wet blankets

Gavin Houghton and his wife were prepared to put their money where their convictions are when renovating their Edwardian home in North Carlton.

The couple employed an architect who specialises in sustainable design, knowing the resulting plan’s passive solar energy, water savings and environmentally conscious elements would increase their building costs by 20 per cent.

The innovative design involved demolishing the back of their home to put large water tanks under a concrete slab. The slab would also provide thermal mass that, in conjunction with a “thermal chimney”, would create passive heating and cooling for their home.

The couple planned to create a second level and install two banks of solar panels on the roof. As well as creating space for their young family, their aim was to “future-proof” the property by turning a two-star energy-rated house into a six-star.

“I think it’s our duty as a society to build something which is going to last 50 or 60 years in a sustainable manner and I think what we have done seems a little bit odd now but these will be mandatory requirements in five or six years’ time,” Mr Houghton says.

Unfortunately for the Houghtons, their neighbours did not share that view. Soon after the planning application was advertised in August 2008, a campaign to object to the development began, with neighbours doorknocking to collect signatures for a petition.

In all, 36 residents objected. Concerns included the visual impact of the solar panels and thermal chimney on the area’s heritage and fears about the impact of the underground water tanks on adjoining properties.

The Age, 20 Feb 2010