Modular and prefab conference broadens its reach

Thousands of homeowners across Australia and New Zealand build or renovate each year, and the Autumn 2018 issue of Sanctuary will investigate how far prefab and modular homes have come.

Supporting the prefab and modular theme, Sanctuary is again the media partner for the 3rd Modular Construction and Pre-Fabrication ANZ 2018 conference. Building on the success of last year’s event, this time the conference will be held in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney:
When: 28 February – 2 March 2018
Where: International Convention Centre, Sydney

Melbourne:
When: 5 – 7 March 2018
Where: The Langham, Melbourne

Info and registration: http://claridenglobal.com/conference/modconandprefab-anz2018/

Themed “Innovation. Sustainability. Efficiency. Quality.”, the 3rd edition of the conference will focus on best practices and new innovative techniques and technologies that will strengthen and enhance the uptake of modular construction methodology in the Australian and New Zealand construction industry.

Copies of Sanctuary’s Prefab + Modular special will be available from our table at the Melbourne event, together with previous editions plus those of its sibling green building and technology publication, Renew: technology for a sustainable future.

Film: One Big Home

Off Massachusetts on the US Atlantic coast, the island of Martha’s Vineyard has long been a destination for summer holidaymakers drawn to its beautiful beaches and unspoilt woods as well as its slow pace of life, community spirit and successful resistance to the shopping mall development that is common elsewhere in the country. However, in recent years the island has seen a worrying trend away from the traditional shingled summer shack to often frankly enormous trophy homes, built by wealthy seasonal residents and sitting unoccupied – but still heated – for much of the year.

Twelve years in the making, this documentary by local carpenter-turned-filmmaker Thomas Bena exposes the scale of the issue (and, confrontingly, of the houses!). It follows the community as they grapple with a reluctance to interfere with what property owners choose to do on their private land – plus an acknowledgement that the construction jobs are important for the local economy – and a growing feeling that the character of the island they love is being destroyed.

The environmental impact of building and running such huge homes, some as big as 1400 square metres, is something of a secondary concern for the locals; still, the film makes fascinating watching for anyone interested in site-appropriate and socially sensitive home design and the importance of appropriate planning laws. It could serve as a timely warning to many concerned communities in Australia to take action sooner rather than later.

One Big Home: a film by Thomas Bena
BullFrog Films 2017

Individuals, community groups, and educational institutions can purchase the film or rights to show the film to groups through Bullfrog Films.

Summer reads from 2017

microshelter 200pxMicroshelters: 59 creative cabins, tiny houses, tree houses, and other small structures

Derek Diedrickensen, Storey Publishing

Surely Microshelters sets out to inspire the spread of tiny homes and structures around the world. The early chapters feature dozens of homes, tree houses and even playhouses across the United States, where the owners have shoehorned themselves and their limited belongings into cleverly designed tiny dwellings. The practical how-to sections cover topics such as gathering tools, salvaging and budgeting, as well as six handy plans for small homes, cabins and even a wagon. The featured dwellings are a mix of DIY gems built from salvaged materials through to modern minimalist designs, with some of the best design fodder found in the Cabins section where dream homes live in majestic settings. Each structure features full-color photographs and insightful and fun commentary by the author. This is a great resource for the backyard builder, particularly those investigating granny flats or studios.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism - Review 200pxThe Art of Frugal Hedonism: A guide to spending less while enjoying everything more

Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb, Melliodora

This is a book to sit with for long periods and ponder, to dip into the ideas and then reflect on your own life and habits. The Art of Frugal Hedonism disects modern materialistic life down to the bare essentials for living and happiness. Follow the advice within and the obvious outcome is to save money. “Apply the lot, and you’ll wake up one day and realise that you’re happier, wealthier, fitter, and more in lust with life than you’d ever thought possible,” say the authors. The book looks at how simple household sustainability, such as avoiding waste or growing your own veg can be deeply satisfying and positive for a person’s wellbeing. There’s a lot more in this toolkit though, to help shift habits into action for living frugally, ethically and with more joy and freedom. The 50 or so topics include not thinking about money, indulging curiosity, working less and figuring out when you own enough.

positive energy book 200pxPositive energy homes: Creating Passive Houses for better living

