Sustainable Homes

How A Clever Renovation Cut This Retro Brick Home’s Energy Bills In Half

This Melbourne house is a surprisingly sustainable slice of 1950s/60s suburbia in Brunswick West.

In hopes of preserving the home’s retro aesthetic for another generation, the owners engaged Sustainable Homes Melbourne to improve its thermal performance and create more space with a new extension overlooking the surrounding parklands.

The sympathetic update has not only transformed the functionality, feel and flow of the brick build, but it’s cut the family’s energy bills by almost 50 per cent.

Christina Karras

The Brunswick West home now hides a subtle extension at the rear.

Recycled cream brick features as a key material both inside and out.

Sliding doors and wrap-around deck provide a newfound connection to the outdoors.

The kitchen was updated with green tiles and light timbers that work with the home’s existing palette.

The calming green hues inside reflect the lush and leafy surrounds.

Exposed brick walls help keep the house cool in summer.

A library for the owner’s 2000 records links the original house to the new living area!

The space has been used as a dancefloor (as per the client’s brief to SHM!) for several birthdays and New Year’s Eve parties.

A look into the new terrazzo-lined bathroom.

The steps down to the extension.

Christina Karras
5th of March 2024
Architect + Builder

Brunswick West, VIC/Wurundjeri Country

Nestled on a quiet cul-de-sac in Brunswick West, Menzies Court by Sustainable Homes Melbourne (SHM) has been impeccably preserved since it was first built more than 60 years ago.

It was in its completely original condition when owners Jack and Geua decided it was time to treat the property to a sympathetic renovation — something that SHM director Simon Clark calls a rarity.

‘We work on many inner-city renovations where the original home has been hacked by poor-performing, more recent additions (generally from the early 1980s onwards),’ he says.

In contrast, this endearing cream brick building featured ‘excellent bones’ and its retro aesthetic was still intact. ‘It had good-sized rooms exactly where we wanted them,’ Simon adds.

It meant they could focus on enhancing the existing house, keeping it in its entirety. The only demolition was the rear steps that led down to the backyard, which is where they built the new passively designed extension — containing a second living area, bedroom, ensuite, and laundry that stepped down with the natural slope of the block.

They came up with a subtle colour palette that seamlessly slotted in with the original mid-century details. Natural timbers, green tones, and recycled brick are some of the key materials of the textural interiors. The exposed brick walls bring a contemporary edge to the updated kitchen, in addition to helping moderate the home’s temperature.

The new steps into the extension also created a library for Jack and Geua’s incredible record collection. And a wrap-around deck now frames views of the backyard and the established gum trees in the neighbouring park.

Simon says the biggest priority was tackling the unseen elements of the home. ‘The bulk of the budget was spent on the new addition, thermal improvements and removing gas,’ he adds.

To maximise a limited budget, Jack and Geua opted not to update the front of the home in favour of installing split systems, double-glazed windows, and replacing their gas hot water with a heat pump hot water system powered by solar panels on the roof.

But this investment has already reaped massive rewards, with the family reporting that their power bills dropped from $2069 in the year before its renovation to just $1188.35 last year — cutting their energy consumption almost in half.

‘And that is despite increasing the size of our house by more than 50 per cent, and rising energy costs over the period,’ Jack says.

It’s a testament to good design and SHM’s ethos that strives to slow the pattern of wasteful demolition: ensuring that every extension they create leaves the original home better than they found it.

Latest Stories

Recent Sustainable Homes