames the large double-glazed doors and windows that capture the panoramic bushland vista, with the sliding doors opening out from the kitchen/dining onto a bluestone patio and barbeque space – all conveniently sheltered by the roof’s extensive overhang.
The layout optimises solar gain to not only supply plenty of natural light into the home but to control internal temperatures. To achieve this, Joe says the floor plan, window to wall ratio and roof all respond to the natural climatic conditions of the site: ‘Extensive micro-climate analysis and weather data help to form the positioning and orientation of the dwelling, window openings and window proportions’.
The home’s internal temperature is also controlled with an in screed hydronic heating and cooling system as well as a heat recovery ventilation system (which circulates in fresh air and exhausts stale indoor air). Thanks to the 8kW solar PV system and 74kW battery storage, the home’s energy needs are met sustainably and cost-effectively, while a diesel generator is available for backup.