A four-storey home built on a tiny 5x4-metre urban footprint in East Melbourne is taking sustainable living to new heights with a host of features that balance functionality with environment-friendly design. Made almost entirely from sustainable Australian timber, including a wide range of Ecoply plywood manufactured by Carter Holt Harvey, the project is based on One Planet Living principles.

According to owner-builder Ralph Alphonso, the primary objective of the project was to build a liveable dwelling on a small urban footprint in an environmentally responsible way. Seeking lightweight, partially prefabricated materials with impeccable environmental credentials, Alphonso came across Ecoply plywood products made with wood fibre sourced from sustainably managed plantation forests.

Architect Craig Chatman of ARKit explained that the design response to the compact site was to offer a mini-tower that reflected the adjacent city skyline of Melbourne. The entire home is designed, built and powered with passive and active eco-driven processes, materials and performance considerations.

Project highlights include upper storey floors manufactured off-site as prefabricated cassettes; upper storey floors and walls installed in just 2½ days despite access constraints; Ecoply Plyfloor specified for the floor cassettes for its sustainability credentials as well as ability to provide bracing between each level; and durable pre-sanded plywood sheets with formaldehyde emissions equivalent to Super E0.

Key features also include an interior colour scheme created by Comer & King sourcing a selection of interior finishes and fixtures; locally made Ecoply structural plywood used throughout the interior spaces as multipurpose built-in cabinetry and joinery; and Formrite repurposed as carcases for the interior fit-out. Environmentally responsible choices at the East Melbourne home also included geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and an automation system to measure the ongoing energy use.

Following the completion of the build, managing company Barley Store Productions continues to showcase the learnings and examples of the project. Alphonso added that the knowledge gained throughout the build process can be used as a vehicle to showcase, demonstrate and inform.

Image: Photographer: Ralph Alphonso © Barley Store Productions