Tag Archives: Building

reduce reuse recycle [and rethink]: buildings

sustainable green eco homes building renovation extension Ballarat Daylesford Melbourne Victoria

reduce reuse recycle [and rethink]: buildings

When it comes to caring for the environment, we’re all pretty used to the concept of “The Three R’s”, in terms of sorting our household waste, upcycling furniture, or embracing vintage fashion… but what about when it comes to buildings?

As an architect with a passion for sustainable design, I dream of the day where we can ALL live in affordable, comfortable, healthy, beautiful and sustainable homes that have a strong connection with (and care for) our natural environment.

At the rate we are consuming the earth’s resources, Australians live like we had FOUR planets to provide for us1. Our current ecological footprint is not sustainable, and in order for our childrens’ children to be able to live in a world that provides enough for their needs, we need to make some more responsible decisions now.

Buildings consume around 40% of our planet’s materials, and 30% of energy resources2. It really is time to rethink our homes. It is not just about “adding” on solar panels and water tanks (although that all helps), there’s much more we can do to improve our mindset an create a more sustainable future. Continue reading

Grand Designs Live Melbourne 2014

Grand Designs Live Melbourne 2014

I have a confession to make…

… I do rather like attending a home-show! Whether they’re industry-specific and more of a trade-show for construction-professionals, or a show aimed at DIYers and the average-joe, I’m all for it! There is always plenty to learn – not only from exhibits showcasing new products, but perhaps more so from the presentations by leaders in their fields. Earlier this year I wrote about my day at DesignBuild Expo, focusing on “Sustainability Day”.

Last week I attended Grand Designs Live in Melbourne. It was rather a last-minute decision, but I’m so glad I went. It is basically the Grand Designs Empire (both UK and Australian versions) branching out to include this event, with the big drawcard(s) being that Kevin McCloud and Peter Maddison present live. There were three stages with presenters on all day over the three days “Grand Theatre”, “Design Stage” and the “Sustainability Stage”.  The exhibits were mainly grouped in four categories: ‘Kitchens and Bathrooms’, ‘Building’, ‘Outdoors’ and ‘Interiors’ which gave a great overview, and there was also “Ask An Expert” kiosks, an Interior Design Competition showcase of some emerging designers, and Book Signing too of course. Plenty to see and do!

Ballarat Architect Home Building Blog

Grand Designs Live 2014


 

I spent most of my time at the “Sustainability Stage”, naturally, as there were some great speakers and topics.

I was really keen on seeing Dick Clarke (Envirotecture and Alternative Technology Association) speak about the book he edited How To Rethink Building Materials. I’d recently purchased this book, and haven’t digested the whole lot yet, but was so excited (yes I’m a nerd!) when I heard of its release. It was the book I was waiting for – over 40 of Australia’s (and the world’s) experts with up to date knowledge about how we can make more sustainable choices when it comes to the materials we select. Dick Clarke is very passionate about what he does, and he gave a great overview of the book, and then showed a couple of examples of different houses he’d designed where the material choices were very different – dependent on the specific site location, owners and particular requirements.

Grand Designs Live 2014 Talina Edwards Architecture

Dick Clarke on the Sustainability Stage

 

Regional Victoria Building Home Architecture Blog

Rethinking Building Materials

I also enjoyed the presentation by Chris Philpot (Planet Ark) & Sven Maxa (Maxa Design) about Building and Designing with Responsibly Sourced Wood. Planet Ark are currently running a “Make It Wood – Do Your World Some Good” campaign to promote awareness about consumers buying timber products ethically. Look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label as certification that the wood was responsibly sourced. Sven Maxa showed a house he’d designed where most of the timber sourced from the project was either recycled/reclaimed timber, or from plantation sources.

My other favourite presentation was Peter Maddison (Maddison Architects and Grand Designs Australia Host) who presented Sustainability: Case Studies and Principles. He showed us a number of interesting examples of homes from around Australia, which had all featured on Grand Designs Australia, each with their own sustainability agendas. I asked Peter if after four or five seasons of filming so many inspirational homes around Australia, if (as an Architect) he had learned anything that he wished he’s known before? He answered that he is always learning, that we are all always learning, and perhaps some of what he has seen has informed his own architectural practice (as it all becomes part of our subconscious).   I realised I hadn’t yet seen any of the Australian series, so promptly headed off to the Merchandise stall to get myself a box-set of inspiration!

