Rear of house

Office

Front garden

Living toward kitchen and garden

Kitchen and pantry

Torquay Kitchen brickwork with Bev blurred

Induction bench

Highlights

Living room outlook

Torquay Kitchen and living

Living room

Entry and front living

Torquay Pantry shelves with brick

Master bedroom

Bathroom vanity

Torquay bath

Bath

Torquay Bev on daybed

Daybed at night

Torquay Ensuite door

Torquay Front gate at nigth

Torquay Entry at night

Front garden in the making

Torquay Entry in summer

Torquay South side painted

Torquay Autumn in the garden

Torquay Backyard lawn

House and office from firepit

Torquay Entry in autumn

Outdoor dining

Side deck (1)

Torquay: Regeneration

Address: Torquay
House Size: 195m²
Land Size: 804m²
Project Type: Renovated in 2014 and 2020
Open (Free Entry): 16 October 1pm - 5pm

"We love the home we have created that is full of character, sustainable and an absolute pleasure to live in all year round."

Experts on Site

Image

Velocity Solar
Velocity Solar is a locally owned and run family business servicing Geelong, the Surf Coast region, Western Melbourne and South West Victoria including Ballarat and Warrnambool.

Mark Steel - Home Builder

About the house

We bought the 80’s brick veneer house in 2010 knowing it had great potential in a location we loved, but was going to need some work.  The house was cold in winter and hot in summer.

A low bull-nose verandah combined with small windows meant the house had very little natural light. Having had several renovations and extensions over the years (of varying standard), there was an abundance of cracks, misaligned walls and very little insulation. 

Before jumping in to renovating we knew it was important to experience the four seasons in the house, to see how the sun moved across the property, feel the prevailing winds and learn how we would live as a family in our sea-change home.  Little did we know then that we would end up living through forty seasons before the renovation was finally underway.

With a lifelong passion for sustainable design and creating interesting and unique homes for people, it didn’t take long for Bev to start sketching and planning. One of the bonuses of the property is the two original titles (2 x 10m frontages to the street). The house was spread across the two lots, so we decided early to reconfigure the footprint of the main house to be contained on one lot for financial future proofing. While there is no intention to sell either lot, if we ever need or want to realise the full value of the property it can quickly be achieved.

The first stage of work was to add a garage as there was no external storage. This was done in 2014 while we continued to work through the renovation options. We positioned the garage on the south lot abutting the front of the house and kept the form simple to allow options - including a flat roof for either solar panels or an upper level. We chose a ‘no-maintenance’ external wall cladding called Dura timber cladding – a composite of reclaimed hardwoods and recycled plastics (87% recycled materials). This was a relatively new product in Australia back then and it was a risk for us and a learning curve for the builder to install, but we remain happy with the results 8 years on.  

Later in 2014, after discovering a slow leak in the family bathroom and toilet, we did a quick but transformational bathroom renovation, ready with minutes to spare for hosting a big family Christmas. Easy clean, internal privacy and longevity were the priorities for the bathroom design to function well for teenage daughters and a revolving door of summer visitors. The bathroom has continued to tick all the boxes and fits well with the later renovation. 

We initially designed a two-storey extension but after getting it costed and working through our priorities, we settled on one of the early single storey layouts that Bev had sketched soon after moving in. 

The criteria for the renovation settled on:  

  • Significantly improve energy efficiency through:
    • Window type, size and orientation for natural light, performance and cross flow ventilation
    • Thermal mass
    • Insulation in floors, walls and ceilings
  • Good indoor/outdoor flow – connecting living areas with gardens
  • Recycled materials, starting with retaining and reusing what we could on-site
  • Low maintenance materials and design
  • Efficient use of spaces 
  • Footprint of main house on one title with garage for future proofing     

We worked closely with our builder (and friend Mark Steel) from the beginning, to design a renovation that would practically and economically realise our vision. Mark had built the garage and bathroom renovation in 2014. We were really happy with the result and our friendship had survived. So after some honest discussions to ensure we were on the same page, we ventured forward together. This proved to be one of our best decisions. 

We packed up the house in January 2020 and moved out ready for the unpeeling to begin with a bang at the start of February. While packing I found my year 9 graphics assignment on energy efficient housing – as I said the passion has been around for a long time.

David discovered Facebook marketplace as the peel back of the house began and managed to sell all the old surplus windows and much more – we quickly discovered that one person’s trash is definitely another person’s treasure. 

