Sustainable Homes

A Sustainable Strawbale Home With Panoramic Country Views

Huff’n’Puff Haus by Envirotecture is a passively designed strawbale home that generates more energy than it uses.

Located on 55 acres in central Victoria, the project was completed in 2022 after being years in the making. Not only does the 8.6-star house operate off-grid, with all electric appliances and solar panels, but it’s been designed to take in country views from all directions.

Christina Karras

The home was built pre-fabricated strawbale panels, sealed up with coatings of organic lime render.

Polished concrete floors are paired with timber-lined ceilings in the living room.

The deep sills are another benefit of the lime-rendered straw — creating shelves and benches to sit by the windows.

Triple-glazed windows help protect from the elements.

The living room is now the client’s favourite part of their home.

‘Right from the very beginning, the clients imagined being able to relax in a sheltered space,’ Talina says.

Inside the bathroom.

Earthy textures and light tones make the home feel welcoming.

Timber details bring a sense of warmth.

The external cladding is made from fire-resistant cement sheet boards.

The prefabricated wall components also lead to less construction waste on site.

A look at the completely new build.

Christina Karras
28th of November 2023
Passivhaus Consultant
⁠Passivhaus Certifier
Triple Glazing

Ruffy, VIC/Taungurung Country

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.’

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