The most sustainable building is the one you don’t build.
When the existing bones of a property are fundamentally right – in terms of siting, orientation, garden setting, enduring materials – then re-use is a better option than bulldozing and starting again. It minimizes the waste of precious resources, offers the client value for money with build costs lower than if ground up and facilitates planning approval by minimising the disruption of neighbours through maintaining the status quo of boundary conditions, bulk and mature vegetation.
Making the most of the ready-made garden, a tropical oasis unusual for Fitzroy, living spaces were replanned to the north, sleeping/study/other spaces to the south. Sliding panels enable secondary bedrooms to be multi-purpose. Crucial in a time of increased social isolation and smaller households the redesign still maintains the original building’s opportunity for neighbourly interaction, between balconies and gardens. The shared front garden reinforces the sense of community within the block and balances shared gardens for entertaining with more private ones.
While some might have seen an ugly brown duckling in the original building we saw instead a brown brick beauty that was built to last and distinctively local with its continental Melbourne sensibility. Its retention and upgrade for a long future maintains the eclectic mix that is Fitzroy. It also demonstrates the benefits of re-use and upcycling over rebuilding in the provision of housing.