Category Archives: Nest

Our eco building project . . . stage one is go!

Back in July,  I was wondering if we’d ever get started.

. . . a few months later . . .

We’ve ditched the building loan idea, scaled back our expectations and found a different builder.

Early on, we discussed with our architect, Nathalie Curtert, the possibility of staging our project:  fixing our leaky, mouldy unventilated and dingy 70s bathroom first, and then moving on to the glorious sunny, open-plan kitchen/dining room with actual inside-laundry room (not lean-to cubicle). Nathalie responded with a beautiful plan which accommodates that possibility.

12 months later, we reluctantly realised that staging was the way to go only way we could get started.

We could use our savings/tax return/family tax payment (gotta love that middle-class welfare, well maybe not in a macro sense, but for on mini-micro economic scale it is a boon!) plus a small short-term loan from a generous brother and not need to deal with dithering, demanding banks and actually get going with something. Plus, fixing the bathrooms would add value to our home which would mean we could refinance to do the next stage without all the hoo-haa around constructions loans (they’re awful, avoid if at all possible).

So, back we went to the green builder only to find that $30K had turned into over $40K and it wasn’t going to happen all over again.

What a saga.

Tip: you may love your green builder but putting your precious project out to tender can be the best thing to do.

We found another builder. Maybe not quite so green but practical, a great communicator and pretty much spot on with his quote even including the contingencies covered by the first quote. Happy to do grey water piping, insulation, double-glazing on the skylight, suggesting ways we could save money (what the heck!) but still maintain quality and the outcomes we were after.

That was about two months ago and after six weeks we are getting to within a week of moved back into our home today with (almost) two (definitely) brand new, modest-sized, water-efficient, light-filled, well-ventilated, locally-produced-almost-everything beautiful bathrooms for our gang of six!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some details what we’ve done to make our bathrooms sustainable. But for now, here’s what we had and what lay beneath and a sneaky peek of what the after looks like!

Have you got a green building project you’re working on, dreaming of or have completed? Love to hear your experiences!


Our old bathroom with the benefit of a camera flash. Never was it this bright.
Our old bathroom with the benefit of a camera flash. Never was it this bright.
The leaky, mouldy shower.
The leaky, mouldy shower.
What lay beneath . . . Dr Seuss-style vinyl bathroom wallpaper uncovered during demolition. Eek.
What lay beneath . . . Dr Seuss-style vinyl bathroom wallpaper uncovered during demolition. Eek.

2014-09-28 12.36.03

Our glamourous Australian-made bath!
Our glamourous Australian-made bath!

Our eco building project . . . starting?


Our project is still a paper dream, over six months after receiving council approval.

We’ve waited patiently for builders’ quotes.

We’ve whittled down those enormous figures to something a bit more manageable.

And, in the last week, after months of gathering all the information the bank needed to do a valuation so we could at last know if we had approval to finance this dream (no, we don’t have a spare $100K sitting in the bank account, sadly), we got our answer. Not the one we were hoping for.

Our initial budget was $80K-$100K, which is a heck of a lot of money to us, but we’d done our research on building costs, were confident that the architect could deliver an outcome within that budget and got the builder to give an initial estimate before we submitted our DA. All good, all on track.

By the time we get the formal fixed-fee quote which the bank requires, the budget had blown out by $65K, and we’d already spent $10K on professional fees plus were covering about $20K of expenses ourselves. So, we decided to ditch the side deck, pergola and new cladding. That saved about $20K and building materials we probably didn’t need. But still way beyond what we could comfortably afford. So, we dropped the garage, (we’re going to re-roof ourselves the teensy existing one for a couple of hundred dollars), joinery and the loungeroom window seat.

The end result is that about $125K of borrowed money, plus $20-30K of our own, adds about $90K value to our abode.

(Don’t you just love how three inconvenient zeros can be rendered by an innocuous capital K.)

Cold comfort that our budget and original estimates of end value were spot on.

All of which leaves us wondering how sustainable green building is if you can’t actually afford it without a massive loan? Or decades of saving? Or compromising the green bit – reducing building waste, recycling materials, low toxicity, quality work that will stand the test of time.

Is green a luxury?

Or is our idea of green unrealistic?







Our eco building project . . . consent

After months of design, reports, fine-tuning and negotiating with council, we now at last have Development Consent for an extension and renovation to our nest.

Design concept for our home by Designing Green Architecture
Design concept for our home by Designing Green Architecture

A glass of two of sparkling white Rhone-via-Victoria has been savoured!

When we moved into our 4-bedroom-plus-study weatherboard home last year, we had plans to build a new living/dining/kitchen/laundry where our enormous sun-drenched deck is, renovate the mouldy, leaky bathroom, add a modest ensuite and a new garage with workshop for Michael’s coffee roasting and beer brewing.

We have a perfect north-facing block, with a view to the always beautiful Illawarra Escarpment and a lovely decent-sized backyard for the kids to play in and me to garden in!

We want to make sure our home performs as well as it can in terms of energy and water efficiency, durability and be beautiful and comfortable to live in. And the biggest challenge? Doing it within our budget.

Over the coming months, you’ll see the before, the during and the after. I’ll share our challenges, solutions and compromises. And hopefully our little suburban dream will provide some ideas and inspiration for how we can all live gently on Mother Earth.