Sustainable House Day shows how to build with our earth in mind

The Recyclable House in Beaufort was inspired by steel wool sheds, hand crafts and industria. Photo supplied.
The Recyclable House in Beaufort was inspired by steel wool sheds, hand crafts and industria. Photo supplied.

When he was learning the building profession, Quentin Irvine became frustrated that the materials used for most Australian homes were destined for landfill, even if the buildings were promoted as eco friendly homes.

In response Mr Irvine, now managing director of Inquire Invent which focuses on sustainable building practices, built his The Recyclable House in Beaufort, Victoria. The house will be one of many across Australia open for Sustainable House Day on September 17.

Mr Irvine said that although the components of this house are recyclable or biodegradable, it has been built to last and is of exceptionally high quality.

“The solar-passive highly insulated design ensures warmth in Beaufort’s harsh winter. Coupled with the super efficient Pyroclassic wood fire stove with wetback and solar hot water system the house is cozy even on the coldest days of the year,” he said. Plus, the one room width of the house enables cross flow ventilation and this coupled with first and second storey shade sails keeps it cool in summer.

Extensive research went into the design of the house for recyclability. The house is made of recyclable materials and is screwed or nailed together. If glues/paints/sealants had to be used, almost all are natural and biodegradable.

Take the bathroom for example.

“Most bathrooms start with tile substrates (chipboard or cement sheets) being glued and nailed to walls and floors, followed by waterproofing membranes and tiles being applied to these. It might serve for a long while as a waterproof bathroom, but the tiles, cement sheet, chipboard, glue and chemical membrane have all started their slow but certain, one way trip to landfill,” Mr Irvine said.

For his bathrooms, Mr Irvine started with recyclable and partly recycled cement sheets that were screwed, not glued, to the floor structure.

“We then built waterproof, stainless steel floor trays/shower trays that had floor/shower wastes installed. These acted as the waterproofing layer (once again not glued down). From here we used floating decking boards in one bathroom, and pebbles/pavers in another. For a more conventional finish, you could use tiles on a sand/cement mortar bed for floors and still keep it fully recyclable.”

Even the light switches were thought through.

“Pull lights save on pvc and copper in many instances as electrical cable doesn’t have to run down the wall to the switch. A linen pull cord is far lower in embodied energy than pvc/copper wires. I love the look of pull cords, and I can’t help but get excited by all of the playful aesthetic details that can follow.”