When Robyn and Jonathan Rich purchased their ‘quarter-acre delight’ in Frankston 19 years ago, they saw it as an opportunity for longevity.
This wasn’t a build for resale, rather a build to see them into their future living needs. The future of the environment was also front of mind.
‘It was important to us that our home was all one level and as small – without being too small – as possible,’ explains Robyn. ‘It was also important to incorporate as many sustainable elements as possible. Our main aim is to reduce our impact on the world.’
Rather than renovate the large house already on the block, they rented it out, and started planning a sustainable, custom-built house on the available space behind it.
Their ‘new’ home – for want of a better term – is ‘new’ only in name. The structure is made almost entirely from recycled materials; red bricks, old decking and panels from the property’s aged shed!
‘The aesthetics of used materials provide a much warmer feeling to the house,’ says Robyn. But more than giving the house a warm ‘vibe’, the bricks and concrete floor slab in fact also facilitate comfortable temperature control in all seasons.
‘In summer, these materials keep the inside temperature nice and cool, and in winter, the sun warms the slab, which heats the interior,’ explains Robyn.
Adding to this natural temperature control is a grapevine shade, which blocks sun in summer and allows light and warmth to penetrate in winter. There’s also double glazed uPVC windows throughout and a Zehnder Z350 ComfoAir Heat Recovery Ventilation system with ground loop, providing 24/7 ventilation and heat recovery.
‘We did a lot of research into materials and technology to make our home as sustainable and enjoyable as possible,’ says Robyn. ‘We never thought it would be this good.’
With two independent 5kw solar systems providing more that four times the power the house uses, Robyn and Jonathan often find themselves with negative power bills, as all their excess electricity is fed back into the grid, earning them money.
‘Our current cash in bank is about $1800, and this is even running our Nissan Leaf Electric car!’ says Robyn.
‘We have no power, gas or petrol bills in our house. It’s been so long since we had those that we no longer have any real understanding of what the typical costs of a two-person home of this size costs to run,’ she says.’
Sustainability is central to everything Robyn does – and this extends to her art practice, too. She uses natural oil paints in re-used vintage tins, and aluminum panel offcuts from local sign writers as her canvases. Her studio, which is incorporated into the open-plan house, is the first area you walk into. The rest of the home is filled with her artwork, recycled furniture and plenty of plants.
‘It’s a home designed for our needs and wants. It has a happy, healthy feel to it – a place to work in, be creative and above all, a place we want to be,’ says Robyn.
This story is part of our series on Sustainable Homes, brought to you in partnership with Bank Australia.
Bank Australia’s Clean Energy Home Loan offers a discounted home loan rate if you buy or build a home that exceeds a 7-star NatHERS rating, or have made ambitious green upgrades in the last 12 months. Find out more here!