Robin Brimblecombe & Kara Rosemeier, CSIRO Publishing

At the Paris conference on climate change in 2015, world leaders agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees. This commitment has led to a shift in thinking about residential buildings, with many jurisdictions, including some in Australia, setting zero-emissions targets for housing by the middle of this century. Positive energy homes: Creating Passive Houses for better living argues for stronger and faster action, and shows readers how to go a step further than zero to create ‘positive energy’ buildings that generate more energy than they need to run. Using the Passive House standard as a basis, the authors map pathways for how consumers can not only reduce emissions and enhance the comfort of their homes, but create buildings that are resilient to power outages and natural disasters. If you are already engaged with the ATA, Beyond Zero Emissions and other organisations that have advocated for better building standards for many moons, you’ll be familiar with the technologies explored in this book. But if you are newly motivated, or seeking additional reasons to act, this book could be for you.

Healthy homes book 200pxHealthy planet, healthy people, healthy home: Create a sustainable home you love

Helen Edwards, Recycled Interiors

Helen Edwards is a prolific writer with an eye for style and sustainability, qualities that make her Recycled Interiors blog a popular one. This self-published book is friendly and positive, and aimed at those who are new to green building. However, it will also provide new recycling ideas, recipes and craft projects for those with a long-standing interest. The book’s strength is in Helen’s ability to uncover residential designs that are original and have rustic flair. Her love of storytelling shines through the interviews with designers, owner-builders, and educators that are peppered through this collection. The photography is captivating, particularly of kitchens and living spaces, and there are lots of tips and tricks for making your home more sensitive to the environment. At Sanctuary, we know how much care is required to create a 100-page publication – at over 230 pages, this one is a tome, and will keep you entertained for months.

city house country house 200pxCity House, Country House: Contemporary New Zealand homes

John Walsh & Patrick Reynolds, Random House

New Zealand has a remarkable variety of climatic zones: humid sub-tropics in the north island to chilly inland alpine areas in the south and everything in between. Perhaps it’s this diversity that is behind the oft-startling residential architecture across the ditch. Or potentially it’s the reflection of ‘place’ in client briefs that is leading to the creation of such beautiful and comfortable homes. Whatever the inspiration, City House, Country House reflects the exciting state of contemporary New Zealand residential architecture. Many of the featured projects are in the creative hotbeds of Auckland, Central Otago, Bay of Islands and Wellington, but there are notable houses from many other locations including Christchurch, which is rebuilding its reputation for innovation. For those with a strong interest in sustainable architecture, this book includes a range of buildings that are experimental in their use of natural materials and clever with light and orientation. Authors John Walsh and Patrick Reynolds are also the team behind the excellent Big House, Small House – we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Food-Forest-Handbook-Review-Copy cover 200pxThe Food Forest Handbook: Design and Manage a Home-Scale Perennial Polyculture Garden

Darrell Frey & Michelle Czolba, New Society Publishers

Don’t be put off if you feel the need to google ‘home-scale perennial polyculture garden’! At its core, The Food Forest Handbook is a permaculture guide to productive gardening, food, biodiversity and community. And its particular focus on the planning, design, establishment and management of perennial plants (those that live more than two years) and polycultures (multiple species in the same space forming interrelationships) makes it a welcome and timely release. Practical knowledge about cultivating perennial polycultures is essential if we are to successfully grow food locally and continue the momentum towards urban agriculture. While the book is structured to step you through the process of creating and tending your own food forest, the bigger picture is never far away. It is fascinating to read about the history of this food system, and to imagine what our cities and communities might become if we blur the boundaries between the natural and built environments. The authors have decades of horticultural experience, and their wisdom will translate seamlessly to the Australian and New Zealand context.

tinkering-cover-print 200pxTinkering: Australians re-invent DIY culture

Katherine Wilson, Monash University Publishing

Sanctuary’s publisher the Alternative Technology Association has long been a hub for do-it-yourself culture; it provides forums for people to share their practical knowledge and find inspiration in the projects of others. But while there are shared values across this community, trying to explain the connections can be challenging – for is there really a group of self-identifying DIYers? Is owner building about more than providing shelter? What about making your own clothes, is that an ordinary activity or a ‘method to resist state and market impositions’? Tinkering is an erudite and witty new book that seeks to define Australia’s unique approach to domestic DIY. Author Katherine Wilson visits the studios and projects of people with a ‘tinkering mindset’, and falls in love with their handcrafted homes. She mounts a compelling argument that tinkering is a growing cultural movement, and its moment is now.

