Tallowwood Treehouse

Issue 15 Words: Tim Blyth and Angela Crocombe Photography: Janalyn Yanover
Currumbin Valley, QLD
  • The living room's timber floorboards originated as telegraph poles that were re-milled to form 15mm thick Ecolay boards
  • The kitchen cabinets have an FSC timber veneer, stained black with Resene Waterborne Woodsman.
  • Opening the glazed doors onto the upstairs deck creates a large airy space and connection with the landscape.
  • The sensitive ecosystem on the site dictated a slim compact footprint to avoid the need for felling of trees.

Small and smart: this home at the Currumbin ecovillage showcases best practice ESD

“Something small and classy, but cosy,” was the original brief from owner Heike Hamann for this stunning home in the Currumbin hinterland, south-east Queensland. She was previously living near Bright in north-east Victoria, but a craving for warmer weather and a strong interest in sustainability and community led her to build a low impact home in The Ecovillage at Currumbin. The Ecovillage is a rural development with architectural and landscaping codes founded in best practice sustainable design and building processes.

The steep site offered both opportunities and constraints. It contained two clearings and a diverse range of flora and fauna including a mature tallowwood tree, the house’s namesake. A small clearing near the centre of the lot was chosen as the site for the dwelling. To avoid losing any trees, the location dictated that the dwelling would require a compact footprint (only one small sapling eventually required felling).

Heike commissioned architect Rob Norman of Symbiosphere to design her new home. Interior designer Sally Stent ensured that materials used throughout the home were recycled, sourced locally, and had minimal environmental impact.

Integral to the design was the positioning of the service infrastructure to avoid tree root zones. This consisted of two 22,500 litre rainwater tanks and a 10,000 litre tank for fire fighting, on-site wastewater system and irrigation field. To address Heike’s concerns regarding maintaining the purity of the groundwater, the anaerobic on-site wastewater treatment system chosen does not use chlorine.

The two-bedroom house is light and airy, with a long, thin layout to make the most of the site. Alignment of windows and doors provide at least two views of the landscape from any point in the house. The northern facade includes large windows to maximise winter sun, and smaller windows to southern and western facades ensure privacy from the street and future dwellings. A large open-plan kitchen/dining/living area opens out to a stepped east facing deck with stunning views to the gully and surrounding forest. Due to the clever placement of windows encouraging cross ventilation, there is no need for air conditioning, which, along with electric and wood fired heating, is not allowed in The Ecovillage.

Integral to the design was the positioning of the service infrastructure to avoid tree root zones. This consisted of two 22,500 litre rainwater tanks and a 10,000 litre tank for fire fighting, on-site wastewater system and irrigation field. To address Heike’s concerns regarding maintaining the purity of the groundwater, the anaerobic on-site wastewater treatment system chosen does not use chlorine.

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Cover of Issue 15
You can read more about Tallowwood Treehouse in Issue 15 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Credits

Building designer
Symbiosphere Pty Ltd

Interior designer
Refound

Project type
New build

Project location
Currumbin Ecovillage, Currumbin Valley, QLD

Cost
Approximately $420,000

Size
89 sqm of internal floor area on the main level; 21 sqm for future guest quarters on the lower level; land 3587 sqm

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