Sustainable Homes

A Sustainable Home, Designed To Connect To Community

It isn’t often that a brief to an architect is to create a home that actively welcomes the neighbours in!

The Elm Street House by Gardiner Architects in Melbourne’s Northcote, is a transformation of a traditional California Bungalow, into a light filled home that deliberately connects to the surrounding community.

Miriam McGarry

The Elm Street House by Gardiner Architects. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

The Californian bungalow gets a new lease on life. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

New windows open to the backyard. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

The home was redesigned to suit the family of five. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

Letting the sunshine in. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

New generous open spaces. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

Bright blues in the kitchen and fresh white hallways. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

Plenty of bookshelves at the Elm Street House. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

A sneaky triangle of light. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

A home that is engaged with the vibrant surrounding community. Alex Scott-Douglas painted this spectacular mural, ‘Urban Flora’, designed to be a defining entrance point to the home. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

An open and generous home. Photo – Rory Gardiner.

Miriam McGarry
20th of May 2019

The Elm Street House underwent a major overhaul by Gardiner Architects to accommodate the needs of a family of five, who desired greater connection to the outside and their local community. Architect Paul Gardiner explained ‘the driving force was creating a house linked to the surrounding community with easy side access straight into the heart of the house for neighbours, children and friends.’

Rather than adding a box on the back, Paul explains that the design extended the ‘familiar forms’ of the existing home, into the new program. Connections to the outdoors were achieved through the additions of large back doors, windows, small courtyards off the bathroom, and small high windows that ‘provide glimpses of the sky.’ It is surprising just how joyful and effective the simple inclusion of a small triangle window is in this space! The family commissioned the gorgeous mural by local artist Alex Scott Douglas to provide a defining entry point.

The owners also emphasised the importance of developing a sustainable and energy efficient home, to reduce environmental impact, long-term energy costs and maintenance. By designing two storeys spaced around the central stairwell, the architects created a ‘thermal chimney’ effect, where cool air is drawn from below and exhausted at the top. The thermal mass of the brick wall and concrete floor also assists thermal regulation, removing the need for air-conditioning. The project also incorporates North sun shading, water tanks and solar panels.

This bright, cheerful and considered renovation has been directly informed by the habits and daily routines of the family. Paul highlights ‘the biggest inspiration was providing spaces that allowed for the family’s daily life, that was filled with playing, cooking, growing things in the garden, keeping bees and chooks.’ These activities flow easily throughout the home and garden, sprawling outside, and creating daily opportunities for connection with neighbours and passers-by.  A contemporary family home, with old-fashioned community values.

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