native food harvest 200pxAustralian Native Food Harvest: A guide for the passionate cook and gardener

Julie Weatherhead, Peppermint Ridge Farm

To date, permaculture has said little about the cultivation of Australia’s native food plants and their immense culinary, environmental and health benefits. But this is changing, as gardeners and cooks become curious about these unique food plants and their applications. Julie Weatherhead from Peppermint Ridge Farm in Victoria’s Tynong North is a native food plant specialist and ecologist who has experimented with her own native kitchen garden over two decades. In Australian Native Food Harvest Weatherhead describes 31 native food plants from across the country, and provides tips to support their propagation and harvesting at home. She also includes 60 recipes that show how plants – such as strawberry gum and river mint – can be used in modern cuisine. With an extensive introduction to ‘garden lore’ and tied together with beautiful photography, this is both practical gardening guide and versatile kitchen companion.

Sustainable stays

One of the great things about Sustainable House Day is that you get to see inside an ESD (environmentally sustainable design) home and quiz the owners about what they did, why, and how it’s working out for them. This is particularly useful if you’re considering an eco-renovation or new build, or have a particular interest in a material or technology applied in that home.

But perhaps you’d like to go past the quick look-see, and get a better idea of the experience of living in the house? See what the natural light is like throughout the day, and how the house performs during summer, or winter? If you could experience all these things, how might they translate into your own project?

Expert guidance from ESD architects, designers and consultants can help, but there is another possibility.

How about staying in an eco home? A weekend in a well-designed ESD home is welcome respite from the ubiquitous leaky holiday rental, and an inexpensive – and pleasant – way to research your project.

Feature image and above: If dreaming alone could make it so, we'd be staying in this intriguing residence in the tiny Swiss mountain village of Vals, available for holiday rental via PlansMatter. Dutch architects SeARCH and CMA set out "to completely integrate the villa into the landscape to avoid disturbing the unspoiled nature." Behind the amazing inset facade, four bedrooms, kitchen and a cosy living room are spread over two and a half levels under the hillside. The interior design, furniture and fittings showcase the work of a range of Dutch designers, including Jeroen van Mechelen of Studio JvM whose cardboard vaulting for the downstairs bedroom-library is reminiscent of a cathedral, softening the concrete interior. Images: PlansMatter

Feature image and above: If dreaming alone could make it so, we’d be staying in this intriguing residence in the tiny Swiss mountain village of Vals, available for holiday rental via PlansMatter. Dutch architects SeARCH and CMA set out “to completely integrate the villa into the landscape to avoid disturbing the unspoiled nature.” Behind the amazing inset facade, four bedrooms, kitchen and a cosy living room are spread over two and a half levels under the hillside. The interior design, furniture and fittings showcase the work of a range of Dutch designers, including Jeroen van Mechelen of Studio JvM whose cardboard vaulting for the downstairs bedroom-library is reminiscent of a cathedral, softening the concrete interior. Images: PlansMatter

Putting aside ‘green’ hotels or resorts, which don’t replicate the at-home experience, finding ESD holiday houses is becoming easier. And, of course, it all happens online.

While the biggest accommodation aggregate sites like Airbnb and Stayz don’t allow you to search by eco-friendly terms (yet), they do have sustainable homes listed. Find them via your favourite search engine using terms like “earthhouse holiday house”, “rammed earth holiday house”, “sustainable holiday house”, “eco holiday rental” and so on. You can restrict your search to a specific site by adding “site:airbnb.com.au” to the end of your search term (as an example). Alternatively, there are a growing number of specialist eco and design accommodation websites worth perusing. Some of our favourite sites include:

Green Getaways Australia
Australia’s first eco-accommodation website directory aiming to recognise operators who take environmental sustainability seriously. Listing on the site is by selection only. Properties include: the Yondah Beach House on the Yorke Peninsula (SA), which is fully self-sufficient and registered as a butterfly site; the Trig (Tasmania), a recycled shipping container; Permanent Camping in Mudgee (NSW), a self-sufficient recycled timber mini tower; and the rammed-earth Wompoo Eco Retreat in the Daintree (QLD), air-con free and designed to catch breezes.
www.greengetaways.com.au

