Kingfisher House — Sustainable Luxury

Kingfisher House demonstrates that you don’t have to sacrifice luxury to have sustainable living. In March 2020, Sean and Christiana bought an old home which needed to be demolished because it was infested with termites. They wanted to build a luxury home that exemplified their values. They are concerned about the environment and are seeking to help others fundraise for worthy causes through their courses at Sean sits on the board of the World Wide Fund for Nature and is a volunteer firefighter in both Queensland and New South Wales.

House front view — still under construction.

Nestled in the side of a hill on the Gold Coast hinterland is Kingfisher House. The semi-suburban house is built with extraordinary privacy on the 1.5 acre site, with fabulous views up to the border trail, beautiful flora, and a menagerie of local wildlife. A resident koala recently gave birth to a little joey, watching over wallabies, echidnas, water dragons, and the occasional 4 ft pest control: the ubiquitous Queensland diamond python.

A series of switchbacks tackle a steep incline to the Kingfisher House’s private jetty — awaiting a beautiful 18 ft Rand picnic boat (built from recycled materials and electric drive, of course).

The house was still under construction as we walked around, and the couple explained what they wanted to achieve and how they were going to do it. This is a house with a mission.

Original fireplace from previous house.

They have kept and reused as much of the original house as they could, building on the original concrete slab and treasuring the fireplace and chimney. The trusses have been reused and anything that could be salvaged either given to neighbours to use in their building projects or sold. The diesel used by tradies in their work (including trips to and from site) is being offset by environmentally friendly means.

Even the old pavers are being utilized as internal thermal walls to stabilize the temperature. Odd ends of concrete pours are stacked near the garage (affectionately known as the Battcave) to be used as part of the driveway foundations. The Battcave (because the batteries will be installed here) also houses a well insulated wine cellar for Sean and Christiana’s extensive Australian wine collection.

The stunning roof is made of hand-folded zinc — it will last a lifetime and is truly a marvel of sustainability. It is one of only a handful of such roofs in Queensland. Local artisan Sustainable Cladding learned its art in the Netherlands, where zinc and copper roofs are more common.

Kingfisher House roof.

The Battcave will be covered with earth and lawn to insulate the spaces below. This will create a level lawn as an active external recreation area linking directly with the internal courtyard. This is a central landscape space from which to enjoy views of surrounding gardens or play finska and bocce. It will be edged with a rich mix of local native flora, flowering to attract birds and pollinating wildlife and feed their native beehives.

Kingfisher House — Sustainable Luxury

To power the house, a north facing solar pergola is being constructed, giving shelter between the main house and the cinema/pool house. This will have 17 kW of solar panels and feed into a 27 kW Sonnen battery (built in a former Holden car factory in South Australia). If necessary, the house can run on the grid, but the connection is more to help supply power back to the grid. This will give Sean and Christiana the self-sufficiency in power (and water) that they crave.

The whole house uses the latest in Control4 Smart House technology, with local firm X One ensuring heating and cooling, security, keyless entry, and, of course, the multi-room lighting and AV works smoothly from smartphones and wall panels. The lighting will automatically reduce in intensity and colour in the evenings, moving from yellow to blue tints to promote wellness and prepare the mind for sleep.

The old 18 meter swimming pool will be refurbished and heated so it can be used all year round. A fully integrated heating and cooling system is being installed. Underfloor heating, mechanical ventilation, a couple of energy efficient aircon units, Big Ass Fans, and automatic louvres that control the amount are collectively managed by the Smart House System.

Because of Queensland’s mild winters, the gentle and efficient underfloor heating will keep the home at a nice temperature without engaging aircon. Christiana explains: “I hate walking on cold concrete. This system gives a stable heat, rather turning an aircon on and off and never being quite satisfied with the temperature.” Despite that, the efficient aircon units will provide the occasional air conditioning desired to reduce condensation and mold on artwork, and improve comfort levels in humid weather.

To help with the battle with heat and humidity, the house is being double glazed, reducing heat loss or gain. Another local firm, EE Windows, provides super-efficient double glazed windows manufactured in Australia with German glass. This includes the massive “unicorn window.” This oversized stacking sliding window runs nearly the entire width of the living space. When opened, it connects that room to the view and site on calm days, and helps the house breathe with cross ventilation. When closed, the windows disappear into a clever architecturally designed hideaway. Views and a sense of visual connection with the greenery are maintained.

The centre of the house is an inside/outside courtyard with a pond, a cathedral ceiling (raking to 6 metres at its peak), and a bar! The transparent roof has the louvres that open and close to regulate the heat managed by the Smart Home system.

No space has been wasted, with Sean creating a secret games room (he’s a big board game fan) for himself in the attic — secret because the staircase will be cunningly disguised. (I’m not sure if I was meant to share that….)

Across the pool, a second building houses a dedicated home cinema and gaming room with a 133” acoustic 4K projection screen hiding a bank of speakers which work seamlessly with the surround sound to give a true cinema experience. A high-spec PC, console, and virtual reality kit provide the perfect gaming den.

Another rare feature will be the pond and waterfall connected through the central part of the house and down in front of the bedroom window. This will promote tranquility by providing white noise to cover any cars passing by on the road. They are hoping frogs will join the locally sourced fish for safety and find security in the pond.

This is a connected water volume inside to out, to help stabilize the health of the water, plants and animals — but is to be screened at the building line to ensure it is water which enters and leaves, rather than wildlife.

Next to the ample shed, nearly 50 kL of water will supply the entire water requirements of the house, including drinking water, irrigation, and the pool. Mains water is connected for emergency top-up.

With a 9.1 star energy rating, Kingfisher House is designed to be carbon neutral during its construction and throughout its lifetime. The gardens are being stocked with local natives and plants that are edible, with a couple of non-native fruits and vegetables for the table.

Many of the ideas came from their own research, and others from their architect, PTMA Architecture, which specializes in sustainable architecture.

“You don’t need to compromise lifestyle to be sustainable.”

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