Tesla’s affordable and simple energy storage

Tesla Motors have turned their lithium battery expertise to domestic and commercial energy storage systems.

The domestic scale system is called the Tesla Powerwall, and it comes in two variants—a 7 kWh “daily cycling” unit designed for load shifting on a daily basis and a 10 kWh “weekly cycling” unit for grid power backup.

Both units look the same and include battery bank, liquid thermal control system and charge control system all housed in a stylish wall-mounted outdoor-rated cabinet measuring 1300 x 860 x 180 mm and weighing around 100 kg. The operating temperature range is -20°C to 43°C.

Battery output voltage ranges between 350 and 450 volts, so they will be compatible with the majority of grid-interactive inverters already on the market. The rated output power is 2 kW continuous and 3.3 kW peak, with a 92% round-trip DC efficiency.

The Powerwall units are also stackable, so if you need more storage capacity of maximum power capacity you just link two or more together. They are single phase and three phase utility grid compatible and come with a 10 year warranty, with an optional ten year extension.

RRP: Australian pricing is TBA. The Powerwall is expected to become available here later this year or early next. Current US pricing is $3,500 for the 10 kWh unit and $3,000 for the 7kWh model. For more information see www.teslamotors.com/powerwall

Light up Timor Leste tour information night

In 2013 the ATA partnered with Timor Adventures to offer the Light up Timor Leste tours. Come along to the Light Up Atauro & Baguia Information Night to find out about the tours planned for this year.

6:30pm-8pm, Monday 18th of May
ATA Office, Level 2, 39 Little Collins St Melbourne VIC 3000

This year the following two tours are planned:

Light Up Atauro, 13 July – 21 July

Light Up Baguia, 25 September – 3 October

Get inspired, ask questions and sign up to join one of the amazing Timor Adventure tours taking you into the heart of Timor, engaging directly with the community and creating a positive impact whilst exploring the rich history of Timor Leste.

On a Light up Timor Leste tour your donations purchase solar lighting systems for a school, community initiative or village homes. You will part of the journey, escorting the ATA and CNEFP (an East Timorese training institution) to witness the installation of the systems and transformation of the village.

Come along and hear about the work the ATA has conducted with Timorese communities since 2003, providing clean, renewable lighting and electricity to more than 1000 homes, community centres, orphanages, schools and hospitals in remote rural villages.

For more information
For Timor Adventures tour details and itineraries go to:
Contact Shirley or Dave: carlos@timoradventures.com.au

Alternative Technology Association International Projects Group

Speed Date a Sustainability Expert Perth and Melbourne’s west

Perth’s leading green home designers, architects and sustainability experts will provide free advice to the public at Speed Date a Sustainability Expert at the Coogee Beach Surf Lifesaving Club on May 27.

Speed Date a Sustainability Expert will allow people who are renovating or building to discuss their ideas and plans in 20-minute “dates” with experts and explore the best environmental options for their home.

The event is held by the not-for-profit Alternative Technology Association (ATA) with sponsorship from the City of Cockburn to encourage home sustainability.

Speed Date a Sustainability Expert will include experts on:

• Solar power
• Green roofs, walls and facades
• Energy efficiency
• Sustainable gardens
• Solar hot water
• Building life cycle design.

After successful events on the east coast and Adelaide since 2010, this is the first time Speed Date a Sustainability Expert will be held in Perth!

Speed Date a Sustainable Expert, Perth

When: Wednesday, May 27, 5.30pm-8.30pm
Where: Coogee Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, 20 Poore Grove, Coogee WA
Cost: Free! Bookings are essential.
Register: http://sdse.ata.org.au/sdse_event/perth/

Speed Date a Sustainable Expert, Moonee Valley and Wyndham

Speed Date a Sustainable Expert is also heading to Melbourne’s western suburbs for the first time!

These two events are available to residents of the cities of Wyndham, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay only.

Speed Date a Sustainable Expert, Moonee Ponds

When: Wednesday, June 10, 5.30pm-8.30pm
Where: Moonee Valley Civic Centre, 9 Kellaway Ave, Moonee Ponds
Cost: Free! Bookings are essential.
Register: http://sdse.ata.org.au/sdse_event/moonee-valley/

Speed Date a Sustainable Expert, Werribee

When: Wednesday, June 27, 5.30pm-8.30pm
Where: Wyndham Civic Centre Functions Area, 45 Princes Highway, Werribee

Cost: Free! Bookings are essential.
Register: http://sdse.ata.org.au/sdse_event/wyndham/

We’re also heading to Brisbane late June. Keep an eye on ebulletins for more info.

