The owners of this sustainable strawbale house fell in love with the property when it was just an empty stretch of pasture and native trees, with no immediate neighbours and views as far as the eye could see.
Pip and Stephen bought the block in Ruffy — located a few hours’ drive from Melbourne amongst the Strathbogie Ranges — back in 2000. For years, they dreamed about the home and life they hoped to build on the remote property, where they could be more self-sufficient.
But it wasn’t until 2016 when the couple finally reached out to Ballarat-based architectural firm Envirotecture, engaging them to design an efficient abode where they could age in place.
Envirotecture director Talina Edwards says this brief quickly evolved into something much more significant. ‘We wondered if it was possible to achieve a net-zero-carbon, off-grid Passivhaus built using bio-based materials, with south-facing windows,’ she says. ‘And it turned out the answer was yes!’
‘The design of the home needed to respond to its beautiful site, so we chose the flattest part with the best views in all directions,’ Talina adds. The long, rectangular floorplan allowed them to maximise solar gain with panels on the gable roofs, while every room captures calming outlooks of the distant horizon.
To ensure the walls had high-insulation, and protection from the harsh Victorian climate, Talina says straw was an ‘obvious’ choice for the build. ‘It’s a naturally grown bio-based material, and is waste-product of the agricultural industry, and is an excellent insulator.’
They opted for prefabricated wall panels by Huff’n’Puff Constructions. These plywood-framed boxes crammed full of straw were then sealed up with a textural lime render to create a thick buffer between the extreme high-country temperatures, offering comfortable, quiet, and earthy spaces inside.
The pared-back materials serve both utilitarian and aesthetic purposes. Built in a bushfire-prone area, the external cladding features durable fire-resistant cement sheets that help the building recede into the landscape; the polished concrete floors provide thermal mass, in addition to reflecting speckles of colours used throughout the interiors; all tied together with the warm timber-lined ceilings.
‘Our clients do think it’s a beautiful home to live in (and that is important!) but this home’s real beauty is more about what you can’t see,’ Talina says of the resulting home’s impressive sustainable credentials. ‘The genuine ethical responsibility and care for people and planet is what really makes it shine.’