Breathe Architecture transformed a draughty 1960s industrial warehouse into a comfortable, light-filled family home designed for sustainable living.

This warehouse conversion project reconciles industrialisation and human occupation with the natural environment, prioritising sustainability and thermal performance. Embodying warm, quiet open spaces, and abundant greenery in a low-energy oasis, Warehouse Greenhouse has been cleverly and thoughtfully connected to the family’s Japanese heritage, enabling the architects to retain the character of the original building, inside and out.

Warehouse Greenhouse is split into three zones. A traditional genkan entry opens to a ground floor studio for work; the first floor living space exposes the original structure and is fitted with insulated walls, double glazed windows and a series of pocket greenhouses providing an outdoor connection; and a second floor mezzanine for sleep borrows light from below.

“The design signals a simple elegant path to a sustainable future. The key move was to peel off the existing roof. In doing so, a new living space opens up to the sky and sun, creating a protected urban garden – a greenhouse within the warehouse – and an effortless connection between the two,” comments Breathe Architecture.

To harness the embodied energy of the existing building, the design retained as much as possible from the original warehouse, only adding what was necessary. So, material choice was aligned with environmentally sustainable design and future recyclability, “celebrating material remnants of the existing building with a series of new, functional spaces throughout,” reflects Breathe Architecture.

Midnight Blue brick tiles bathroom

In a nod to its ‘build less, give more’ ethos, Breathe Architecture selected Midnight Blue brick tiles from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd for their carbon neutrality, aligning with the firm’s commitment to limiting the embodied carbon in the building fabric of all its projects.

“Contributing to the pared back, humble material palette, the Midnight Blue brick tiles offer a robust flooring solution in lieu of ceramic tiles, which also speaks to the brick materiality of the existing warehouse,” adds Breathe Architecture.

One of the most impressive (and challenging) aspects of the warehouse conversion is its airtightness. Creating airtight internal spaces in a new build is a difficult process, but doing so in an old building with an industrial history was extremely complex. Builder Never Stop Group’s tenacity saw every penetration rigorously tested, and each leak tracked down throughout the building envelope.

As a result, Warehouse Greenhouse is built to Passivhaus standards, featuring an extremely airtight building envelope with only 1.2 air changes per hour, and a passive solar design to maximise sun penetration in winter and deliver interior shade in summer. Its high thermal efficiency comes from the cross-ventilation and ability to harness the existing building’s thermal mass. Breathe Architecture’s design will ensure comfort for the Warehouse Greenhouse residents well into the future, regardless of the fluctuations and changes in the Melbourne climate.

Located a few metres away from busy main roads, Warehouse Greenhouse is designed to provide the family with a cosy and peaceful oasis. There is no doubt this magnificent home will serve them well, providing protection from the elements and noise for many years to come.

Photographer: Tom Ross