Reborn Old Fibro Cottage 2018

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Empire Bay NSW 2257
    • Housing Type:
    • Standalone House
    • Project Type:
    • Extension
    • Builder
    • Scott Booker, ST and SG Bookers
    • Designer
    • Michael Lever, Lever Designs

About Reborn Old Fibro Cottage

The old and dilapidated fibro-and-iron cottage was built almost 100 years ago and moved to its present site about 30 years ago. It is a classic reminder of the simple weekenders or fishermen’s shacks of a bygone age. The tiny cottage needed extending and a total update, so it was an ideal opportunity to make it more sustainable and energy efficient whilst retaining its simple character.

As almost all the internal and external linings were asbestos cement sheets (fibro), they had to go, leaving just the original hardwood frames. The walls were re-clad in colorbond steel and Weathertex weatherboards and sheets in a matrix pattern – they have excellent environmental credentials and are reminiscent of the original material used to build the cottage. Weathertex is compressed hardwood sheet without any glues or harsh chemicals and can be used in variety of ways. It is locally made and carbon-positive.

Internally, the cottage has seen the most changes. Most of the walls were removed to form an open-plan living area. An important consideration was to be able to see the street and the rear garden from the kitchen – the heart of the home.

Most of the original timber frame was replaced, but the timber was used to make the outdoor studio, which also utilised the only useable window and external door. Of course, the old internal doors and as much of the old skirtings and architraves that were OK were reused, and the original weatherboards were salvaged and repurposed – for example, on the barn door and kitchen cabinets.

The two-storey extension is located to the south side and faces the almost-true-north wall. The side wall was splayed so as not to block the view of the garden. Energy efficiency was another major design criterion, and the extension is a typical passive solar design oriented to allow the winter sun to fall onto the almost-black ceramic tiles through large double-glazed sliding doors. The home has been well insulated, rewired and re-plumbed, and uses the 6000L water tanks to irrigate the fruit trees in the garden as well as the toilets and laundry. Rainwater is also used to supply the hot water tank, which is heated using evacuated tube solar panels.

Having saved it from the bulldozers, it is my intention that this home will survive for another century at least.

Designed by Lever Designs and built by ST and SG Bookers.
Photography by Chosen Property Photography.


Years Open
    • Energy efficiency:
    • Draught proofing
      Efficient lighting
      Efficient appliances
    • Passive heating cooling:
    • Cross-ventilation
      Passive solar designed home
      Thermal mass

    • Passive heating cooling:
    • Orientating the exension to face north with large glazed areas and awning to provide optimum shading. Dark tiles to concrete slab to absorb solar heat gain. Extensive verandahs etc. and wide eaves to shade existing cottage.
    • Active heating cooling:
    • Ceiling fans
      Split system air conditioner

    • Active heating cooling:
    • Original house has a black colorbond roof with bitumen-impregnated foam-sealed ridges to provide airtight roof space. At present, ventilated with existing whirlybird roof ventilators. Future modifications to filter and pump air from roof space into house for gentle heating in winter or venturi effect to draw air out of house in summer using roof-adjustable seals fitted to existing roof ventilators.
    • Water heating:
    • Solar hot water (evacuated tube)
    • Water harvesting and saving features:
    • Above-ground rainwater storage
      Low-flow shower heads
      Low-flow taps
    • Above ground rainwater storage Type:
    • Colorbond tanks
    • Above ground rainwater storage Size
    • 6000L
    • Energy Efficient Lighting
    • LED lights throughout
      Natural daylight
      Tubular skylight
    • Window Protection:
    • Awnings (external)
    • Recycled and reused materials:
    • Existing trees milled for timber on-site. Weatherboards reused internally. Timber framing, window and door reused on studio.
    • Sustainable materials:
    • Weathertex wall cladding to most of external walls. Used timber from trees felled on-site for feature timbers. Reused existing weatherboards as internal feature timbers (bushfire rating did not allow reuse externally).
    • Recycled and reused materials:
    • Doors
      Light fixtures

    • Insulation Type:
    • Under-roof
      Internal walls
      External walls
    • Ceiling Type:
    • Bulk – glass wool
    • Ceiling Rating:
    • R4.0
    • Floor Type:
    • Bulk – glass wool
    • Floor Rating:
    • R2.0 to timber flooring, none under slab
    • Under Roof Insulation Type:
    • 55mm fibregalss bonded to reflective foil (Anticon)
    • Under Roof Insulation Rating:
    • R1.0
    • Internal Walls Insulation Type:
    • Bulk – glass wool
    • Internal Walls Insulation Rating:
    • R2.0
    • External Walls Rating:
    • R2.0
    • External Walls Type:
    • Bulk – glass wool
    • All-Electric Home?
    • Yes
    • Energy star rating:
    • 5.2 Stars whole house
    • Renewable energy used:
    • Solar PV grid-connected
    • Size of PV system:
    • 1kW
    • Total cost of home when constructed:
    • $459,000
    • Cost estimate of sustainable home/features:
    • $35,000
    • Estimate of annual savings:
    • $1000
    • House Size
    • 173m2
    • BAL Rating
    • BAL – 19: Increasing levels of ember attack and ignition of debris with a heat flux of up to 19kW/m2
    • Roof
    • Metal (colorbond)
    • Wall Materials
    • Lightweight construction (timber frame)

    • Wall Materials
    • Weathertex and colorbond
    • Window and Door Types
    • Awning
      Double glazing
      Sliding windows/doors
      Sun Tunnel/SolaTube

    • Window and Door Types
    • UPVC double glazed
    • Universal design accessability
    • Multi-generational
    • Universal Design Features
    • 80cm minimum door opening width
      Lever handles for doors (no knobs)
      Pocket doors so that cabinet doors are out of the way
    • Number of bedrooms
    • 4
    • Number of bathrooms
    • 3
    • Garden / Outdoors
    • Established fruit trees
    • Garden / Outdoors
    • Composting
      Drip irrigation

    • Healthy home features
    • Cross-flow ventilation
      Indoor plants for air filtration
      Low VOC paints/sealer/varnish
      Natural light and ventilation
      No carpets

    • Healthy Home
    • All furnishings and finishes animal-product-free (vegan)

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