Young couples drawn to heritage houses will often overlook a building’s short comings in the early days of home ownership. Having spent enough time growing a family in a dark, inefficient and cramped inner western Sydney house, our clients were more than ready for an upgrade. We proposed interventions that would draw in light and triple thermal performance. And all of this without expanding the overall foot print into their much-loved garden.

To achieve a 7-star rated home for this environmentally conscious family of four, we focused on maximising and reorienting vertical space, with a new first floor and bright, central stairwell.The home’s dark zones have been eliminated, and comfortable temperatures are maintained with minimal artificial heating and cooling required year-round.

The existing brickwork at the rear of the home was leveraged to great effect. By adding insulation and sustainably forested Australian Blackbutt cladding to the ground floor, we transferred the thermal mass indoors for an inviting and high-performance, reverse brick veneer result.

Some of our signature timber design features, like slatted screens and deep window seats,have added visual interest as well as thermal efficiency. Looking out to the garden, double-glazed, low-e glass and a deep awning reflect and protect from the summer heat.

Next to their favourite crepe myrtle tree, anew plunge pool – topped up by the existing 3000L rainwater tank – offers the family a place for fun and relaxation in summer. There are plenty of solar panels on the roof for energy saving measures, too, and the couple is thrilled when their 4.6kW solar PV system feeds what they don’t use back into the grid.

We have visited the house several times since completion and the clients are still amazed at the home’s thermal performance. It seems the locals agree, with The Cube taking out the Inner West Council Sustainable Building Awards in 2017.The project was also featured for its sustainable architecture achievements in the Winter 2017 edition of Sanctuary Magazine.