Speed Date a Sustainable Expert, Brisbane
When: Saturday, June 20, 10.30am – 3.30pm
Where: The Marquee, Brisbane Showgrounds, O’Connell Terrace, Bowen Hills QLD
Cost: Free! Bookings are essential.

Modular and prefab homes around the world

From high-end, glossy affairs to inventive and economical buildings, here are a few fine examples of sustainable modular and prefab homes from around the world.

Containers for Hope

Incorporating shipping containers or scrap metal to reduce carbon footprints and spending may never occur to most first home builders.

BenjaminGarciaSaxe_Containers_of_Hope 400px

But for Gabriela Calvo and Marco Peralta, two 40-foot shipping containers were the best chance for their affordable dream build on a picturesque property 20 minutes outside of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Contrasting with the unconventional and austere building materials used, architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe says he aimed to “create a feeling of comfort and home”.

The airy two-bedroom-home takes advantage of an architecturally-designed scrap metal roof. Multiple windows on each side of the raised skillion roof provide strong cross ventilation, which according to Benjamin is “surprisingly sufficient enough to never have to turn the air-conditioning on”.

“[The house] shows that there are viable, low cost, passive alternatives of temperature control to adapt to a very intense tropical climate.”

He says the ambitious project of only 100 square metres shows how scrap metals can be thoughtfully repurposed. He advocates for the wide use of shipping containers in the region to help alleviate homelessness and housing unaffordability.

“Already this proposal has begun to spark a great deal of interest and could become one alternative to solve the issue of disposing of disregarded shipping containers in developing countries, as well as beginning to solve the large gap which first time buyers encounter when purchasing a home.”

Sealed for comfort

Designed by Stuart Duncan for north Scotland’s cool oceanic climate, the single storey modular house has been built to Passivhaus u-values for year-round low-energy comfort.

School Masters external 800px School Masters internal 800px

Built under factory controlled conditions off-site, this modular house was transported to its resting place as three fully formed units, before the pitched roof was added and the walls finished in limestone render and timber cladding.

This all-electric home is powered by a 5.5Kw solar PV array, and with a bevy of energy-efficiency features makes for low-carbon living. Its super-insulated airtight structure, triple-glazed windows and doors, mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, and a centrally controlled biomass pellet stove keep internal spaces toasty.

The entrance has a living wall planter and folding doors which lead to a double-height atrium with remote-controlled skylight windows, and floor to ceiling windows for abundant natural light. Three sets of south-facing sliding doors and a west-facing patio door open out onto a paved patio area from the generous L-shaped open-plan living space. The kitchen is fitted with recycled glass worktops, and integrated low-energy appliances.

A range of smart home technologies allow remote control access to power sockets, external lighting, the thermostat and energy monitor, pellet stove and the solar system for finely tuned efficiency.

noem eco-house 3.0

Fusing a space age look with bio-climatic technology, the Eco-house 3.0 provides a striking modern foil to its natural surroundings of the Serra Espadà National Park in Spain.

spain mod 800px

Image: Meritxell Arjalaguer

From conception to completion in less than ten weeks, the project has been digitised to increase the economic and environmental sustainability, currently gauging an energy consumption of 15 kWh/m2 per year.

Structurally, the Eco-house 3.0 is comprised of two prefab larch timber-clad modules. Each piece was laser cut to reduce errors and curtail resource wastage.

The modern drawcard of the 96 square metre house is the comprehensive use of digital smarts to reduce energy consumption while increasing comfort and liveability.

Nearby meteorological databases have been harnessed to reduce energy wastage. Heating and air conditioning adapts to suit the external weather, while irrigation systems work autonomously to water plants based on soil moisture and rain forecasts. The owners can also follow the energy production of solar panels, household energy consumption and find out how much water is in solar hot water tanks on their smart phones.