The Trig is one of the varied sustainable offerings on the Green Getaways Australia website. On the slopes of Mt Arthur, just outside Launceston in northern Tasmania, the one-bedroom house is built around a recycled shipping container and features local materials and locally-crafted fittings and furnishings. Solar and micro-hydro systems help provide guests' electricity needs. Image: Scott Gelston

The Trig is one of the varied sustainable offerings on the Green Getaways Australia website. On the slopes of Mt Arthur, just outside Launceston in northern Tasmania, the one-bedroom house is built around a recycled shipping container and features local materials and locally-crafted fittings and furnishings. Solar and micro-hydro systems help provide guests’ electricity needs. Image: Scott Gelston

Rammed Earth Builder
This site’s ‘Rammed Earth Holidays’ page has a list of places throughout Australia where you can stay in rammed earth holiday rentals to try before you build. There’s a flash looking rammed earth property at Seal Rocks (NSW) and a rammed earth and timber home in Pemberton (WA).
www.rammedearthbuilder.com.au

Eco Property
This start-up site lists properties for holiday rentals, sale, and lease all around Australia. Holiday listings are few at this stage, but there’s a good level of detailed eco information on each property. Worth keeping an eye on.
www.ecoproperty.com

Unyoked (Tiny Houses)
An essential consideration for sustainable home builders is footprint, and the Tiny House movement champions teeny ones. To be considered ‘tiny’, homes need to be between seven and 35 square metres, generate their own electricity, and be transportable. Getting to experience a well-designed tiny home, if only for a night or two, could help you decide whether radically paring down is for you. At the very least you might pick up some tips you could apply to a standard-sized home. Unyoked offers tiny holiday home rentals set in the wilderness. At the time of print there are only six homes on offer, but they’re planning many more.
www.unyoked.co

New venture Unyoked is giving people the chance to try out the dream of living in a tiny house. This one, nicknamed "Miguel", sits in a secluded bit of bush outside Sydney and is accessed via dirt roads and a 200m walk through the forest. Images: Unyoked

New venture Unyoked is giving people the chance to try out the dream of living in a tiny house. This one, nicknamed “Miguel”, sits in a secluded bit of bush outside Sydney and is accessed via dirt roads and a 200m walk through the forest. Images: Unyoked

More ideas for the architecture buffs
Most of us want to enjoy the benefits of best-practice ESD homes, but we also appreciate elegance and beauty. When the two come together in the hands of experienced and talented architects or designers, that’s worth travelling to see.

Take the Magney house, one of the projects listed on architecture accommodation website, PlansMatter (www.plansmatter.com). This Glenn Murcutt-designed house reflects his approach to sustainability which is to “touch the earth lightly”. The house is located on the NSW South Coast and has won multiple national and international awards. It now operates as an informal not-for-profit, with income spent on maintaining and restoring the house and its 100 acre property. This best-in-class example of passive design and reverse brick veneer principles in action was built before many of us were even in nappies.

Set on a hundred-acre property with views of the sea, the Magney House on the NSW South Coast is a much-awarded example of sound sustainable design in action. You can rent it via PlansMatter; it's also listed on Stayz and Airbnb. Image: Magney family

Set on a hundred-acre property with views of the sea, the Magney House on the NSW South Coast is a much-awarded example of sound sustainable design in action. You can rent it via PlansMatter; it’s also listed on Stayz and Airbnb. Image: Magney family


Tips

To make the most of your stay, consider the following:

  • Know what you want to find out. Select the accommodation that ticks the boxes in terms of what you’re hoping to achieve in your project, then ask the right questions about the home before you put down the deposit.
  • Ask to meet the owners. There’s no replacement for having someone willing to show you around and give you some background upon your arrival. Most of the people who build eco homes care deeply about them and are proud of their environmental initiatives – they’re usually willing to walk you through their properties if they can. This is particularly so for properties listed on sites like Green Getaways.
  • Visit at the right time of year. If you live in a mild climate (like the southern parts of Australia), plan a visit in winter so you can see how the house performs under more challenging conditions. Likewise, for northern Australia, try out well-designed eco “troppo” accommodation when it will really be tested. Ask the home owners when are the best times to see the property in action.

Further reading: If you’re looking for sustainable hotels, hostels and camp grounds, see ReNew issue 126 which provides a comprehensive guide.