Capturing views in energy-efficient comfort

Tower Hill Project in Victoria, Australia

In Victoria's southwest, Tower Hill House is a model for comfortable and sustainable living. Designed by architect and certified PassivHaus designer Fiona Golding, known for her commitment to sustainable design, this dwelling encapsulates the essence of modern, eco-conscious architecture. Capturing views across a lake within an extinct volcano crater to coast and ocean vistas towards Port Fairy, this house leverages its natural surroundings while achieving enviable environmental performance and wellbeing.

The brief for Tower Hill House was clear: to create a home that is exemplary in comfort and sustainability and takes full advantage of expansive southern views and the northern sun for winter warmth. The layout cleverly divides the structure into two separate entities—the main dwelling and an upper-floor guest apartment over the garage —each subtly angled to maximise views while ensuring privacy.


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Our Solution

The home's environmental setting profoundly influenced its material choices, which included recycled timber posts, rendered hempcrete, bluestone, and timber board and batten. Made from hemp fibre and lime, hempcrete is naturally fire- and pest-resistant, forming walls and insulation in one piece. Hempcrete works passively to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures with little need for heating, cooling, or mechanical ventilation.

The dwelling's design achieved high thermal efficiency with an 8.3 Star energy rating, significantly above the then-minimum requirement of 6 stars. Integrating 300mm-thick hempcrete walls with aluplast's Ideal 4000 uPVC windows and doors manufactured by Thermosmart was pivotal. Golding explains, "Given the high performance of the hempcrete walls, it was imperative to pair them with windows and doors of equal calibre." She notes that the decision to opt for triple glazing provided a substantial performance upgrade for less than an additional 10 per cent cost. Golding says the owners' preference for uPVC for the window and door system was influenced by its widespread use and proven performance in Europe.

"The clients chose uPVC for its high performance, durability, low maintenance, and value," Golding states.

She adds that they opted for aluplast’s Turner Oak Malt frames which deliver a timber-like appearance that integrates seamlessly with the home's natural palette. The large, south-facing windows, essential for maximising the aspect, necessitated a solution that could meet the dual aesthetic and performance demands. Golding notes, "Large windows were crucial for making the most of the site's extraordinary views, necessitating high-performance windows to deliver on both the views and energy efficiency." The specified aluplast windows delivered WERS u-values of 1.1 for sliding doors and 1.4 for tilt & turn and fixed windows, which are comparable with the Passivhaus standard.

One of the standout features of Tower Hill House is its quiet, breathable environment that maintains comfortable temperatures year-round, opening up to the environment through expansive smart-slide doors, and picture and tilt-and-turn windows. The self-contained guest apartment over the garage benefits from the triple glazing system's acoustic privacy and separation, an aspect Golding considers essential for multi-use dwellings.

Golding's preference for aluplast windows from Thermosmart reflects a broader trend towards sustainable building practices. "It has taken a while for some clients to come on board, but the tide is changing as they discover uPVC's performance, durability, and lower maintenance needs," she observes. Her specification usually includes LowE Plus glass on both the inside and outside of the IGU system, an approach aimed at retaining winter heat within the house—a critical factor in a region where heating dominates energy use.

Project result

Completed in late 2023, Tower Hill House demonstrates a strong synergy between architectural innovation and environmental stewardship. Through thoughtful design and material selection, Live Architecture has crafted a dwelling that respects its natural setting and models sustainable living in Australia's southern regions.

Project information

Architect Fiona Golding, Live Architecture
Fabricator Thermosmart
Specification aluplast Ideal 4000 with double LowE-Plus triple glazing – smart-slide doors, picture windows and tilt & turn windows.

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