Conlon Birrell Landscape Architects
Location of Project:
10 Culbara Street, Mooloolaba
Scope / Services:
Design, Documentation and Contract Administration
HIA Greensmart House of the Year, Queensland
2009 National Sustainability Awards - Commended in the New Single Dwelling Category
2009 National Sustainability Awards - Finalist in the Landscape Design Category
HIA Outdoor Project of the Year Wide Bay - Finalist
HIA Greensmart House of the Year Wide Bay
The Gaia House Project is a uniquely designed and built luxury home that’s whole ethos is centred on a sustainable vision for the future of our urban habitats. In fact the term Gaia was brought to the table by the client who explained that it resonated with him because Gaia refers to the ancient Greek goddess of mother earth. NASA scientist James Lovelock defined Gaia as "a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet." In simple terms everything in our world is interrelated and interdependent.
The Gaia House project has set a benchmark in sustainable residential housing in inner city suburbs and its presence here on the coast will spark a revolution of change within the community. The house has recently won the GREENSMART ENERGY EFFICIENT HOME OF THE YEAR at the 2009 HIA CSR Queensland Housing Awards and has made the finalists in the New Single Dwelling and also the Landscape Design categories at the 2009 BPN National Sustainability Awards where only five finalists were nominated for each category nation-wide. The project was awarded a Commendation in the New Single Dwelling category at the sustainability awards ceremony held at Dockside, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour in Sydney.
Having studied many of the local waterfront homes, the client Mark Hall and local builders Hamish Gray and Aaron Nicholson of GNBC arrived at the conclusion that luxury homes were generally wasteful, inefficient and unsustainable. A team was assembled to design and build a unique, modern home whose central focus was on sustainability and the idea that we can start moving back to some of the design solutions that were used by architects and builders long before we had grid power and mains water.
What resulted was an award winning house that is completely self-driven by harvesting solar energy that supplies excess energy straight into the power-grid. Rain caught from the roof is stored in a 70,000 litre stormwater reservoir below ground level to the underside of the double garage and supplies clean fresh water to all basins, baths, showers, WC's, kitchen, laundry, pool and external taps.
The design of the house utilises the best possible passive solar design principles and cross flow ventilation strategies to eliminate the need for artificial air conditioning.
The site is a 'recycled' block of land (not a greenfield site) in an older, well established residential area with good neighborhood infrastructure and features a mature Poinciana tree to the Street frontage, affording shade from the western sun in the afternoon.
Conlon Birrell Landscape Architects, a local firm, approached sustainability from many perspectives. For too long we have been allowing the rain to fall on our roofs, gush down our down-pipes, across our driveways and down our council stormwater systems and into the ocean. A reinforced turf driveway allows water infiltration into natural ground to retain water on site and stop run off into council’s storm water system. One hundred percent recycled polypropylene soil module and one hundred percent recycled crumbed rubber top dressing was used to reinforce the permeable turf driveway. The rubber top dressing reinforces the turf from vehicle movements and allows for better water retention by lowering the evaporation rate. Fifty percent of the turfs water usage is absorbed and slowly released by water crystals that were installed deep in to the soil to also encourage root growth. The turf grower (Turf Force) also uses sustainable technologies including the use of on-site water and re-use of organic waste from their turf farm.
The planting palette consists of native, rare, edible, endangered, endemic, drought tolerant plants that require low maintenance and were all locally grown. Internal planting of rare native plants that thrive in the houses’ internal microclimate were also sourced from a local grower. Over fifty square meters of locally grown exotic air plants were installed with innovative design techniques to produce vertical and horizontal elements in the air and on timbers screens. An expected ninety-nine percent survival rate of plants with the use of techniques that require minimal maintenance, structure and growing medium help to make the green walls economic and sustainable.
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