Eco-friendly living on display

Michelle Slater

People interested in eco-friendly homes are being invited to jump on a bus for a cook’s tour of the Latrobe Valley’s most sustainably-built houses.

Homeowners will open their doors to show off environmentally progressive homes as part of Sustainable House Day, hosted locally by the Baw Baw Sustainability Network.

Visitors will get a look inside houses built out of a range of sustainable materials designed to meet high energy-efficiency standards.

The day also includes visiting a unique hand-built super-Adobe roundhouse in Willow Grove, one of its kind in Australia.

BBSN member Malcolm McKelvie will show off his Yarragon South family home built of straw bales and rammed earth, as one of the five properties on display.

Mr McKelvie said the open day would suit anyone considering building, buying, or renovating a home.

“Most Australian homes are poorly constructed from an energy point of view but it doesn’t have to be like that,” Mr McKelvie said.

“Most of the population doesn’t know what’s possible. Most people accept you have to be cold in winter or hot in summer, but you don’t have to be.”

Mr McKelvie’s family four-bedroom home was carefully designed from scratch and is almost power-bill free.

The exterior is made from rendered straw bales, and the interior has rammed earth walls. A solar hot water system is boosted by a wood heater in winter.

It is powered by a seven-kilowatt solar system, backed-up by batteries sourced from the old Hazelwood Power Station that can charged through the grid if necessary.

“Our energy bills are minimal. We wanted a passive solar energy efficient home. Straw bales are great for insulation and the rammed earth walls are great for thermal mass and are very quiet,” he said.

“It doesn’t need cooling in summer. The running costs are almost at zero, and this includes charging an electric car.”

Mr McKelvie said nothing had been compromised in its liveability and the family was able to raise three teenaged daughters without running out of household power.

The Baw Baw Sustainable House Day will be on Sunday, September 16. A bus will leave Warragul station at 10am.

To register, go to the Baw Baw Sustainable House Day events page on Facebook.