In the cool climate of coastal Albany, designing an energy efficient home suited to outdoor living, built on site with a 3-metre fall, was a challenge. To meet it, homeowner and GreenSmart accredited designer Robert Forgione – with the needs of his own family also in mind – created four elevated and glass-connected pods with north-facing living areas.

Forgione decided to use lightweight construction after working through a conventional masonry-built solution. The cost of the earthworks, retaining walls, reinforcing concrete and scaffolding associated with the masonry construction on the highly reactive clay soil would have blown his budget. 

In addition, it wouldn’t have provided the interaction between the home and the environment Forgione was looking for. 

Amongst other materials, Forgione has utilised James Hardie's Scyon™ advanced cement composite products to achieve a truly unique and sustainable home.

Solar solutions

Instead, the pod design integrating summer, winter and year-round verandah means the Forgiones can entertain outdoors at any time of the year. 

“I wanted the morning sun to hit the bedrooms and living areas, and midday sun to warm all areas,” Forgione says. “[We achieved] that using the pods and the angle of the roofline which is critical to making the most of heat and light.”

The force and direction of prevailing winds were also considered when blending the verandah and the two glass walkways that join the pods. The glass walkways act as a solar gain point. They also minimise the need for artificial lighting, where even the moon has a role to play.

“At certain times the house can be lit by the moon – the ultimate in ambience lighting!” says Forgione.

Energy efficient and water-wise

There is a myriad of features that make this home sustainable. For example while the house is connected to mains water, the tank and grey water separator system provide all the water for the gardens. The rainwater pump system and external lights are all wired for solar power. Inside Synergy glass helps reduce heat loss, and there is solar hot water and natural gas for cooking and heating.

The thermal performance of the Scyon™ Matrix™ and Axon™ cladding and the Linea™ weatherboards tied in nicely with this innovative approach to home construction.  

The pod design also means that some areas can be closed off when not in use. The electrical wiring throughout the home is also split into zones, so that appliances can be turned off to minimise standby electricity consumption. 

Forgione says that 

“the house is innovation from start to finish”. He was so excited about the finished product that he re-oriented his entire business towards a commitment to energy efficient construction.

“The future depends on solar-passive buildings using sustainable building principles and products,” he says.

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