Beautiful, Sustainable Building Design

One Mile Beach Hemp House

Back in 2016 we were commissioned to design and document a high performance passivesolar house that should use the most sustainable commercially available materials we could muster, and be simple enough for an owner builder to construct hands-on.

Project Details

The site has great north aspect, which made things easy to start with, but a slight slope to the south, and is bushfire prone. The immediate coastal location certainly took some extremes off the climate, except for the occasional bushfire westerlies that beat relentlessly for sometimes weeks on end in El Nino years. Therefore western summer sun and wind protection was critical as well as winter sun penetration from the north, and allowing the fabled Port Stephens nor’east sea breeze to help keep the house cool in summer.

Designed for a growing family of teenagers, who would eventually return as adults with families, we divided the house into three main zones: main bedroom and study including the laundry to the west; the main kitchen-dining-lounge area in the middle, with dual aspect to a protected north patio and south facing to the street; and to the east the remaining three bedrooms and bathroom with separate rumpus room.

We chose hempcrete as the construction system for its high thermal performance and carbon sequestration. Our concerns about the owner-builder’s ability to work this material up to a high standard of finish were rewarded with possibly the most accurate formwork and hemp placement we had ever seen. All windows are double glazed in thermally improved frames, with smaller tight sealing louver infill panels.

Roof form is simple skillion, reflecting the Mabo style vernacular beach shacks that once predominated the district, since sadly overwhelmed by mega brick veneer  mcmansions that look like they are trying to emigrate to upstate New York.

The house has an innovative semi-off grid septic system, rainwater tanks, and an 8.4kWp PV system. The interior is lined and finished with zero off-gassing materials and coatings. All joinery is made from E0 rated board.


photo credits: Rachel Nicetin from Illuminate Photography

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