Grand Designs Australia: New flame


A house pioneers the new standard of green living


Location: Kinglake, Victoria
Date commenced: July 2014
Date completed: May 2015
Cost: $605,000

In 2009, Victoria was subjected to the worst bushfires in the nation’s recorded history — also known as Black Saturday. Chef and restaurateur Dan Zeidan witnessed this devastation first-hand, losing his Kinglake property to the ground six years ago. But after meeting his partner Vicky Kordatou, a spark was reignited that pushed the duo into the eco arms of sustainability warrior Joost Bakker, who designed a groundbreaking structure that ticks every sustainability box and so much more.

Building a house with the ability to melt back into the earth is a task in itself, but add to that the necessity

When you spend time in recycling yards, you realise how many problems we create by not thinking about the end, so I designed a house from the end and worked back to the start
for fire-resistant materials and you’ve got yourself a challenge … One that Dan began undertaking many years ago while on the search for the right person to help him make this sustainable structure a reality — especially once his dream block came on the market. “I would drive past this property for years thinking I would love to look at this view from a beautiful house,” says Dan. “Not long after the fires, it came up for sale and I decided to move.”

Living in a similar eco structure himself, green wall creator Joost Bakker adapted his own home’s design for Dan and Vicky. “When you spend time in recycling yards, you realise how many problems we create by not thinking about the end, so I designed a house from the end and worked back to the start,” says Joost.

Comprising several, complex layers, the build began with pouring concrete over hundreds of small plastic dome-shaped stools “laid out in rows as if setting up for a concert, not a concrete pour”, observes Peter Maddison. The plastic stools are an insulation technology, which captures the air in the roof and ceiling space, pumps it underneath the slab, cools it or heats it and then pumps it to the other side using a 12-volt pump/fan — leaving the home at a constant 22 degrees Celsius. A six-and-a-half-tonne shipping container was then craned onto the slab, which essentially formed the spine of the robust steel frame — the only non-eco, but recyclable, material used in the build. The walls were then packed with straw bales, covered in galvanised steel, topped off with non-flammable magnesium oxide board and encased by 7 tonnes of recycled crushed red bricks in a steel mesh cage. “The house is completely made of recyclable products and is a zero-waste house,” says Dan. “It’s really important it’s a house that’s bushfire-safe and can withstand a fire front and ember attacks.”

The green roof not only contributes to the aesthetics of the home, but is also functional, providing a thermal blanket that filters the couple’s only source of water on the property. To achieve this feat, a semi-trailer’s worth of polypropylene crates filled with soil were stacked on a waterproof membrane and covered in turf, providing Dan and Vicky with water straight from the source. During the build, the duo stepped outside the square when it came to the interiors of the home. Instead of opting for regular timber floorboards, they invested in eco floorboards made from plywood with soya bean adhesive lining the floors and ceilings and encasing the open living area. To inject warmth and a historic element into the home, petrified wood sourced from a junkyard was given to designer Marcos Davidson, who turned it into the artisan basin found in the bathroom — a one-of-a-kind piece.

Dubbed by Peter Maddison as a “highly conceptual building that offers peace of mind”, the Kinglake Non-Toxic House is a sign of hope for the future of eco building, showcasing the staggering progression of sustainable technology that can be utilised on a local level in the home — proving innovation’s not just for the powers above. Dan and Vicky have completed exactly what they set out to do all along — create an honest house without the trimmings.


Written by Annabelle Cloros
Photography by Rhiannon Slatter