Even mobile GPS technology is integrated to estimate time of arrival to heat the home accordingly. The Eco-house 3.0 a modern dwelling to suit the green and technologically-versed occupant.

High-end modular

A collaborative venture between French designer Philippe Starck and Riko Group has engineered a new path towards technologically sustainable high-end living.

starck main 400px

The Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes project (P.A.T.H.) aims to merge timeless aesthetics with low-carbon modular technology for fast and highly-controlled construction.

Philippe’s own P.A.T.H. home features triple glazed windows, 36 DuelSun panels and a Pramac wind turbine which functions regardless of wind direction. All wood structures and fibres used are FSC accredited.

With the importance of durability and longevity in mind, Philippe notes that “above all, P.A.T.H. houses provide owners with the freedom to choose”.

“In 34 floor plans, I wanted to provide all families with the possibility of building their dream house, while remaining loyal to their initial expectations,” he said.



Twelve of the best modular and prefab creations

In our most recent update in issue 42, we look at the latest developments in prefab & modular in 2018, and profile 16 stand-out companies offering what can be called ‘prefabricated’, ‘factory’ or ‘off-site’ construction services.

Related articles

Container with style

Curvaceous modular home, prefabricated for easy delivery

Design triumph: Prefab, modular & off-grid 

Green granny flats and studios: 10 of the best

Modular and prefab homes around the world

Australia has been relatively slow to embrace the premade dwelling, but in its latest guise, prefab and modular systems are seen by many as at least part of the solution to a more sustainable built environment.

A growing number of designers are offering prefab alternatives in an effort to meet the demand for affordable and hassle-free housing. Here, we look at the stylish array of offerings on home soil.

1. Home in a box

home in a box

Established in 2014 by Sydney architect Matthew Dynon, MODE Homes takes off-site fabrication one step further; when you order one of their ‘bespoke modular’ homes, pretty much the entire house arrives ready onsite – folded up. MODE offers modules that can be “configured, connected, rotated and stacked in order to respond to different site constraints, solar orientations and accommodation requirements,” explains Matthew. Image: David Curzon.


2. Made to order

made to order

Melbourne-based modular design and build company Habitech Systems, uses SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) sandwiched between plantation-grown Australian plywood and magnesium oxide (MgO) board cladding. MgO board is made from 50 per cent recycled timber and sawdust, its magnesium oxide content providing strength, durability and fire, water, UV and mildew resistance. Image: Ryan King.


3. Adaptable designs


Fairweather’s modular homes are architecturally-designed to suit any site or budget. The homes’ sustainability features such as well-considered orientation, the addition of thermal mass, well-ventilated interiors and renewable energy options add to their efficiency and affordability. Homeowners are guided through the home’s design and development which uses a unique modular construction system. A kit of parts is manufactured and delivered to the site and erected, with technical advice available throughout construction. Image: Fairweather Homes.


4. Carbon+ living

carbon living

ArchiBlox’s compact one bedroom passive solar modular design made headlines earlier this year when it set up shop as Australia’s first carbon-positive modular house in City Square, Melbourne, for the Sustainable Living Festival. With a permanent address at Cape Paterson on Victoria’s south coast, floor-to-ceiling double-glazed sliding doors allow full winter sun access, with openings blocked off with sliding edible garden walls in the summer. Image: Tom Ross.


5. Earthed comfort

earthed comfort

With an enviable position on a coastal hill, this Inverloch home is composed of three factory-produced modules with prefab lightweight framing that were craned into place complete with finishings and appliances. The modules, by Prebuilt, include open-plan kitchen and dining, two living areas and a large country-style walk-through pantry that links to the thermally massive garage, allowing coolth and ventilation for longer food storage. Image: Hilary Bradford.


6. 8 star living

8 star living

This functional 8 star prefab modular design by Ecoliv has a suite of sustainable features. There’s a vertical garden at the entry, a surrounding dry-tolerant garden fed with an energy-efficient greywater recycling system, a 2kW grid-connected solar system, solar hot water system, electric car charging point and high-efficiency appliances internally. The modules are designed to work within standard building measurements to avoid any off-cuts. Image: Warren Reed.


