Sometimes, the greatest transformations come from the smallest changes.

Vasey House in Canberra’s suburb of Campbell is proof that existing homes do not have to drastically change to improve. Designed by Light House Architecture & Science (previously Jigsaw Housing), the 1960s building was converted from being introverted and cold, into a warm and bright home with strong connections to the outdoors—all with just a 1m2 increase to the building footprint.

The original home already had fundamentally “good bones” from a design and thermal perspective, as well as sufficient floor area, the design team explains. This meant they only had to make a few small but selective internal alterations to improve the residence’s energy efficiency, spatial relations, circulation and links to the outdoors.

“For example, changing the position of a doorway,” Light House explains, “or tuning the largest western picture window into French windows that open onto a sill-height bench seat on the front balcony.”Vasey2.jpgTo maximise views, the team transformed the western window into an operable bench, and opened a rear pergola to the reserve on the east. Angled louvres are incorporated into the pergola design to ensure all-year comfort.

In the main living areas, recycled gym flooring was installed to create an inviting feel. The retention of original cornices in the front lounge also helped refresh the project while honoring the original house.Vasey4.jpgCreating a tightly sealed envelope was a key priority for the team. On this end, high performance PVC double glazing replaced steel framed single glazing, while insulation was added to the double brick external walls, allowing internal mass to provide thermal benefits. 

Meanwhile, R2 insulation was installed under the previously un-insulated floors, and the ceilings received an R5 insulation ‘top up’.

Together, these initiatives increased the home’s energy efficiency rating from 2.8 Stars to 7.7 Stars. It is expected that energy use for heating and cooling will reduce by 75 percent.


Caption: Well-sealed building envelope ensures minimal air leakage (6.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals).

“The house was 'realigned' to match the lifestyle of the occupants,” Light House says.

“Through a challenging design process, this renovation and extension achieves a dramatically improved quality of life for a young energetic family; bringing them light, comfort, connection to the landscape, and creative communal spaces.”


Photography by Ben Wrigley, courtesy of Light House Architecture & Science.


About the Sustainability Awards

The Sustainability Awards is Australia’s longest running and most prestigious awards program dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating excellence in sustainable design and architecture. Nominations received are shortlisted and then winners for each category are announced at a five-star Gala evening hosted this year at the Star, Sydney on 11 October 2018. The daytime event Sustainability Live is a CPD-endorsed education event where industry experts present a range of topics to educate, inform and ignite learning. Buy tickets