Steels Creek Underground House 2018

Steels Creek Underground House
Steels Creek VIC 3775
Full address will be displayed on 05 Sep 2019
10am – 4pm
House Open Style
Open House – No booking required
Housing Type
Standalone House
Project Type
New Build
Soft Loud house Architects
House Size
200m2 approx.
Number of bedrooms
Number of bathrooms
Open with support of
Permaculture Yarra Valley

This house was designed after a previous home was destroyed by fire in 2009. It was built to be energy efficient and easy to maintain, using the principles developed for Earthships.

The internal temperatures range from 19 degrees at the lowest to peaks of 25 degrees during prolonged heatwaves, with an average of 22–23 degrees most of the time. Fire safety was also a major design concern.

The house has solar/wet back water heating with hydronic radiators for cold winter nights and solar grid-connected power that produces well over our energy needs. Water is collected from the farm buildings above the house to allow for gravity feed. Reed beds deal with waste. Solar tubes , LED lights and a front wall of insulated glass provide plenty of light. Clay pavers keep the floors cool in summer and store solar heat in winter, but the main temperature control is through thermal mass. Lime render lets the walls deal with moisture.

Recycled materials are used for doors and other features, and a solar buffer zone grows ginger, turmeric and other plants that help control air pollutants.

The ruins of the old house have been recycled as a BBQ and classroom area enclosed by an edible garden, whilst the new house is situated in a fire reserve by a large dam.

Flash-flood water is led away by a dry creek moat that drains into the dam, and the floors at the back of the house contain drain outlets. External noise is mostly eliminated by the design and, with most of the house underground, there is good wind protection. All windows are easy to reach for cleaning and one can walk up the roof to service the chimneys. Sheep graze on the roof and around the building to keep the vegetation short for fire safety.

Designed by Alvyn Williams, Soft Loud House Architects.

Photography by Ben Wrigley.

Read more about this home in:

Watch Ed and Amanda talk about their home here:

Please Note: Enter Hargreaves Road from Steels Creek Road; no entry from Melba Highway, as shown on some maps.

Go to Steels Creek Road BEFORE setting the address on satnav devices.

To find out more about the NatHERS (Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme) click here.


Previously Open
Cost estimate of sustainable home/features
Estimate of annual savings
No energy Bills +$2000 p.a. return from power company
BAL Rating
BAL – 19: Increasing levels of ember attack and ignition of debris with a heat flux of up to 19kW/m2
Window and door types
Double glazing
Louvre windows
Recycled and reused
Sustainable materials
Wood cabinets and doors from recycled timber
Insulation - Ceiling
Type: Earthwool
Rating: R4.0 plus tapering effect of thermal mass from soil cover on top and sides of building
Insulation - Internal/external walls
Type: Soil + eps insulatory barrier to lock 1.5 m of soil into back wall of building to fix thermal sink into building
Rating: N/A
Insulation - Other
1.5m thermal flywheel at rear of house
Energy star rating type
Energy star rating
Initially 3 Stars; had to add undesigned extra changes to achieve 6 Stars involving unnecessary insulation. Home is at least 10 Star as rating standards do not count insulation value of earth.
All electric home
Renewable energy
Solar PV grid-connected
Thermal mass energy storage collected by solar buffer zone and reflected into main house in winter. This is trapped by double-glazed doors in the evening.
Size of PV system
Water heating
Solar hot water (flat panel)
Wood fire wetback
Passive heating cooling
Solar buffer zone solar heating combined with earth-linked ventilation system
Active heating cooling
Solar room heating combined with earth-linked ventilation (Roman) system
Energy efficiency
Draught proofing
Efficient lighting
Efficient appliances
Building is designed for 100+ year life cycle, embodied energy is calculated to average out to a minimum value due to longevity of building
Water harvesting and saving
Above-ground rainwater storage
Stormwater management
Low-flow shower heads
5ML dam storage for stock and veg/garden irrigation
Garden / Outdoors
Bee keeping
Edible garden
Native plants
Water-wise plants
Rock mulch around house for fire safety. Stock vegetation management. Food-producing trees for shelter belts.