Architecture

World’s first carbon positive prefab house unveiled in Melbourne

February 18, 2015

The wood-panelled, plant covered house was built using a raft of innovative passive design principles, and was crafted from sustainably-sourced materials.

All images courtesy Tom Ross.

Last week, ArchiBlox unveiled the world’s first carbon positive prefabricated house at Melbourne’s City Square.

The unveiling marked the start of the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival’s The New Joneses initiative, aimed at raising awareness of smarter, more energy-efficient, and resourceful ways of living.

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On display was the 75-square-metre, single-bedroom home designed by architect Bill McCorkell and builder David Martin, which claimed to produce more energy than it needed to run.

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The wood-panelled, plant covered house was built using a raft of innovative passive design principles, and was crafted from sustainably-sourced materials. Crucially, the ArchiBlox house system heats and cools itself via natural ventilation systems, and does not use any mechanical heating or cooling elements.

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To cool itself, vertical stacks are used to draw air through the building, and in-ground tubes embedded to circulate cool air underground. In hot weather, the house uses large floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of northern sunlight, which passively heats up the internal air.

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Externally, a south-facing earth berm wall, double-glazed windows, and green roof help the house to retain its thermal mass, and insulate it from excessive heat gain and loss. Architect Bill McCorkell likens the house to a ‘fridge – completed, sealed’.

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The house generates its own solar power via photovoltaic panels on the roof, and any excess energy created is contributed back to grid. Hot water is solar-heated, and storm water is collected, then filtered for toilet flushing. All the materials, appliances and fittings used in the house have been sustainably graded, and are completely free of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

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Over its life span, the ArchiBlox house has been estimated to emit 1,016 tCO2e less greenhouse gases than the average house of similar size. This is equivalent to planting 6,095 native trees, or taking 267 cars off the road.

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The Australian federal government expects to see such carbon positive buildings playing an increasingly important role in reducing carbon emissions in the future, moving away from the current carbon zero benchmark for sustainable best practice.

For more information, visit www.archiblox.com.au

  • Carlos February 18th, 2015 3:20 pm

    Another week another carbon positive building set on a flat site with no restraints and no controls and no client brief and no budget and no neighbours and no council and no requirements other than to make a point. I’m all for carbon neutrality or positivity, but I’ve been seeing this type of thing for years now and unfortunately it is not translating to the general home except in part, and therefore failing in the point it is making as a whole, i.e. unless all of the principles are put in a house it cannot achieve the status of neutrality or positivity. It’s a showcase if nothing else and I appreciate that, but its translation to “normal” housing in suburbia does not happen generally. How about someone taking the time and effort to build actual houses more than once with all the normal constraints of a project and bringing that into carbon positivity, then we can say that it works and can be applied to “normal’ housing, then perhaps we will see a shift in the implementation of these principles to achieve carbon neutrality or positivity. Reminds me a little of the storage container architecture fad, its a bit of a marketing point for architects to say they are being sustainable, but it never gains traction, ever.

    I just think Architects and people trying these things need to think bigger, think of the bigger picture instead of thinking that one box will solve the problem. As Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” and small thinking like this, great and fun as it is, does not solve the problems the world is facing. It is like a slow lumbering animal that will get caught by the predator before it realises that it can actually outrun it, this will be the “sustainablity” problem and if we keep taking small steps like this, the beast of glabal warming will catch us and it will be too late. Think bigger people.


  • ray February 19th, 2015 12:01 pm

    Its still grid connected- last years model.
    What price is it. Is it just another middle class plaything? Or
    could ordinary people actually afford it ?
    Lotsa wood means lotsa nasty chemicals to combat termites-
    not a good thing.
    Its name- is that the people who make an expensive building block ?

    Rgds


  • Paul March 5th, 2015 10:56 am

    A great experiment. Sure it’s a bit artificial but surely it’s a step forward. It shows it can be done. If I was building a house in the suburbs it might be easier than a relocatable building, and probably could incorporate more features. Maybe even get some govt/council financial assistance. But yes, I’d like to see a developer take this on board and create a large community, including tellys that run off solar panels.


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