7. Shelter box

shelter box

Ecoshelta’s lightweight aluminium-framed and clad ‘pod’ design was created as a low-impact alternative for remote and ecologically-sensitive areas, says designer Stephen Sainsbury. The freestanding frame and the composite wall panel, roof and flooring system can be packed up for relocation within a few hours and assembled by hand, without the need for machinery. Image: Tim Dubb and courtesy of Hellman Enterprises.


8. Beach shack

beach shack

This unassuming 80-square-metre boxed beach house by Cox Architecture puts a contemporary spin on the old fibro shack. Reclaimed Australian hardwood timber sliding doors on both sides open up the space to the surrounding bushland and allow cross ventilation through the living area. The north-facing space houses a central stand-alone box for a bathroom and storage, which also serves as a divider between sleeping and living. Image: Ben Wrigley.


9. Cliff hanger

cliff hanger

Tektum’s house 2.0 offered a solution to a steep block perched high above Bilgola’s sandstone cliff beaches north of Sydney. The prefab flat-packed structure was unfolded onsite, avoiding disruption to the soil. Its double-skin thermally-broken wall system helps moderate temperatures, while the inverted ceilings and high-level windows direct and vent hot air with automated windows. Image: Henry Obtmeier.


10. Eco escape

eco escape

This beautiful rural property is entirely off-grid, creating its own energy, collecting its own water and disposing of its own waste. The factory-built modules comprising structural insulated panels between structural steel framing were transported to site almost complete, including all finishings and cabinetry. Wide openings and high-level windows maximise natural ventilation and heat purging in summer. Image: Chris Daile.


11. Convertible house

convertible house

This lightweight barrel vault shaped home in the fire-ravaged region of Kinglake has a focus on sustainability and resilience. Its heavily insulated corrugated iron curved structure allows easy water capture and storage, and remote-operable arched awnings used for shade, insulation, and to capture and funnel cool breezes for cross-ventilation. Image: Brett Holmberg.



12. Future tense

pidcock prefab

Caroline Pidcock, leading sustainable architect and Sanctuary expert, has been working with her builder-uncle David on a new approach to building construction since 2005.

&U’s building system comprises glass fibre reinforced polymers, commonly used in the boat building and aeronautical industries for their lightweight, high-strength durability in extreme conditions, and low maintenance needs.


Related articles

Green granny flats and studios: 10 of the best

Modular and prefab homes around the world

Prefab extension: Running on the sun

Modular secondary dwelling: Copper House



Repurposing building materials

Repurposing building materials makes sense. Up to one third of all waste in landfill is generated by the building industry, a substantial proportion of which could be redirected into new building projects, saving precious resources and money. Reusing building products in this way can reduce the embodied energy of a new house by up to 95 per cent. The gains speak for themselves.

However, reuse-building requires a mind shift for all involved – designers, tradespeople and owners. Conventional architecture typically develops a composition of forms and then seeks materials to achieve this. As architect Alejandro Bahamon puts it in REMATERIAL From waste to architecture, “In the case of architecture created from recycled materials…the process is inverted: the design team must first identify the sources of materials suitable for reutilization and then start to define the details”.

Sourcing secondhand materials and finding understanding builders and tradespeople takes time. Staging building work can allow necessary pauses to gather components, prepare them and design them in, unlike a traditional build timeline. Flexibility is also important; you can never be sure you will find quite enough of what you want, or you may find something you’d never considered, and want to modify the design to accommodate it. Owner-building can allow this flexibility, with owners able to use their own skills (or pure sweat) to save money, engaging experts when needed.

Despite the challenges, working with salvaged materials can add history, texture and character, and often results in great satisfaction. Reusing materials can also save money, but even when it doesn’t (and often it won’t), the benefits gained through reduced landfill and new skills can pay off generously.

Sanctuary 31 on its way


This issue considers alternative dwelling options for reduced cost and environmental impact, including: tiny homes, modular and prefab housing and flexible shared living. It also features some great examples of reuse-building with tips for working with salvaged materials, a look at the Living Building Challenge and Design Workshop on a budget.

There’s also an architect’s own home in Perth, an exemplar of contemporary sustainability, and a charming renovation of a historic cottage relocated from Melbourne to regional Victoria.

And as always we feature a wide range of green products and design tips for your home.

Have a read, and let us know your thoughts. Perhaps there’s something else you would you like to see in Sanctuary? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or email.

Buy your copy here.