Tad Hendry has long had an interest in energy-efficient homes, but it was a trip to Ladakh, in northern India, that really opened the builder and designer’s eyes.
He saw how the homes had been designed in accordance with passive solar-design principles, such as being oriented towards the sun so they could be heated and cooled naturally.
“A French architect had redesigned the homes, changing their lives dramatically,” recalled Mr Hendry, who is a co-founder of Adapt Design Group. “I could see what a difference it made to the way they lived.”
When it came time to build his own family home at The Cape, an eco-friendly development at Cape Paterson, 145km southeast of Melbourne, Mr Hendry pulled out all the stops.
His three-bedroom home, called Dune 1, has an energy rating of 8.7 stars — much higher than the mandated six-star energy rating for new Victorian homes. It has a host of eco features, including power supplied via an 8kW solar-panel system.
Below are some of the home’s top ideas.
Windows play a big role in maintaining a home’s temperature, and Mr Hendry has installed Dowell thermally broken, aluminium, double-glazed windows throughout his house.
“There is a plastic thermal break — hence the term ‘thermally broken’ — inserted between the aluminium frames so the cold and heat doesn’t pass quickly through the windows,” he explained.
As for the double glazing, Mr Hendry said it slowed the rate of heat transmission from outside to inside.
“But, at the same time, when the heat does get through and heats up the house, it slows the rate of the heat dissipating out at night,” he said. “So, you get more of a stable temperature in the house.”
Dune 1 is orientated east-west, with the living areas facing north, to make the best use of light.
Fixed awnings to the north allow winter light into the living zones when the sun is lower, but block the higher summer sun from entering.
“The built-in awnings will knock out the sun from November to the end of February so we’re shaded in the hot days,” Mr Hendry said.
“It’s a case of working with certain angles and latitudes so that in the middle of winter, that sun will hit right at the back of the kitchen.”
Mr Hendry has also ensured there are cross breezes on summer days.
“We open up the windows and make use of the southerly breeze in this area and it keeps the house cool,” he said.
3. Temperature control
The house has extra insulation in ceilings and walls and also sits on a black burnished concrete slab, which absorbs the heat.
“When the sun comes out in the middle of winter, it heats the slab,” Mr Hendry said. “And the heat is absorbed into a blockwork cement wall, as well.”
That crucial heat is retained during the night.
“If it’s 22C at night when you go to bed, you wake up and the house is at about 20C, so you don’t wake up to a freezing, cold house.”
4. Water efficiency
The family’s water supply is rainwater stored in two tanks.
The home’s taps, showerheads and toilets are all water efficient, with a four-star WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards) rating.
“Water is a precious commodity in this country,” Mr Hendry said. “The showerheads slow the rate of water flow and they also aerate the water so it’s softer.”
Mains water can be used as a back-up, but so far the family has been able to live off rainwater.
“We have two 7500-litre tanks and that usually gets us through the year without having to draw on any excess mains water,” Mr Hendry said.
Water is heated via a Sanden eco-friendly heat-pump system.
5. Light choices
Lights were once big energy suckers in homes, but these days there are eco-friendly options.
All of Dune 1’s lights are LED lights, which, Mr Hendry said, emitted “a nice glow, especially over the kitchen”.
“People come over and sit around the kitchen bench and there is a lovely warmth.”
Best of all, Mr Hendry can control the lights’ dimmer function via an app.
“When I come home at night and I can’t be bothered getting out of my chair to turn the lights off, I can do it from the comfort of my chair,” he said.
More green ideas from Dune 1
• Butler’s pantry with an innovative drying cabinet that uses heat from the back of the fridge to warm the clothes.
• Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints used throughout.
• Just one split-system unit for heating and cooling (it’s in the living room).
• Ceiling fans throughout.
• Native garden to limit water usage.
Get the look
Dune 1 house plans can be downloaded for free at www.liveathecape.com.au