Urban strawbale

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THERE has been no shortage of vision and hard work poured into this lovely strawbale house built on a suburban block in Melbourne’s west.

Built with non-toxic materials to be energy-efficient, long lasting and with a small footprint, it was a pleasure to visit and take a look at this home over lunch.

The house has the beautiful feeling inside that is characteristic of strawbale houses. It’s a settled quiet that puts you at ease. “The straw was chosen for its insulation quality and also for its beauty. Straw also creates such a melodic ambience in the house,” says owner-builder Nikki.

The first thing I noticed is how the house enables the many social and creative visions of its makers. Designed to feel and function a little like a small town hall, the central space of their urban strawbale home includes a stage (complete with power and AV concealed in the floor) and a commercial kitchen where Nikki plans future cooking classes, drawing inspiration from their abundant edible garden.

The house is the product of two years visioning, planning and designing and one year of hard work by a committed team led by Nikki. The core building team was made up of Nikki and her son, his friend and two building apprentices in the process of retraining from chefs (is this why the kitchen is so great?), with skilled tradespeople coming in and out as needed.

Nikki says, “We chose the vacant lot (500 m2) as the land was close to main street shops, ten minutes walk to the railway station and most importantly, right next to the beautiful, magnificent Werribee river.“

They did the design themselves, and included a lot of what they wanted in their three-room house. It has two-storey high ceilings, storage cupboards that stretch almost to the roof (accessed by a ladder), a 19,000 litre galvanised water tank, a Wattworks greywater treatment system and solar hot water. In summer it keeps them cool with fans, insulation, moveable outside shades and semi-transparent inside blinds. As they plan to stay for a while, they also designed the single-storey house for wheelchair access.

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