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A Heritage Home, Retrofitted To The Highest Sustainability Standards

Sustainable Homes

If you think sustainable design is limited to new-builds, prepare to be blown away by the Passive Butterfly house.

The combined passion and expertise of Eme Design and owner Cameron Munro has transformed a once draughty Victorian house into an airtight home, with 90 percent reduced heating and cooling costs.

While renovating an existing property to this standard is certainly more challenging than building from scratch, this project in Armadale proves nothing is impossible.

14th January, 2020

Beautiful timbers bring an incredible warmth to the otherwise minimal interiors of the Passive Butterfly House by Eme Design. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sukin Kimmy Hogan Hand Wash and Hand Cream in the kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

There is a seamless interior connection between the new and old areas of the home. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sukin Kimmy Hogan Hand Wash and Hand Cream in the kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Once a traditional Victorian weatherboard house, the property has been impressively extended and retrofitted to the most sustainable level possible. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A membrane has been wrapped around the house, making it 15 times more airtight than a conventional new Australian home. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The form of the new rear extension is a modified iteration of the butterfly roofs by mid century Melbourne architects Kevin Borland, and Chancellor and Patrick. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The interiors are fitted with a ventilation system providing constant fresh, filtered air to every room. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sukin Enriching Night Cream, Nourishing Cream Cleanser and Certified Organic Rosehip Oil from the Rosehip range. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The rear facade is covered in dense greenery. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A billabong, as the owner refers to it, greets residents before entering the home. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

From the street, this home appears no different from its Victorian weatherboard neighbours. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 14th January 2020

Cameron is so proud of his house – he knows the ins and out of every single element. It’s like a living, breathing organism in some ways.

From the street, this Armadale home appears no different than its Victorian weatherboard neighbours, but look closely and you’ll notice small but profound details hinting at its unique capabilities.

To the right of the facade, beyond the beautiful water-wise native garden, is a charging adaptor for the family’s electric car. Details are visually subtler inside, but their impact is just as radical. Once a traditional Victorian weatherboard house, the property has been impressively extended and retrofitted to the most sustainable level possible.

Owner Cameron Munro has an engineering background and was inspired to undergo this project after living in Europe, where homes are comfortable year-round. ‘They wanted to reproduce that experience with their home in Melbourne, without the expense and environmental impact of large heating and cooling systems,’ says designer Luke Middleton, director of Eme Design.

To achieve this, a membrane was wrapped around the house, making it 15 times more airtight than a conventional new Australian home. Basically, the home has been wrapped in plastic from the inside, reinsulated and replastered, making each room slightly smaller as the walls are built-in. This membrane reduces the need for heating and cooling by more than 90 percent. No wonder there’s such a feeling of stillness and calm when you enter this home – it’s almost like being in a spaceship!

To combat the risk of the house getting ‘stuffy’ or ‘stale’ inside, Cameron has integrated a genius ventilation system, providing constantly fresh, filtered air to every room. This operates at very low power and is monitored by sensors to maintain air quality and temperature.

The form of the new rear extension is a modified iteration of the V-shaped butterfly roofs of mid-century Melbourne architects Kevin Borland, and Chancellor and Patrick. The efficacy of this roofline is evident when comparing it to the home next door, which gets little to no sunlight, despite facing the same direction.

Cameron is so proud of his house – he knows the ins and out of every single element. It’s like a living, breathing organism in some ways. He explains this house is not exactly a 10-star house – which is almost impossible to achieve when working with a period home, but it’s pretty close! It’s also won a number of awards for its sustainable design ­– which are displayed proudly around the house.

It’s clear both design and performance were equally important considerations in this project, culminating in a home that is healthy, comfortable and incredibly energy efficient to run. As Luke explains, ‘This project strove to demonstrate that leaky, cold weatherboard homes can be brought into the 21st century and have very high performance, while still respecting their architectural heritage.’ Mission accomplished!

Australian skincare company Sukin do everything they can to ensure our environment is protected. From partnering with Reef Aid to ensure the Great Barrier Reef has a future, to fully offsetting their carbon footprint. Discover the world of natural, and read more about their sustainability efforts at the  Sukin Journal

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.