Is it possible to design a sustainable AND affordable home? Well, most homeowners I speak to say ‘No!’ … it’s always more expensive to build sustainably!
Jenny Edwards and Sarah Lebner from Light House Architecture + Science disagree. They believe you can have a sustainable home that is affordable to build as well. And one that uses traditional building methods, done smartly and efficiently.
And they have 77 completed projects that prove it’s possible.
Light House Architecture and Science is a unique architectural practice based in Canberra, and they are founded on a philosophy of simplifying the sustainable design process to create comfortable, clever, energy efficient homes. Homes that are light-filled and light-footed.
Light House Architecture and Science design space-efficient and energy-efficient homes to suit Canberra’s climate.
Through excellent design and scientific testing, they create homes that feel spacious and comfortable, and function beautifully, on a smaller than average floor area. Many of the homes they design achieve an energy efficiency rating of 8+ stars (6 stars being the current minimum standard). These houses require half as much energy per year to heat and cool them to comfortable temperatures compared to a 6 star home.
Their vision is to make energy efficient housing mainstream and be a beacon for positive change in the residential construction industry. As a result, they are committed to helping people with a ‘mainstream’ budget achieve their dream of an excellent, comfortable and affordable home.
Light House provides a unique integrated service with an experienced team of architects, scientists and cost estimator. This collaborative approach means you can expect clear and consistent communication from the outset about the design of your home, energy performance, time frames and costings, materials, finishes and inclusions.
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:
JENNY EDWARDS is an ACT licensed Building Energy Efficiency Assessor, and is the owner, managing director and lead scientist for Light House Architecture + Science … and I think this is one of the unique factors of this business as an architectural practice – in that a scientist is at the helm. It completely reframes the business’ focus, practice regime and design methodologies to be aligned with their core philosophy.
It was in the renovation of her own home in 2007 that she first saw a blower door test on television (if you listened to our episodes on Passivhaus, you’ll know a blower door test is where the house is sealed up during construction, and air blown in to test where leaks are in the building before it’s internally lined – so that it can be properly sealed as part of its energy efficient performance).
She also discovered thermal cameras around this time, and as a scientist, could see the two being a great match in showing how a home was managing leakage and temperature.
Jenny discovered there was only one blower door machine in Australia. So, she left her job, went to New Zealand to buy a blower door, trained in large-scale air leakage testing at the Wisconsin Energy Institute in the USA, learned all about thermal performance modelling in Australia, and then started a business doing house energy efficiency rating and performance testing.
Jenny has personally been awarded for her work in the industry, and her businesses and projects – including her own home – have also been recognised and awarded for their design and sustainable performance.
SARAH LEBNER is Lead Architect at Light House Architecture and Science and describes herself as a country girl who only wants to change the world!
Sarah originally joined Light House to focus on developing a modular housing design approach with the aim to make affordable, beautiful, energy efficient homes more accessible to the general public. The business evolution of Light House during Sarah’s employment has given her valuable insight into collaborative approaches and unique practising models for architects.
Sarah now leads the architecture and design team at Light House, maintaining a highly collaborative and collective group approach to design, documentation, advice during construction, professional development, and integration with the science team.
Sarah was shortlisted for international design competition (Capithetical), has tutored undergraduate and post-graduate architecture students in design, practice, and sustainable technology at the University of Canberra. She consults on the Design Advisory Panel for Canberra Metro, and has participated in volunteer construction programs in Kenya and the Solomon Islands.
She’s also added another project – a business and resource called “My First Architecture Job” – and it was through this avenue that I first encountered Sarah. My First Architecture Job is Sarah’s latest project, allowing her to bring her mentoring skills and energy for helping students kick-start their career to a wider audience.
My First Architecture Job is a resource to help bridge the gap for graduate architects between university and practice by providing knowledge, resources and connections, and to help them find employment, learn the basics of architecture practice, and fast-track the first five years of their career.
I ASKED JENNY EDWARDS AND SARAH LEBNER OF LIGHT HOUSE ARCHITECTURE + SCIENCE, THESE QUESTIONS …
- What is it like to have an architectural practice that’s not owned by an architect, and how it changes the way homes are designed?
- On reading about the 2017 Project and Report “The Building Code Energy Performance Trajectory Project”, it was amazing to hear that 58% of Australia’s buildings in 2050, will be built after 2019 … which means that there’s huge potential to impact their performance and the environment through better energy requirements. And these energy requirements have not been updated since 2010, despite electricity prices having doubled over that time. Detached housing will comprise 64% of the new construction between 2019 and 2050. So every homeowner has the opportunity to seriously change the landscape of energy use and efficiency in our country. What can the average homeowner, seeking to build or renovate on a budget, really do in this scenario? Is it simple enough to say ‘we want an 8 star home’ and go from there?
- How do Sarah, as Lead architect, go about designing homes with this type of focus?
- What would you recommend be the key things that homeowners target to build energy efficient homes using standard methodologies, construction, builders, materials etc? (And in fact, build homes that can be better than Passivhaus)
- Plus some other fantastic questions about affordability, tips for working with your team, and what to ask for in your project to get the best sustainability results.
When researching this interview, I read a quote by Steve Baczek, an American architect, that said:
“It’s not that High-Performance Houses cost too much; it’s that our idea of a fairly priced home is based on a history of building houses to meet embarrassingly low performance benchmarks. Clients don’t realise the difference between built to code vs built to last”
Jenny and Sarah share some incredibly valuable advice about how you can build a home that is built to last, comfortable and sustainable – and gives you the best living environment in an affordable way.
I know this will be a seriously game-changing interview.
Listen to the episode now. And be sure to get in touch with Jenny and Sarah to let them know you heard them on Undercover Architect, and to thank them for all they share!!
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS PODCAST:
Visit Light House Architecture’s Website >>> CLICK HERE
Follow Light House Architecture on Instagram >>> CLICK HERE
Follow Light House Architecture on Facebook >>> CLICK HERE
Check out Light House Architecture’s Houzz Profile >>> CLICK HERE
Visit First Architecture Job’s Website >>> CLICK HERE
Follow First Architecture Job on Instagram >>> CLICK HERE
Follow First Architecture Job on Facebook >>> CLICK HERE
Follow First Architecture Job on Pinterest >>> CLICK HERE
BZE speaks to Jenny Edwards & Tim Forcey >>> CLICK HERE
Powered by Passion: Jenny Edwards, Light House Architecture and Science >>> CLICK HERE
Light House’s ambitious idea >>> CLICK HERE
Sustainable Scientist >>> CLICK HERE
Star Ratings & Passivhaus >>> CLICK HERE
Download “The Bottom Line” PDF >>> CLICK HERE
Facebook group for my efficient Electric Home>>> Request to join here
And Jenny’s article in Renew Magazine about airtightness + healthy homes >>> Read here