Passive House buildings are changing the status quo for Australian architecture, following its wide uptake in Europe over recent times.

Often the primary house design drivers are conceptual however, these German derived “monopoly houses” are combining sustainability with efficiency and demonstrating new ways to approach ecological design.

Melbourne is following suit, hedging the way with Toorak Passive House project, ‘The Limestone House’.

This energy efficient residence was designed for a client with two passions in mind: contemporary architecture and cutting edge sustainability.

The self-sufficient home achieves the core objectives of sustainability standards, within the context of Melbourne’s mild climate, greater variation in temperature and higher solar gains.

Umow Lai worked together with urban design experts John Wardle Architects on two certifications, to accomplish the specific environmental agendas of this project: Passivhaus (German for ‘Passive House’) and Living Building Challenge.

A Passive House has the capacity to maintain a comfortable internal temperature, all the while using minimal energy input. This is attained by a high level of insulation, incomparable air tightness and mechanical ventilation.

Energy efficiencies are achieved by introducing the 5 main principles of: High Efficiency Glazing, High Level Insultation, Thermal bridge-free envelope, Airtightness and Ventilation.

The Living Building Challenge is a certification and sustainable building program for green houses, providing regenerative environmental solutions for the built environment. Once these elucidations have been implemented, the building will manage its waste water completely off the grid and in terms of energy, the home will produce “net positive energy,” meaning that the on-site renewable energy generates enough to cover the yearly consumption of total energy needs within the home. Both of these initiatives are an impressive feat and, once completed, the certification awarded by the Living Building Challenge will publicly recognise their significance.

The project team worked to deliver a seamless living environment by cladding the house with Mt Gambier limestone and other natural minerals, combined with technology that performed above regular sustainability standards to meet the client’s brief.

In a statement from John Wardle Architects, “their [the client’s] vision was to create an evocative architectural proposition that would also lead the way in energy efficiency and create a very healthy living environment.”

The project aimed to source as much of the materials from locations close to the site, and all timber products used are durable recycled Australian hardwoods. The Mt Gambier limestone cladding, siltstone floor tiling, recycled spotted gum and blackbutt timber flooring were directly sourced from parts of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

For further north elevation in the stone surface, additional openings were carved out in front of a significant outdoor space, providing north sun that shines deep into the floor plan. These spaces allow for a unique connection to the backyard garden, and additional views of the house surrounds.

With Umow Lai being one of the first commercial consultancies in the Australian market to promote the Passive House Standard, our team’s integrated approach to The Limestone House Project saw our engineers apply unparalleled expertise to the building technology, and further challenged conventional building and design practice.

The Limestone House is currently under construction and due for completion in 2019.