The Sesso Hull family of four make affordable and sustainable decisions wherever possible. Six years ago they renovated their single-fronted Edwardian weatherboard cottage in Coburg. Jasmine Sesso recalls that the aim was “to have a light environmental footprint, become carbon neutral, reduce our energy and water use, and limit our exposure to toxins in the home.”
All the sustainable bells & whistles
The family more than met the brief with this innovative, energy efficient 7.9 star-rated home! Designed and built by Positive Footprints, ‘The Cheese House’, referring to its unique shape, has won multiple design and building industry awards, demonstrating the leadership of the Merri-bek family and their collaborators.
The renovation retained the original three rooms of the home and included a modest new north-facing two storey addition with a kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms and laundry – without overshadowing neighbours. To improve the comfort of the home and save on heating and cooling bills, insulation was added to the walls, under the floors, and to roof of the existing part of the home – amazing the family with how much difference it made to their enjoyment of their home. All-electric home appliances are selected for maximum energy efficiency, low environmental impact through their life cycle and to ensure the use of renewable electricity (not gas, a fossil fuel).
Through clever use of the limited ground space, the design retains plenty of growing space allowing the family to create a productive rear yard full of herbs, fruit and vegetables. The renewed small front yard features shade and drought tolerant native plants.
Because of the high energy rating achieved through both the old and new parts of the building, Cheese House boasts comfort year-round and requires minimal artificial heating and cooling. The lovely north-facing kitchen and dining area, the hub of the home, is flooded with sunshine in winter thanks to the awning that blocks the summer sun but allows the winter rays to warm the rear area of the home. The thoughtful design and construction and addition of a 4.7kW solar system on the rooftop allows the family to produce more than twice as much energy as they consume in the warmer months yet draw a nominal amount of energy from the grid in the depths of winter.
Sharing knowledge with others
The family are passionate about sharing their experience about how easy and cost effective it is to lower the carbon footprint of their renewed home. They opened their home to the public as part of Sustainable House Day in September 2020 and are proudly involved with the Builders Declare movement, working to influence the industry to make the changes necessary to avert climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.
Jasmine encourages everyone needing to upgrade their home – whether they own it or are renting – to consider energy efficiency and sustainability improvements. “It’s possible to start small and reap benefits,” she says. “Draught-proofing and insulation can make an enormous difference to your heating and cooling requirements and bills. You can make small improvements, one step at a time.”