Secret gardens & a green roof

Issue 26 Words: Sasha Shtargot Photography: Nick Stephenson
Cremorne, Victoria
  • This courtyard divides the front of the house from the rear west-facing living and kitchen spaces, bringing natural light and outdoor elements inside. Minimal LED spot and strip lights artificially light the interior throughout the home.
  • A north-facing window brings light into the kitchen in winter to help heat the thermal mass of the polished concrete slab. Architect Justin designed the kitchen space around Phil and Julia’s old Ikea kitchen, which they reinstalled.
  • The home is full of plants such as these. Others such as hops are planted above the east-facing back door climb up to shade a double-glazed window at the western end of the house in summer.
  • Double-glazed bifold doors open the kitchen and living spaces out onto a small deck and garden. A rainwater tank sits below the deep sand pit. This will be turned into a plunge pool once Phil and Julia’s children are older. The courtyard receives runoff from the roof.

Hidden outdoor spaces and a generous amount of light lie behind the weatherboard façade of this inner-city Melbourne home.

When you walk through his home, it doesn’t take long for Phil Edwards to take you up to the roof. It’s not that he doesn’t love the rest of the house – it’s just that the roof is a little bit special.

An earth-covered green roof on an otherwise typical-looking single-fronted weatherboard cottage in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Cremorne is a pleasant surprise. It’s an innovation of which Phil is immensely proud: “I’m quite emotional about it,” he says.

A former landscape architect now innovation manager at Melbourne Water, Phil and his wife Julia researched the green roof concept thoroughly when they decided to renovate the house in 2011. Structural steel forms the backbone of the roof, holding a plastic drainage cell covered in geo-fabric. The top level of soil and a specially chosen dry garden of native plants from central Victoria soak up almost all the rain that falls on the house.

The plants breathe out a good deal of moisture, creating an evaporative cooling effect. A heat exchange unit pipes cool air from the roof into the house while exhausting stale internal air out though vents. Excess water is carried down through an internal pipe to a rear rain garden.

The couple take in the views from the roof when they have dinner up there once a week. They have even installed steel frames for hammocks. Phil believes the $60,000 spent on the roof was worth it. “The value lies in all its intangible benefits,” he says, looking out over the neighbourhood.

The aim of the overall renovation was to create a home that minimised energy and water consumption and made maximum use of the available land, just 126 square metres. When the couple bought the house in 2006, it comprised a single storey of two bedrooms coming off a narrow corridor, with a small lean-to kitchen and living area at the back and a rear garden.

The back of the house was substantially rebuilt and a second storey added. At ground level, the hall now leads into an open plan living and kitchen area with a light-filled courtyard at one side used as a kids’ play area. Bifold doors that enclose the courtyard open to allow cooling breezes through the entire living area. Sunlight from north and west-facing windows falls onto the thermal mass of the concrete slab floor, which is warmed with in-slab hydronic heating in winter. The kitchen cabinetry was saved from the original kitchen and has been reused.

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Cover of Issue 26
You can read more about Secret gardens & a green roof in Issue 26 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Design: MC2 Architects

Builder: Owner builder

Cost: $510 000

Size: House 130 square metres, garden 75 square metres

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