High achiever

Issue 30 Words: Emily Braham Photography: Nick Stephenson
Seaholme, VIC
  • Windows to north and south of rooms channel prevailing summer breezes through living spaces for natural cooling and effective night purging.
  • The north-facing productive garden uses recycled materials, native grasses for the lawns and indigenous and edible plants for ground covers, including 300 strawberry plants.
  • Jeremy recommends all clients reserve some budget for energy efficient appliances.
  • Wide openings north and south of rooms channel prevailing summer breezes through living spaces for natural cooling.

The latest project by Positive Footprints is the first in a series of off-the-plan 9 Star homes and an attempt to bring sustainability to the mainstream.

Jeremy Spencer and Chi Lu of Positive Footprints have found an approach that works – meticulous planning, building, and then living in their projects to experience a home’s performance first hand. Their latest, in Melbourne’s bayside suburb of Seaholme, where they live with their two primary school-aged children and Jeremy’s ageing parents, represents the culmination of over 10 years’ practice in sustainable building and design.

The project is one of four 9 Star designs, which aim to make the commercial case for energy-efficient, affordable homes (this one is the most expensive in the series at $495,000, the cheapest $350,000). “We wanted to make it easier for people to have a beautifully designed sustainable home which doesn’t cost a million dollars,” says Chi.

They have called this smart system automated home Solar Sollew – a playful take on Dr Seuss’s mythical city Solla Sollew – ‘where they never have troubles, at least, very few’. The four designs allow for various orientations, with window location, shape and structure of the building varying to optimise passive solar design. All designs integrate indoor and outdoor spaces and focus on enabling sustainable living. “One of the reasons we went down this path (to design and build sustainable homes) was the realisation that often people try to live sustainably but their house actually stops them,” Jeremy says.

The home’s low carbon output (it was carbon positive by 2.3 tonnes after the first four months) is aided by its highly energy-efficient appliances, for which Jeremy recommends all his clients reserve some budget. “From an environmental point of view it’s a more effective way to spend your money,” he says. “It’s not worth going for that extra star for all the expense if the carbon you emit in the house and your whole lifestyle negates that.”

But perhaps the stand-out feature of the home is its integrated intelligence. The Building Control Management System (BCMS) monitors wind speed and temperatures; a generous awning above the north-facing rear windows closes to prevent damage if the wind is too strong, and clerestory windows open if it is cooler outside and too warm inside (above 24 degrees). The system also regulates the greywater irrigation system and the earth tube cooling, an experiment in dealing with extreme heat, bringing in cool air from the stable 17 to 18 degree summer earth when the house reaches 24 and it is hotter outside.

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Cover of Issue 30
You can read more about High achiever in Issue 30 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Positive Footprints


New build


Seaholme, VIC


$495,000 (incl. prof. fees)


House 220 sqm (incl. garage),

Deck & balcony 50 sqm, Land 630 sqm


9 Stars

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