Take a tour of Queensland World Wildlife Fund manager Nick Heath’s eco-friendly home created for him in Brisbane and loved by one and all; including the bush turkeys.
Today there is increasing pressure on consumers to become environmentally friendly and aware, and the same goes for businesses. Brisbane-based couple Giovanni (Gio) and Angela Silanesu manage Inspired Constructions, Pools and Landscaping. Both are extremely passionate about the environment and their values are reflected throughout their company.
The couple were contracted to project manage the construction of Queensland World Wildlife Foundation manager (WWF) Nick Heath’s home. The project had to incorporate eco-friendly features, recycling and energy efficiency in the design and build. The house had to not only look amazing, but be designed for environmental sustainability. It also needed to incorporate water and energy efficiency.
“Wildlife and the environment are very important parts of my working and personal life, so we were very conscious of building a home for sustainability,” Nick said. The whole house was designed by architectural company Sustainable to reflect Nick’s (and WWF’s) values and ideals about the environment.
The construction also preserved key natural bushland on Nick’s property, which was worked around during the project. “We also wanted to keep a substantially large part of the block as natural bushland. This area was unharmed throughout the renovation. In fact, a thriving group of bush turkeys have remained throughout the entire building process,” Nick said.
After continued delays on the project, he approached the Inspired Constructions team with the design. “I wish I had met Gio two years ago. After almost two years of frustration at being stuck in the design process … it was refreshing to find a person whose drive and passion for our vision, and excellent organisational skills, ensured this difficult project was completed in just eight months (including Christmas break),” Nick said.
Managing director of the Inspired Constructions team, Gio Silanesu, has seen many different approaches from business in the construction industry. “There is a different level of service expected from building companies today. We have to look at all viable options for the environment. Obviously as consumers become more selective about the products they want in their house, we have to change what we offer as well,” he said.
The home developed for Nick incorporated several unique elements — a UV sanitisation system, a water harvesting system, recycled timber flooring, energy-efficient lighting, and extensive north-facing glass (which helps to provide abundant natural heat and light in winter).
The home was a challenging project for renovation. “When we started, the house was in a serious state of disrepair,” explained Gio. “The front deck had deteriorated to the point it was not safe to walk on any longer. Quite a number of the supporting stumps to the house had sunk or just plain fallen away. As a result of this, the house would actually sway when you walked through it. The house was located in a Demolition Control Precinct (DCP) and was unable to be removed.
“The lower level was typical of a Queensland worker’s cottage with just earth embankments and a rustic laundry facility. The western side of the building’s paintwork had deteriorated to a point where some of the weatherboards had rot in them. The kitchen was approximately 40 years old and in desperate need of replacement. The bathroom had leaks to the floor and because of this the floorboards and joists had rotted.
“The body of work consisted of excavating to the required levels under the home and restumping the property so that it could be built under to provide a lower floor. We had to demolish the existing eastern side of the building including the front decks and use the same floor space to rebuild and reconfigure the renovation.
“We changed the use of the kitchen area to the master bedroom. And we built an under-roof deck to the rear of the property, taking in glimpses of the city and the prevailing southerly breeze. We also renovated the existing internal spaces to ensure that the original character of the house was kept,” Gio said.
Inspired Constructions suggested and incorporated an underground / under-slab water tank which had the capacity to feed the entire water supply to the property.
“This was done by incorporating some of the structural elements to the house and adding a few block walls and a suspended slab to form the tank. We then used a poly liner from Clark Rubber to line the tank. This system has been designed with a UV sanitiser for the water to kill bacteria and filters to ensure water quality remains to an acceptable level,” Gio said.
In another nod to energy efficiency, the building was designed with north-facing windows to the new roof-supporting structure. This was to allow for additional light and warmth in the cooler months as well as provide an outstanding aesthetic feature to the building. Excellent airflow features were added using louvres and sliding stacker doors.
Nick’s brief totally transformed the building, bringing it into the modern era while ensuring a high level of consideration was given to the green aspect of the design.
“My favourite part of the renovated space is the new living and kitchen area, with the roof windows and the shadow gap stained plywood ceiling looking onto the back deck. The plywood ceiling gives a soft, earthy feel to the home with the different colours and textures of the wood,” Gio said.
In hindsight, would they have done anything differently? Angela Silanesu, who manages Inspired Constructions with husband Gio, says she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“No, we think the design was excellent. We added value to the design through a collaborative approach with the client and their representative, and made changes to the design to enhance the finishes and ensure we met the budget,” she said.
The project, like most renovations, came with its fair share of challenges. Gio said it was particularly hard initially to get the resources in to start the job.
“Access to the property was at best restrictive — with vehicles from the university lining both sides of a narrow street, it was incredibly difficult to ensure deliveries could get to the site.
“Some of the larger trucks had to unload on the road at the bottom of the street and forklift the products up the street to the house. To address this we mainly kept in contact with the neighbours and students by way of conversation and letters dropped on car windscreens, to let them know when large deliveries were coming. The neighbours were great and assisted whenever possible.
“We also needed to ensure that the population of scrub turkeys were not interfered with on the property and that they remained unharmed throughout the project. We did this by setting up an exclusion zone to ensure the building activity and materials did not encroach on their space,” Gio said.
Both Angela and Gio are really pleased with the final outcome. “This renovation is special due to the fact we were able to transform an old (1920s), largely unstable and run-down property into a contemporary living space for the owners to share a new chapter of history in. When we drive by this house we feel we have been able to save a piece of Brisbane’s character,” said Angela.
Photography by Inspired Constructions
Kitchen/dining/living: Recycled hoop pine supplied by Beverage Timbers
Bedroom: Original hoop pine
Internal stair: Kwilla supplied and installed by On The Way Up
Outdoor: Spotted gum supplied by Kennedy’s Timber
Internal stair: Kwilla supplied and installed by On The Way Up
Kitchen: Benchtop: CaesarStone
Cabinetry: Two-pack cabinets
Glass splashback: Supplied by Kitchens by Alliance
Sanitary Fixtures + Bathroom Fittings:
Semi-frameless supplied by Stegbar
Vanities: CaesarStone with two-pack cabinets supplied by Kitchens by Alliance
Windows + External Doors:
Window general: Aluminium supplied by Trend Windows
Windows to roof: Supplied by All Type Glass
Roofing: Supplied and installed by Dapco Roofing
Painting of external and internal: City Rollers Painting