It was a drafty 1960’s industrial warehouse never intended for residential living. Owned by a quiet, tenacious family of guerilla gardeners and artisans.
And this the conundrum: How to turn such a space into an efficient, light-filled modest family home that enables its inhabitants to live more sustainably?
Enter Breathe Architecture.
And what transpires is a story reconciling industrialisation and human occupation with the natural environment, prioritising sustainability and thermal performance.
Warehouse Greenhouse embodies warm, quiet open spaces, and abundant greenery in a low-energy oasis. With a clever, thoughtful connection to the family’s Japanese heritage, the character of the original building is retained, inside and out.
It’s all about building less and giving more; a signature of Breathe Architecture designs.
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.
The design concept involved harnessing the embodied energy of the existing building, retaining as much as possible and 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.
Take, for instance, Robertson’s Building Products’ Midnight Blue brick tiles. They were selected for their carbon neutrality, in line with Breathe Architecture’s commitment to limiting the embodied carbon in the building fabric of all its projects, and giving a nod to its build less, give more ethos.
“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.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the build was making it airtight. This is difficult enough in a new build, but even more so in an old building with an industrial history. Never Stop Group’s tenacity saw every penetration rigorously tested through the building envelope, tracking down each leak, one by one. As a result, Warehouse Greenhouse is built to Passivhaus standards. It’s extremely air-tight with only 1.2 air changes per hour, and uses a passive solar design to maximise sun penetration in winter and deliver interior shade in summer. Its highly thermally efficient envelope is cross-ventilated and harnesses the existing building’s thermal mass. That means comfort for multiple years, despite fluctuations and changes in the Melbourne climate.
Warehouse Greenhouse provides the family with a cosy and peaceful oasis, despite being merely metres away from busy main roads. And there is no doubt this magnificent home will serve them well, providing protection from the elements and noise for many years to come.
Architect: Breathe Architecture
Product: Midnight Blue brick tiles
Builder: Never Stop Group
Photographer: Tom Ross