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An Ultra-Sustainable Home On An ‘Undevelopable’ Melbourne Site

Sustainable Homes

The development of Hütt 01 Passive House started with a simple but profound question: how can we create better homes for a better planet?

Felicity and Marc Bernstein regularly asked themselves this question in their work as co-founders of Melbourne Design Studios, but saw potential to explore this further when building their own family home. The resulting home supports the couple’s own sustainable lifestyle, and also acts as a prototype project for a series of pre-conceived, ready-to-build Passive House designs, launching very soon!

As is often the case when challenging the status quo, creating this home was a challenge from the get go. Council initially wouldn’t approve any construction on the unorthodox site (a triangle wedge next to a train line), then COVID-19 happened, before a freak fire threatened to derail the entire project just weeks from completion.

Despite these setbacks, the stylish nordic-inspired home in Coburg was recently completed to the highest Passive House standards, creating more energy than it uses, and achieving a 8.6 NatHERS rating!

6th September, 2022

Felicity and Marc Bernstein in their Coburg, Melbourne home, aka Hütt 01 Passive House. Artwork on right ‘Ordung Muss Sein #6’ by Richard Dunn. Sculpture: ‘Separation and Consolidation 1 by Ilona Herreiner. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The designers turned an awkward block next to a train line into both their inspiring family home and first project of their sustainable home practice, Hütt. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The site comprises a 250 square metre wedge-shaped triangle accessed solely off an unnamed bluestone back lane. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Materials were chosen for the sustainable properties to create the most efficient and comfortable home possible, including recycled bricks. ‘We have hand-collected a lot of these recycled bricks from demolition sites throughout Melbourne over the course of two years, and have hand cleaned them,’ says Felicity. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Cradle to Cradle Certified black timber floorboards continue up on walls and on joinery. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

‘We have managed to demonstrate that a combination of a super sustainable approach does not have to exclude lifestyle, luxury and welcoming contemporary architecture,’ says Felicity. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Artwork on right ‘Ordung Muss Sein #6’ by Richard Dunn: The two and half level home contains four-bedrooms, two living spaces, three bathrooms, and a roof garden on a mere 78 square metre footprint. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The generous and luxurious kitchen. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Artwork: ‘Redbank Gorge 1936 (after Albert Namatjira)’ by Richard Dunn. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The kitchen opens to the backyard designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture to maximise amenity in the compact site. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The bedroom opens to its own green space. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Cross laminated timber (CLT) forms both the structure of the home and exposed lining of many interior surfaces. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Sustainable features of the home include heat pump hot water production and a heat recovery shower water (Zypho system). Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The home responds to the adjacent train line, referencing dynamics of the passing carriages in design and materiality. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

A cosy nook in the two-and-a-half level home.

Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Durable aluminium clads the facade. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Marc, Felicity and their three children dipping their feet in the fish pond! Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Landscape architecture by Eckersley Garden Architecture. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

The project has regenerated  a forgotten piece of land in a dense Coburg pocket. Photo – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Belle Hemming

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 6th September 2022

‘We have managed to demonstrate that a super sustainable approach does not have to exclude lifestyle, luxury and welcoming contemporary architecture.’ – Felicity Bernstein

It takes someone with exceptional vision to buy a compact triangular site wedged between a train line and laneway and turn it into an inspiring home of the future.

This is the origin story of Hütt — a Melbourne design practice founded in 2016 with a vision to design ultra-sustainable passive homes that create more energy than they use. 

The practice’s first project, Hütt 01 Passive House, is the family home of CEO and director Felicity Bernstein, and the first of hopefully many Hütt houses to come.  

The project started with the intent to regenerate a forgotten piece of land in a dense Coburg pocket. Felicity and her husband, architect Marc Bernstein, purchased the awkwardly shaped 250 square metre block to make it happen, but council deemed the land ‘undevelopable’, and banks were unwilling to approve finances. 

These roadblocks were eventually overcome, then COVID-19 hit, placing added stress on Felicity and Marc, who were now living in a motorhome with three children undertaking remote schooling!

The family persisted, designing an inspiring contemporary home, with timeless, nordic-inspired touches. The two-and-a-half level home contains four bedrooms, two living spaces, three bathrooms, and a roof garden on a mere 78 square metre footprint. 

Materials were chosen for their sustainable properties, to create the most efficient and comfortable home possible. Cross laminated timber (CLT) forms both the structure of the home and exposed lining of many interior surfaces; whilst natural wood fibre insulation provides great hydrothermal properties; durable aluminium clads the facade; and recycled bricks feature in the surrounding landscaping. 

Hütt 01 Passive House is certified ‘Passive House Premium’ for its thermal comfort facilitated through insulation, airtightness, appropriate window and door design, ventilation systems with heat recovery, and the elimination of thermal bridges. On top of this impressive thermal performance, the property contains seven water tanks, a 11.4 kW solar system, battery, heat pump hot water production, and an aquaponics setup.

‘We have managed to demonstrate that a super sustainable approach does not have to exclude lifestyle, luxury and welcoming contemporary architecture. If designed well, all these things can go together — this is the future of housing that we need to look for,’ says Felicity. 

It took three and a half years to finish Hütt 01 Passive House (inclusive of a freak accident that saw a fire on site, requiring many elements to be rebuilt — all of which was documented on an episode of Grand Designs Australia), but future projects will benefit from Felicity and Marc’s lived experience and expertise. 

Hütt will soon launch its first two series of homes available to be constructed by registered builders. Each series will contain a variety of preconceived designs to suit different occupants, sites, and price points. 

‘Hütt homes are a bit like the Tesla… with Series I being the top level that offers the best of everything and Series IV down the track a more affordable home for a much wider market,’ explains Felicity.

‘The idea is that if you purchase a Hütt home, you know what you will be getting, and you know you will be able to rely on the quality, while contributing to the betterment of the planet.’ 

Register your interest in a Hütt home on their website

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net