Grand Designs Live 2014 Talina Edwards Architecture

Peter Maddison

I hadn’t paid the big bucks to see Kevin on the big stage, but happened to catch part of his presentation from the back, along with a growing crowd of gawkers. I loved that he emphasised that “Grand” Designs are about grand ideas, not necessarily grand budgets, nor a grand scale. He showed one of his personal favourite “grand designs” which was a community housing project for single-mothers, that whilst not a grand architectural endeavour, over the years had done so much for the social-sustainability for improving the lives of these women and children that it had a special place in his heart…and that is one of the things that people love about Kevin.

 So what else is it that we all love about Grand Designs? I recently asked on social media, and got some great responses –  there is a lot of love for Kevin out there! It seems we like Kevin for telling it like it is, for engaging the viewer in the journey, and being able to change his opinion. He is obviously intelligent and passionate about telling these stores about people and their homes, and personally I love that he is an Architectural-ambassador of sorts…helping to promote the value of good design and smart decisions. He is also a Sustainability Ambassador – although he doesn’t like the word “sustainability” as it is over-used these days. But his gem of a book that I only recently discovered (and now highly recommend!) is “Kevin McCloud’s Principles of Home: Making a Place to Live” which is essentially a manifesto for a better (more sustainable) way to live; both inspiring and practical! If grand designs is your “architectural porn”, then this might just be your new ” architectural bible”!?! 

Grand Designs Live 2014 Talina Edwards Architecture

My new architectural ‘bible’ – Kevin’s manifesto for a better world

Ultimately we all love the stories behind these grand designs – the before and after, the journey, the dream, the things that went wrong, the innovative ideas, the blown-out budgets and timeframes – but without the dramatics that tends to be compulsory on other “reality” shows. We love this, because architecture IS about people and how they live!

Grand Designs Live 2014 Talina Edwards Architecture

Early Christmas Present to self… also tax-deductible!

Thanks Kevin. (And Peter). Now I’m off to catch-up on a gazillion hours of old series…it is “research” of course :o)

And as always, if I can assist in any way with your very own “Grand Design”, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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Are you a Grand Designs and Kevin McCloud fan too? Tell me, what is it that you LOVE the most about the show? (Please reply in the comments box below).

Grand Designs Live 2014 Talina Edwards Architecture

Some well-thumbed and well-loved Grand Designs handbooks… no I’m not getting paid to promote all these!

 


 

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

 

Are all sustainable homes the same? (The past, present and future of green buildings.)

This post continues on our the theme of what a sustainable home is – and are they all the same? We’ll take a quick look at past, the present, and where we are (or should be!) headed in the future with regards to green buildings. Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. We recently began a series of posts covering the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of sustainable design. 

renovations new homes green building central victoria

 

 

 

I recently wrote about “What is a sustainable house?” which looked at a definition, and listed ten characteristics that I believe constitute a truly sustainable home. But today I want to address how I view that “environmentally friendly” homes have changed in recent times.

I grew up in the bushy Eltham-area (in the outer north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne), which at the time was well-known as an artistic community, who were environmentally conscious with many mud brick homes amongst the trees. Local legend Alistair Knox was a designer, environmentalist, builder, landscape-architect and the arguably the ‘father’ of the alternative natural building movement. From the 1950s to the 1980s, and he designed and built countless earth buildings – for a full list see here!  So I was introduced to this “organic architecture” early on, to these homes made from natural materials of earth and timber, with large windows to connect to the native landscape, and a focus on a wood-fire hearth as the literal heart of the home.

So back then, then the emphasis was about what the house was made from. A focus on locally sourced, organic, natural materials (and living in a more connected way with the natural environment). 

This low-tech approach was (and is) also seen in the owner-builder alternative housing movement, in permaculture, in earth-ships, and also many primitive and vernacular buildings from around the world.

Mudbrick home Eltham Victoria

Environmental Design: the natural way
“Living in the Environment” by Alistair Knox 1975

 

Today, the focus is more about how the house performs. This is much more of a high-tech approach to the energy-efficiency of the building and its services.

There us so much talk about thermal dynamics and heating coefficients, or megajoules / kilowatt-hours / CO2 emissions and zero-carbon / R-values / ten-star rating / consumption per annum… numbers, statistics, technical jargon…

“Autonomous” homes (or those ‘off-the-grid’) of course need to understand all of this to meet their energy and water needs. These days though, many people seem to focus on these high-tech ‘add-ons’ to make their homes greener – instead of ensuring the building fabric is right first, or perhaps even looking more broadly at how sustainable their lifestyles are the choices they make.