As the pandemic lockdowns hit, Mark quickly ordered materials ahead to minimise delays. With our consulting work slowing down, David was able to be on site most days – cleaning up, sorting waste for recycling, rearranging the decking, cleaning bricks, gardening, building a new chook house with leftover materials, sanding the office floor and did I mention more gardening! While David hasn’t decided on a career change into the building industry, he loved the challenge and ownership of being a hands-on part of the renovation and has been able to expand his beloved garden, including creating three new seasonal vegie patches. 

Marketplace has become David’s go to for reimagining the garden with pre-loved items appearing on a regular basis, such as pots, sleepers, bird baths and plants, including advanced trees. The stunning mature standard birch tree in the front garden was rescued from Melbourne one day and planted the next! Apparently, his next project is a glass house.

We were set on reusing the original timber floorboards from the start, but the builder was concerned we would lose too many of them if we tried to bring them up individually - they were nailed and glued to the chipboard.  Demonstrating Mark’s innovative approach, he decided to cut the flooring up into large rectangle slabs/tiles with the chip board still attached. The flooring was then re-laid in an off-set pattern in the new living/dining area and was meticulously sanded and finished by Paul Davis using Bona non-toxic water-based matt finish.

The timber flooring sits beautifully alongside the new rectangular concrete slab poured in the entry and kitchen areas to increase thermal mass.  The concrete floor was ground and polished to perfection by the passionate Tesmer Concrete Polish and Design crew and has no artificial sealer. 

Mark, our builder has a wealth of knowledge in building and plumbing and is very adaptive. When he came across something unexpected or unresolved, he would call us up (if we weren’t already on site) and we would be there within minutes to work through the options. This kept things moving and enabled us to be actively involved in the inevitable surprises with renovating. The biggest tip I will share with anyone setting out to renovate or build is to find a builder you trust, that you can communicate openly with and who understands your vision and priorities.

While David was on-site, Bev was focused on design and product selection. Researching electric heat pumps was one of the biggest challenges as the common response was ‘gas burners are much cheaper’.  We weren’t satisfied with this response so kept digging until a solution was found that aligned with our intention to transition to all electric. 

Hydronic heating was our preferred active heating source and we discovered that some of the heat pumps were dual – combined hot water and hydronic. This option seemed logical – we only need heating for a few months of the year so why have a heat pump sitting idle over the summer months when the one unit could do both. We settled on the dual heat pump and just need to add the hot water tank when the old gas instant hot water unit reaches the end of its life. 

Velocity Solar installed 6.4kw of solar as the renovation was in the final stages and we have been monitoring and adjusting our energy use through the seasons, before making any decision on batteries. We draw very little from the grid over the summer months, with much higher use in winter for the hydronic heating. We were advised initially to keep the in-slab hydronic heating running 24 hours a day through the winter months and followed this during the first winter. This year, we have been experimenting and have found by setting the slab heating to come on 2 hours before getting up the floor is comfortably warm, and we are using at least 25% less electricity.     

We had a large master bedroom at the back of the house that was underutilised, so we swapped the bedroom to the front of the house and opened up the rear living area to flow out into the garden. The rear yard had been largely screened by a trampoline and an unused spa. It has now evolved into a private haven with its established trees, including two native Moonahs and lots of birdlife. Last summer we were even visited by yellow tailed black cockatoos! The remnants of the trampoline (springs) are hanging in the central tree along the back fence. The spa was given to friends who bought it back to life and it now forms an integral part of their backyard oasis.   

While completely transformed, the original house is still evident in the stand-alone office and the almost freestanding chimney that is now an outside fireplace. All the side and rear decking boards have been reused (ask David how many boards he pre-drilled and nailed) and now help define the many outdoor rooms that evolve through the seasons.

It is safe to say the house has exceeded our expectations and is an absolute pleasure to live in, all year round. One of our favourite parts is the built-in window-seat. It is bathed in sunlight during the day and the rising moon is visible through the trees in the evening. Our little piece of paradise.

If you are looking for more information to create your own unique and sustainable home, head to www.greatergoodco.au. Bev shares information about her experience and is thrilled to now be offering advisory services to empower people with the clarity, confidence and tools to navigate the building and renovating journey. Everyone deserves their own sustainable haven.

House specification

House information sheets

Ask a Question

If you like to submit a question for the live Zoom event please click here →