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    How far would you go for sustainability? Water Tank House challenges residential design aesthetic

    Nathan Johnson

    The interiors of Water Tank House, like most of the back street residences of Port Melbourne, are private enough, but the building’s sustainability statement is a very public one. 

    The three storey residence, designed by ARM Architecture, is completely covered in a combination of black water tanks and modular vertical planters (plastic) that publicly question the importance of design aesthetic in the greater context of sustainability:

    “How far would you go for sustainability? Is your domestic aesthetic flexible enough?” ARM Architecture.

    Nineteen Aquarius Slimline water tanks, each 2sqm and holding a combined 38,000 litres of water, form the bulk of the façade and will collect rainwater and service the home’s toilets, laundry and extensive gardens.  

    The thermal mass of the tanks will also mediate temperature fluctuations and create a degree of insulation for the building. 



    The garage door features artwork commissioned by the family.

    Between the tanks, and covering the rest of the building, is Atlantis Gro-Wall®, a plastic modular structure that will support the home’s vertical gardens in the future.

    ARM says the façade, which will form a micro-ecology as it grows, puts the environment first, and forces the concept of sustainability into the public realm. 

    “The façade is palazzo-like in that it appears to seal off the household from the outside environment, yet it is not a forbidding security fortress: its message is about protecting species and environmental elements,” says the architect.

    “It chooses shared, functional sustainability over a personal luxury ideal.”

    Beyond the overt sustainability statement, the home also has other hidden green building technologies such as a rooftop garden, solar panels and a solar hot water system. The toilet cisterns, which are serviced by the water tanks, also have integrated handbasins that store used handwash water for flushing.

    The home’s three-storey central stairwell functions as the building’s thermal chimney, rising to an operable Velux Skylight that is opened when the owners want to flush hot air.

    In comparison to the street view, the Water Tank House’s interior is very normal-looking. It comprises versatile multi-purpose spaces that incorporate common materials such as timber floors for common areas, carpeted bedrooms and tiled bathrooms.

    Hydronic heating , air conditioning, a mobile phone BIM system and an Easy Living Elevator are some of the more luxury items chosen by ARM for the interiors of Water Tank House.

    Water Tank House is currently being considered for the Victorian Architecture Awards hosted by the Australian Institute of Architects.

    Photography: exterior shots by Aaron Poupard, interior shots from Freemantle Media.

    KEY PROJECT INFO

    LOCATION
    Port Melbourne, Victoria

    COMPLETED
    2014

    PEOPLE

    DESIGN TEAM
    Howard Raggatt, Ray Marshall, Sophie Cleland, John van Gemert, Meredith Dufor, Laura Burley

    BUILDER
    Overend Constructions

    LANDSCAPE CONSULTANT
    Rush Wright

    STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT
    McLeod Consulting

    ARCHITECTURAL METAL WORK 
    HJ Richards (Aust.)

    PRODUCTS

    CLADDING (GREEN)
    Alucobond Aluminium Cladding 

    GROW WALL CLADDING 
    Atlantis Gro-Wall®

    WATER TANKS
    Aquarius Watermaster

    SKYLIGHTS
    Velux, GHL Dual Action Double Glazed Roof Window

    ALUMINIUM WINDOWS/DOORS
    Capral Flushline frames
    Viridian LowE Double Glazed

    CARPET
    The Floor Store

    CURTAINS/ BLINDS 
    Blinds in Mind

    ELEVATOR 
    Easy Living Elevators

    LIGHTING CONTROL / SECURITY AV
    Advanced Lifestyle Solutions

     

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