Special Aproach

Designing for climate isn’t just about chasing the sun. Nor is it just about designing better energy solutions. It’s about changing the way we live in our homes, and as these architects and designers demonstrate, creating around the seasons can work beautifully.


For Ken Charles, co-director of Centrum Architects, passive ESD always has been at the forefront of his practice. So when clients suggested a geothermal system for their new home in Red Hill on Victoria Mornington Peninsula, he was happy to oblige.

Using the trenching method, eight 90-metre runs of 25-millimetre poly GHS heat collector piping were installed in four trenches in the front yard, at a depth of 1500 millimetres across a large expanse of 2400 millimetres. Water is pumped through the piping into a heat pump and then heated or cooled through the hydronic underfloor piping. Does take up a fair amount of space, but it is integrated into the landscape design, and you don’t see any evidence of it, says Charles.

With extensive thermal mass provided by the vast amount of exposed concrete slab flooring – also part of the brief – the system easily meets its heating and cooling requirements at a minimal cost. Very user-friendly, Charles continues. Doesn’t cause irritation and it a soft, warm effect, with heat that gently rises and warms the floor.

Furthermore, he says it wears differently on a timber or carpet. Concrete slab cases in with you and its thermal effect are so comfortable the grandkids play on the floor.In the absence of a slab upstairs, a ceiling mounted fan convector with ducted outlets provides heating, with the whole effect a smart energy substitute. Also localises the energy system instead of drawing power from the grid, says Charles.


In her work, principal architect Fiona Winzar enjoys exploring masculine and feminine elements, with a focus on environmental sustainability. Her award – winning Victoria Road project in Melbourne marries both, showcasing her clientele love of bling’ in a rear extension comprising a semicircular shaped living and kitchen zone, with Ruby Red Viridian highlight windows, a patterned ply ceiling and brass finishes.

Facing north-east, floor-to-ceiling panels of double-glazed Viridian glass provide a seamless connection to the swimming pool and backyard. Pushing the sustainable envelope, all of the north-east window panels feature fully automated blinds, which enable the owners to control the sun penetration fully.

Rare for people to have that degree of flexibility and control, says Winzer. They want to shut right down when it super-hot, or want the sun to flood in during winter, they can. It covers every aspect. The highlight pink windows also contribute to the family living environment. Initially designed to ensure privacy and provide a joyful alternative to blue sky, they offer a different quality. Like a soft pink sunset, Winzar laughs. The clients love the way it changes over the day and seasons.


As the weather cools and winds pick up, cross ventilation and insulation become vital. Based in Victoria, ArchiBlox houses are designed with this in mind, using affordable, standardised modules that celebrate sustainable philosophies.

With an end-to-end timeline of around six months, the company designs 8 star prefabricated houses that can shut down, open up and vent out depending on the client wishes, for around S2000 per square metre. Homes become alive, says director and architect, Bill McCorkell, who operates the business with a builder, Dave Martin. A massive fan of layering, so wintertime, springtime, summer time or autumn time, there are all these different periods of the day when you should make use of the house in various ways.

A bespoke example is Meander Drive, Inverloch, which ArchiBlox designed using three modules, featuring three streams of cross ventilation to capture prevailing winds that flush the house after extended hot spells. Low windows are designed to the south, while high windows are in the north, allowing natural convection and cooling of the thermal mass. Ventilation to all rooms works well from a solar access point, McCorkell explains. Owners love it. With five completed houses, and ten under construction, ArchiBlox is only four years old, and McCorkell is passionate about its future. Should be able to enjoy an architecturally designed home.


While green roofs are nothing new – there are plenty around Australia – living green walls have become especially popular, with sustainable benefits including improved air quality, amenity, extra insulation and screening from the sun.

Mark Paul, director of The Greenwall Company, has recently completed a green wall for a client beachfront house in Sydney Mosman, one of some green projects on the property. In a loggia underneath their swimming pool, says Paul. Wanted it to be lush, green and peaceful.

Facing north-east and just a few metres from the saltwater, the green wall feature a cross-section of native and exotic plants and was constructed off-site in Paul greenhouse. Without borders or symmetrical elements, it was designed to fit into the large, floating sandstone rocks that form part of the rear wall in the loggia. It looks as though it is part of the rock face, Paul says. It attracts the morning sun, as well as a few unwelcome visitors. Had to alter and change the edible parts of the plantings, and move the possums on, Paul laughs.

The family now has an entertaining area that fulfils their brief, where they can enjoy a barbecue or push their boat out, in a sector that was previously neither inviting nor functional.

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