Sustainable House Day 2018 – Freo’s bantam beauty

IF I ever needed somewhere to hide out in wild weather, Fremantle’s “Little House” would be my pick.

Its quaint name is reflective of the home’s olde-world charm but this house has such fortitude and solidity it wouldn’t so much as shake if the sky fell.

Greg O’Byrne and Alice Turnbull bought “the worst house in the best street” in 2009, demolished it by hand and recycled much of the materials to make their magnificent sustainable home which is tucked in beside 1890s cottages on tiny one-way Little Howard Street.

They’ll be opening up their house for tours as part of this year’s Sustainable House Day on Sunday, September 16, from 10am to 4pm.

Sustainable House Day has been running for nearly 20 years, giving thousands of people the opportunity to hear directly from home builders and renovators about what makes their place tick.

In 2017 almost 30,000 people visited one of the 206 open homes across Australia, with gold coin donations topping $12,000 which went to charity.

It’s all run by Renew (formerly the Alternative Technology Association or ATA), a non-profit that inspires people to live sustainably in their homes and communities.

Established in 1980, Renew provides expert, independent advice on sustainable solutions for the home to households, government and industry.

“Whatever materials we could keep, we did,” says Mr O’Byrne.

He explains that by recycling a material and giving it a new life, you get rid of the carbon created by producing a new product and disposing of the old.

Standing in the open-plan living space, the morning sun spills through the north-facing wall which is made entirely of double glazed glass. It feels as if the home is the hull of an upturned boat as boards of golden marri and deep brown jarrah meet at the roof’s peak.

“Each truss weighs a tonne,” says Mr O’Byrne.

“It’s a massive, hugely heavy roof that took nine weeks to build and will hopefully stand for the next 100 years.”

He says air-proofing and insulating are important parts of a sustainable home.

Warm and snug in winter, the house’s thoughtful design means in summer its completely shaded, and there’s no need for an air-con.


“Living sustainably is about being smart and knowing your environment,” says Mr O’Byrne.

“We are keen on caring for the environment and touching the earth lightly, not living with a huge impact.”

They’re doing a real good job – with a 22,500L water tank supplying the family, including 4-year-old Matilda and toddler Billy with almost enough water for the year and solar panels collecting enough electricity to send 60 per cent back to the grid.

He says while building a sustainable house might cost more initially, the savings are worth it in the long run, and even if it’s out of the budget there are measures people can take.

His hot tips were to check for drafts – run draft-stoppers along gaps between doors and floors, and replace rattling window seals.


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