To ensure a home “performs” well (which means that it is thermally comfortable with little need for additional mechanical heating/cooling) it is imperative that the building envelope is designed correctly. Today, sophisticated energy-rating software such as FirstRate (and international standards such as Passivhaus) focus heavily on science, statistics, and rigid criteria to get proven results for new buildings.

Unfortunately,  at times the ’embodied’ energy used to make manufacture/process/transport  some high-tech products/materials (e.g. metal or petroleum-derived plastic products or harmful chemical components/finishes) can outweigh the amount of energy that will actually be saved during the performance of the building…and can be toxic to our health, not to mention the earth. This can be a complicated mathematical equation to evaluate over the life of a building, with many factors and variables to be considered, so it can become even more confusing!

Solar Hot Water PV Photovoltaic Solar Power Energy

Green buildings: High-tech solutions
Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaics on Michael Mobbs’ roof in “Sustainable House” 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the first approach is a bit too hippy, and the second too nerdy…can we do BOTH?

YES! Both approaches are crucial for our future buildings to be more sustainable. And encouragingly, this does seem to be happening…

On the one hand, our souls crave the connection to nature, but we should also embrace new technologies which are making innovative breakthroughs all the time, which can improve our buildings and our lives.

On the other, if we continue our over-consumption and greedy ways, and think technology will save us, we are mistaken. It is only when we start thinking of the life-cycle of our built environment in the same ways as the natural environment that we will start to have truly sustainable buildings. 

As always, it is important to remember that sustainable design is NOT an aesthetic or a style, but a philosophical and theoretical approach to how the building is composed.  Please stay tuned to read more about the who, what, when, where, why, and of course we’ll get to the how of sustainable design.

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Are all sustainable houses the same? What do you think? What sort of sustainable home do you dream about living in? Does your heart lean more toward the warmth of timber and the texture of stone…or does your head get excited by the latest specs of photovoltaic panels? (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!)

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

 

 

 

 

WHAT Is A Sustainable House? Ballarat Green Drinks Presentation

Ballarat Green Drinks Sustainable House

 

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. We recently began a series of posts covering the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of sustainable design. You can read about the “WHY” here and the “WHO” here. We’ll be tackling the other topics in the coming months, but today I want to briefly discuss “WHAT is a sustainable house?”

I recently gave a presentation on this very topic to a large bunch of sustainably minded folk in Ballarat. I was invited to present at “Ballarat Green Drinks” which is part of a global organisation of volunteer-run events, where a guest speaker will chat about their particular interest in sustainability, and hopefully inform and inspire others. It’s also meant to be very much about having casual forum where the community can have a drink and meet with some like-minds. I’ve written about the “Worlds Biggest Green Drinks” Ballarat-event previously, and also a review about a Green Roofs presentation  last year.

Ballarat Green Sustainability Drinks community event sustainable house home eco enviro presentation

 

I only had half an hour to try to cover an enormous topic, so I tried to break it down into 10 main points of what I think the characteristics are that make a truly sustainable house. This was a bit of a utopian vision, as although there is encouraging progress with many new homes and renovations starting to take some energy-efficient principles into account…we still have a long way to go. This talk was not meant to be about HOW to achieve a sustainable house, nor was it about me spruiking my services and how I could help. In this forum, it was an opportunity to remind everyone WHY we should do sustainable design in the first place, and to understand the philosophy of what sustainable-houses of the future could (or should!) be. I also covered why I became interested in sustainable homes, and some historical references relevant to our region.

So…

“What is a Sustainable House?”

A sustainable house is a house like a tree.

I was first introduced to this idea by Michael Mobbs, in his book ‘Sustainable House‘, who said “A tree must meet all its needs for food, energy and water where it stands.” And also in Peter Graham’s book, ‘Building Ecology‘: “Buildings are a part of earth’s eco-systems…but they are rarely treated as such.”

My presentation had illustrated examples of each point with statistics and quotes, so I’ll cover these in future posts in much greater detail, but here’s a quick summary:

1. a sustainable house is… site specific

2. a sustainable house is… small

3. a sustainable house provides… shelter and comfort

4. a sustainable house is… well-designed

5. a sustainable house is… self-sufficient (solar energy)

6. a sustainable house is… self-sufficient (water)

7. a sustainable house consumes… minimal resources

8. a sustainable house… doesn’t pollute

9. a sustainable house is… responsibly inhabited 

10. a sustainable house is… beautiful and loved

So stay tuned for me to explain all of these in the coming months…as well as continuing to tackle the who, what, when, where, why, and of course the HOW of sustainable design.

