As a local designer and resident, Robbie Walker is deeply familiar with the Mansfield, Victoria landscape and climate. This understanding drove the creation of his recently completed, off-grid family home, located on an isolated hill with incredible views to Mount Buller and Lake Eildon.
He explains, ‘There was less of a vision for the house and more of just an understanding of what the house needed to do. It needed to be stormproof, resist bushfires, and have perfect orientation to take advantage of the sun.’
The residence utilises two key materials—glass to the north and concrete to the south—each defining one half of the home. These materials enable the building to withstand the unforgiving weather extremes of the surrounding environment: the bitter cold winters; the punishing winds; and the often harsh summer sun.
The north-facing half is clad with floor-to-ceiling, double glazing capturing panoramic views. Conversely, the back half of the house, constructed with two ‘skins’ of core-filled concrete block, serves as a refuge when the weather is at its coldest and most violent.
Materials in the home were chosen for their durability; appearance in keeping with the landscape; sustainability; and conduciveness to an off-grid home.
Sunlight streams onto the polished concrete floor, with solar heat gain distributed throughout the house via vented fans. Fireplaces at each end of the living area provide further warmth in winter.
In summer, moveable external screens and eaves work to protect against the scorching sun, paired with solar-powered air conditioning when required.
Robbie designed the home to produce as little waste during the construction period as possible. The width of the rooms aligns with that of the concrete blocks and plywood used to construct them, and each module of the kitchen cabinets makes use of an entire piece of plywood.
Such fixtures are left raw, cutting down on materials and waste, while showcasing the beauty and architectural potential of common building materials. ‘Exposed concrete block work, plywood panelled ceilings, galvanised power cord casing, and copper pipes are allowed to be themselves. Not covered or dressed up—simply executed exactingly, to dramatic effect,’ says Robbie.
The home operates off-grid as an example of a self-sustaining home that doesn’t compromise on aesthetics. ‘I wanted this to be an example that being off grid didn’t mean you had to have a house built of old tyres and be underground,’ Robbie says.
To live in the home is to experience, and exist in harmony, with the environment.