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Perfect principles

Perfect principles

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Designed to solar passive principles, this colourful and contemporary Brisbane home provides a long-term sustainable lifestyle for its owner.

Laura Valic


Builder: Crest Building Group

Award: 2022 HIA Australian GreenSmart Sustainable Home

Location: Brisbane

Nudgee House in north Brisbane achieved an impressive 9.3-energy star rating. It’s the result of a creative pairing between the owner and HIA member Crest Building Group, a boutique building firm which is operated by builder Eric Prior and wife Felicity, along with three of their sons. 

Housing talks to Felicity about the client’s vision, the build process and their learnings from undertaking the construction of this award-winning home.

Q: Who lives here? 

Loretta, a retiree, with her chickens.

Q: What’s the style of this home? 

Modern, sustainable custom build, with a semi-detached studio.

Q: What was the client’s brief?

Due to asbestos in the original dwelling, this project required a complete knockdown and rebuild. The owner wanted a sustainable, multigenerational home. She was interested in showcasing an environmentally friendly building on a reasonable budget so others can see how achievable it is. 

The home was to be built so that if she needs care, her family could move into the main house and she could live in the studio apartment. This is situated on the other side of a connecting courtyard. The client had completed a permaculture course and wanted to put the ideas she had learnt about sustainable living into practice.

 Nudgee House, built by Crest Building Group 
The walkway connects to the inviting back deck

Q: What was the build process like?

The project came to us with house plans already drawn up, but they only achieved 4.5 stars. So, we investigated the best way to modify the home to improve its energy efficiency. We refined the design, chose alternative materials and products, and looked at building practices that would help raise the energy rating. 

The project created a suburban sanctuary, from focusing on solar passive design to providing water and food security through the development of a permaculture environment. 

Q: What GreenSmart principles did you incorporate?

We looked at the best orientation of the home on the block, shading and added adjustable louvres along the west-facing wall. To suit the sub-tropical climate and coastal location, the home maximises crossflow ventilation with a central garden atrium. This acts as a funnel, drawing the breezes into the home from every direction. 

With raked ceilings and high glass windows that allows trapped air to escape, as well as insulation to at least R5.4 values, the cooling systems needed within the home are quite minimal. You don’t need double-glazed windows in Queensland, so the client opted for low-E glazing. 

We also added a heat retention hot-water system and a self-sufficient solar PV system with provision for connection to battery storage and electric vehicle charging at a future time.

Every material used was chosen for its sustainability
A central garden atrium adds vibrancy

Q: What materials and products did you choose?

Every material used in the home was carefully chosen for its sustainability, embodied energy value and longevity. The owner chose steel frames, pre-finished CSR Barestone and Wethertex timber features for the exterior. Internally, the home features burnished concrete floors for thermal mass, Austral pre-finished i-Hoop pine ply ceilings and cabinets, and custom sintered stone benchtops to provide a low-VOC, allergy-free environment.

When we demolished the existing home, we retained what materials we could. For example, we took out the floor joists and re-used them as fence posts. There was a low brick fence around the property which we took down and repurposed as fill for the raised slab and to create wicking beds.

We also used recycled 100-year-old re-milled hardwood for decking boards. Where we could, we used recycled materials or locally sourced products with a focus on high sustainability value.

Q: Do you have a favourite room or feature?

I love the courtyard between the two buildings; that area is beautiful. We added stainless-steel wire from the ground to the fascia on the end of the veranda and on the semi-enclosed carport so the owner can grow creepers. The effect is really lovely.

Q: How long did the project take?

It took nine months to build and was completed in February 2021. The client is very happy with the home. Her gardens are growing beautifully and she’s glad not to receive any power bills!

The kitchen utilises pine ply ceilings and cabinets
'I love the courtyard between the two buildings'

Q: What did you learn from this project?

This is the first home that we really focused on the sustainable side of building, but we’ve learnt so much just by this one project. All the research we’ve had to do – it has opened our eyes to a lot of new ideas and to grow our business in this direction.

What struck me is the importance of multi-generational living. Once upon a time you would think of multi-generational living as a main house with a granny flat. In the renovation market there is a lot of scope for bringing in sustainable principles into a build and thinking about how to turn homes into places that can accommodate and connect people, especially in cities where housing is unaffordable for many young people. It starts with being deliberate with how you design homes.

Q: Lastly, as a HIA member, what’s the most valuable part of your membership?

We decided to join HIA from around 2010 because we felt the support was better [compared to other builder associations] and the contracts were better! We also get our insurances from HIA.

We have been encouraged by the support from HIA and have had occasion to call and get some help on things. Everybody has been helpful, and it’s felt like we have someone in our corner. As a community and network, HIA is great for builders.

Published on 9 December 2022

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