Sustainable House


On Sunday, May 25th, a group of 8 of us (including honouraries) from Caulfield Rotary, paid a visit to Sustainable House, in Elsternwick.  This was the second visit there this year, to allow some who hadn’t been previously to visit now.  (If you have it, see our newsletter dated 27/2/14).  In any case, below is a rehash of the article published then, with a few enhancements.


We had previously invited readers to submit their suggestions for what we can do to help combat climate change.  It would seem that an important step is in doing our best we can for the environment.  In this regard, we paid our visit to “Sustainable House”, situated at 30 Clarence St, Elsternwick.  Its owners, Helen & James, held an open house then, in which they offered tours of their home and garden for the modest cost of $5 per person.


Some time ago, they bought the house, much of  which dates back to the 1890’s.  They have modified it in ways that allow them to live comfortably all year around with no air conditioning and only limited heating.  A major part of their technique is insulation.   Related to this, they make sure that at the end of summer, they start heating up the house, while at the end of winter, they start cooling the house down, in each case in preparation for the forthcoming winter/summer.


They have solar panels installed on their property, and have been keeping track of the amount of electricity they have been “importing” from, or “exporting” to the electricity supply.  It turns out that they are exporting more (during the day) than importing (during the night).  Consequently, their electricity bills must be low or non-existent, and as well as that much less coal has to be burned on their behalf for their electricity supply.


Most of the water they use in their garden is either grey (waste) water from inside the house, or tank water.  They have about 8½ thousand litres storage in tanks, so once again, they are contributing to Melbourne’s environment by requiring less of our stored water.  We noted that to distribute tank water to the garden, they do need pumps.


To reduce draughts into the house, they are using door seals.  Also, they have covered air vents into the house, which again reduces draughts, but also helps keep insects and vermin out of the house.



They have a greenhouse in their garden which is used to grow a variety of plants, though with no special plan on what to grow.  Greenhouses allow one to grow plants very much out of season.


Their plants are planted in scoria and water, no soil and the water has additives/ nutrients added six monthly.  Ian & Faye Kirkwood

For information on having a sustainable home contact them at



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