Metro Melbourne’s first certified Passive House is throwing open its doors for Sustainable House Day 2017 to show that high performance housing can be achieved on a tight budget.

When Susan Bourke sought to purchase a ‘home for life’, she never expected the journey would result in building a Passive House largely of her own design. “I was looking for a low-maintenance, single-level place for my older age. I didn’t want to have to move again.” But these seemingly straightforward criteria made it difficult to find anything suitable in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs. “After searching and seeing a lot of dual occupancies with stairs, [my partner] Pete said: ‘Have you ever thought about building?’ And I thought ‘really?’ I had never even considered it.”

To meet the Passive House standard, a highly insulated thermal envelope is created and made airtight by wrapping the building in a breathable ‘skin’, with an HRV to control airflow. In practical terms, this means avoiding penetrations of this skin and eliminating all thermal bridges to the outside. The completed house is then tested to ensure airflow is less than 0.6 air changes per hour (ACPH).

The couple are keen to open their home to others to demonstrate that higher performing housing need not cost more to build, but will cost less to run: “I really have a great desire for people to realise they can afford to get a really nice house that’s incredibly efficient beyond what you can imagine,” says Peter.

Read more about the Caramar Passivhaus in Sanctuary 40. Written by Kulja Coulston and photographs by  David Johns