Did you attend the Ballarat Green Drinks Presentation? If you haven’t already done so, I’d LOVE your feedback via this little survey – it will only take a few minutes. A HUGE thanks to everyone who have responded already, there’s been some insightful feedback, and it has given me plenty more questions which I will answer in future posts. (Or please feel free to leave a question in the comments below!)

Talina-Edwards-Architecture-Signature

P.S.  Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Poppy Jack – you were an inspiration x

Well, it’s been an emotional time here for me as I very recently said my goodbyes to my dear departed grandfather. He was 94 years old and his brain was still as sharp as a tack…but unfortunately his body decided enough was enough.

My pop, Jack, was a man of few words and real gentle-man who cared very much for those close to him, even if he didn’t show much emotion. He was hardworking, knowledgeable and resourceful, inventive and innovative, and a huge Carlton Blues fan.

My pop was a carpenter and joiner back in his day (in fact he was employed in the one place for 45 years!). On retirement, he never stopped building and making and inventing things. His double-garage was his favourite place to be, he’d potter for hours in there. Now I say “double” garage, but you could barely park one car in there – it was full to the brim with timber and odd planks (many suspended from precariously from the rafters!), other building materials leaned against every wall, there were work benches with clamps and saws and drills, shelves lined with jars and containers full of nails and screws and other bits and bobs, plus all the camping gear like folding chairs and eskies and tarps… (We spent every summer as kids at Eildon Weir with my nan and pop, uncle, aunty, cousins and family-friends – camping, fishing, building cubbies amongst the pine trees, yabbying… all life-experiences that have helped shape who I am today). Anyway, Pop’s garage was a treasure trove of “stuff”. My pop was a great recycler you see – he never grew anything out – you never knew when it come in handy!

Pop fishing at Lake Eildon

Pop fishing at Lake Eildon

Pop was always very creative and inventive…he was a problem solver. One of my favourite inventions of his was a “lemon-picker” to steal lemons off the high branches of the neighbour’s lemon tree…they were hanging over his side of the fence, after all, and you couldn’t let them of to waste! The invention was a long stick with an aluminium-can attached to the end, so that you could reach up and get the lemon in the can, then use the sharp rim to cut through the stalk and pull the lemon off the tree. Genius!

He loved his garden, and would take great pride in growing tomatoes each year. He would get very impressive yields, and sometimes the plants were huge! Pop always had an intricate twine and bamboo-scaffolding system in place to tie up the plants to help support the weight of all the fruit. He was always finding a creative, hands-on solution to a problem – using found materials from his garage.

Yep – that’s me and my little bro just hanging out on the construction site!

Pop and my dad built the large extension to my family home when I was about 4 years old (in the early 1980s). The existing weatherboard cottage was small and cold…so dad read up on solar-passive-design and was inspired by the local Eltham mud-brick and natural building movement. Pop and dad were ‘owner-builders’, and soon transformed our home to twice the size, and made it a much more “sustainable” home. There was no double-glazing then of course…but the new addition was orientated so that the living areas faced north and opened to the backyard, there were double brick walls made with local handmade bricks, pine-lining, slate and natural sisal flooring, a hand-drafted timber-kitchen and it situated to take advantage of the shade of an existing mature deciduous Liquid Amber tree. I don’t remember a lot about the building works taking place, but we were home and “on-site” every day so am sure it had a huge influence on me and my chosen career path!

Poppy Jack and his great grand son

Poppy Jack with his great-grandson

So goodbye dear Pop. I am so grateful you were around long enough to get to know any enjoy your great-grandsons (our boys). They loved you very much, and they thought it was awesome that you were the oldest person they knew – “Poppy Jack is very very very very very very old!”. I love that both learned to walk with the help of your walking frame – “Poppy Jacks’s ‘wheels'”.  And I love that you and my youngest had a very special connection during his first year, when we would see you weekly to run errands together…he couldn’t yet talk, and you couldn’t hear anyway, but you both managed to communicate with smiles, facial expressions, and hand-shakes.

We’ll miss you xxx

Talina-Edwards-Architecture-Signature