At Modscape, our eco-friendly homes are not only affordable but their design principles mean that they don’t cost the earth either.
Modscape eco houses minimise environmental impact, maximise year-round comfort and reduce running costs. These factors are incredibly appealing to clients looking for houses to live out their dream of a green life.
In creating our homes, environmentally friendly principles are applied to aspects of the design, the material selection, the systems utilised to build and the operations of the dwelling.
An eco-friendly home in Winchelsea
A shining example of our eco-friendly homes is our Winchelsea project. Owners Judy Cameron and Graeme Webb were keen to relocate from Geelong to a rural area and had been investigating eco homes online when they came across Modscape.
Designed to function completely independently, the eco-friendly homes that we create for people like Judy and Graeme incorporate a range of site services that enable them to operate totally “off-grid”.
Solar hot water, a Biolytic plumbing system for waste water, rainwater tanks and double glazed windows all support thoughtful eco-design and thoroughly considered site orientation to achieve truly sustainable houses.
Sanctuary Magazine – the bible for sustainable home design and eco-friendly houses – caught up with the couple to hear their story:
“One autumn day, when the broad Western Plains views were delivering the full “sunlit plains extended” cliche, a semi-trailer backed down the couple’s driveway and dropped off their living room/kitchen, bedroom and ensuite.
A couple of hours later, a second semi delivered the other part of the couple’s new 11-square home—an interconnecting module containing an entry foyer, laundry, a main bathroom (with ensuite), an open study and a guest bedroom for the children, grandchildren and out-of-town friends.
Both fully-fitted-out modules were set down on 14 steel-screw pylons, which made for a very light footprint on the scenically spectacular site located on the border of the Otway Ranges forests and the volcanic plains southwest of Melbourne.
While it took the drivers and the five on-site workers only a couple of hours to set down and set up this prefabricated house, it took a couple more days to connect the blackwater and greywater systems. After that, realising this fully-functioning dwelling was simply a case of adding said water!
She was so thrilled that her instant house was exactly what she’d envisioned, she could have moved in then and there—only a practical consideration stopped her. “It took a month longer, because we had to have water in the tank.”
As empty-nesters, the Camerons decided to realise their dream of swapping the big, conventional houses in Geelong to live simply and sustainably, with a five-acre permaculture garden, in a friendly rural place with magnificent views and a sense of like-minded community.
They opted to go the pre-fab route for the simple reason that the whole region is in the throes of gang-buster development and they couldn’t find a builder interested in doing small eco-sustainable homes. “My neighbour couldn’t even get a builder to quote!” recalls Judy.
While it took two years of groundwork to secure the right site, it took mere minutes of internet work to find what they were looking for in prefabricated houses.
Following online recommendations, she found a new Melbourne company called Modscape, which is creating eco-friendly housing in a factory in Melbourne’s western suburbs. She inspected the display units at the factory, and walked into one that she “could just see on the block. I just had to have it!”
How it all began
Modscape was formed in 2006 by four mates who knew each other through university or the commercial construction industry. Collectively, Jan Gyrn, Stefan Seketa, Dan Larkey and Paul Fellows have experience in project management, design, and construction that has been honed on large-scale developments. Jan says most of these epic projects now fulfill six-star energy rating criteria as well as rigorous recycling practices.
“But to me it seemed ludicrous that domestic brick and terracotta architecture was still not being built with core eco-friendly principles,” he recalls.
Having been born in Japan, where prefabrication is not unusual, and exposed to domestic building practices in Denmark, the United States, and Canada, “where 20 per cent of the population lives in prefabs” Jan was fascinated by prefabricated domestic architecture. Its practical side appealed to him, too, as it promised a way of achieving streamlined minimalist and sustainability, all with minimal impact on the environment.
“Prefab houses are the ultimate medium for reducing the impact on the landscape,” he says. “It is 95 per cent built in a factory, is a cheaper but not inferior product, and is more accountable in its material use, including minimising material waste. To us, sustainable and eco-friendly housing was not a compromise because it ticks all the boxes.”
After some long discussions, our group decided that just such a pragmatic approach would fill a potential niche in the market and lead the way to a more sustainable future in domestic construction “because anything can be broken down into smaller parts or modules”.
For Modscape, the physical dimensions of the typical semitrailer determine the size of the modules. “Our typical living module is 15 metres long and 4.35 metres wide, and that is what fits on the back of a truck.”
Judy and Graeme became the fourth of our customers to benefit from the process whereby a fully-formed building can be delivered, with all its cross-ventilating windows and internal fittings and fixtures, in just 12 weeks. Budget-friendly in the extreme, the one bedroom, basic living unit (living/kitchen, bathroom and bedroom), costs around $145,200.
By early afternoon on the day the parts arrived on site, the home was fully erected. Judy marvels that the only waste left from the delivery exercise was one cardboard box and a stray plastic bag. She mulched the box.
The couple asked for some variations to our prototypes of homes because they wanted a heat-capturing concrete floor rather than the highly-insulated bamboo flooring on offer. This led Modscape to formulate a 100 mm aerated concrete floor that added a mere two tonnes to the load instead of what would have been an untransportable 13 tonnes of solid concrete flooring.
Because the house is in dairy country—with its accompanying pesky flies—Judy requested three double-glazed sliding glass doors for the double-skinned north-facing wall of the living space, instead of a whole wall of glass. This meant the glass doors could be fitted with flywire screens.
Delighted with this house and the fact that small-scale building is more friendly and rewarding than doing large-scale developments, Jan says they are equally happy to be pushed to find new solutions by clients who ask for sustainable and eco houses tailored to suit their needs.
Judy lovingly calls the place her cave, but there’s no sense of spatial stinginess here. The home’s two interlinked modules are surrounded by wide expanses of spotted gum decking, which lead the eye out to the endless landscape and its distant horizons. This contained, cosy house gets through the depths of winter on the heat from a single combustion stove.
There’s a strong sense of aesthetics at play here, too. The south-facing exterior of the pod, for instance, features horizontal galvanised steel with vertical double-glazed windows. This is contrasted with the vertical spotted gum walls and horizontal windows of the guest wing. In time, the materials will weather to a muted, uniform greyness. “It will get better with age,” says Jan.
With her home up and running in just one month, Ms Cameron can’t wait to start creating her permaculture garden. The point of her new lifestyle, she says, is not about having big homes with a “wow factor” but of having an intimate, workable home that allows her to forego “stuff”. “I wanted small because small homes are more eco-friendly. If you’ve got space you just put stuff in it!”
Want to know more about sustainable design principles? Read this post about passive design.