Inspiring ‘green’ home to open doors for Sustainable House Day

One of Maroondah’s most environmentally progressive homes will be among 250 houses around the country to open to the public for Sustainable House Day, held on Sunday 15 September 2019.

Howard and Libby Elston will be opening the doors of their Ringwood East home to others eager to find out how they can also embrace eco-friendly and sustainable practices in their home.

The only national event of its kind, Sustainable House Day, is aimed at helping everyday Australians to make their homes more sustainable, comfortable to live in and cheaper to run.

Councillor Marijke Graham, Chair of the Maroondah Environment Advisory Committee, said the day offered people a rare insight into exceptional homes that had been designed, built or retrofitted with sustainability in mind and allowed them to speak to and learn from homeowners.

“As a participating Council and proud supporter of Sustainable House Day, we hope that as many residents as possible take advantage of this event and see for themselves real sustainable projects in action,” Cr Graham said.

The Elston’s light-filled contemporary Ringwood East home is an example of what is possible when sustainability is embedded in the design DNA.

For the couple, the key to building a sustainable home is following good passive solar design principles that work with the locate climate.

“Learning how to help the passive solar design features keep us warm in winter is a useful exercise. Sunlight is all we need on clear, cold days. When it’s cloudy, we use the heat pump to stop the concrete slab thermal mass cooling too much,” says Howard.

“During the day, our house captures solar energy in a thermal mass. As night approaches, we rely on good insulation in the ceiling, walls and underfloor to keep the warmth inside.”

This alone has meant “tremendous cost savings” on energy bills.

Building the house was another opportunity to think sustainably.

Dismantling, rather than demolishing the original 1960s weatherboard house produced a wealth of beautiful hardwood timber to use as cladding, door and window frames.


They were also able to recycle and reuse:

  • reclaimed ash floorboards from demolished 1920s tram depot for bedroom flooring
  • recyclable steel used for cladding and kitchen benchtop (with integrated double sink)
  • Messmate timber reclaimed from a demolished Melbourne building used for benchtops and bathroom cabinets
  • engineered wood beams eliminated the need for hardwood or steel framing.

In addition to using recycled materials and renewable energy, an environmentally ‘friendlier’ concrete was incorporated into the design flooring.

Concrete, while a terrific material to use as thermal mass in a house slab, can negatively affect the green credentials of a sustainable house, says Howard.

Making cement, a key ingredient in concrete, is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. With this in mind, the couple sourced a local concrete supplier who was able to replace a third of the cement with reclaimed materials – fly ash from coal-fired power stations and slag from iron blast furnaces – significantly reducing the environmental impact.

Wanting to be sensitive to the existing environment and topography as well, the couple sought the help of local nursery CRISP in sourcing mostly indigenous plants for landscaping.

The homeowners say they were fortunate to work with builders who shared a similar passion for sustainable living, along with the skills and experience to bring their project to life.

“There’s no better person to ask about the pros and cons, pitfalls and benefits of a sustainable home than somebody who is living in one. What’s even better is asking questions while standing in that home,” says Howard.

“This design demonstrates the benefits of working with nature, rather than using technology to overcome shortcomings.”

Sustainable House Day is run by not-for-profit organisation Renew, and is sponsored by the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy.

The Elstons’ home at 23 Alexander Road in Ringwood East, will be open from 10am to 4pm on Sunday 15 September. Entry is a gold coin donation, with all proceeds being donated toward a nominated not-for-profit group or charity.

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