The Impossible House

Date : 
24 September 2020 
Venue: Online
Council Event
Cost: Free

Event Details

About the Impossible House

Laura is transforming her tiny worker’s cottage in Newtown, Sydney. Her goal is to transform it into a light-filled, off-grid home.

Why so ‘impossible’?

It’s been far from easy to get to this point. In fact, according to the many architects, solar, water, legal and sustainability experts she's engaged with in the last 3 years, the project is near impossible! For a few key reasons:

1. The house is small and dark with difficult access.

2. It’s situated in the inner-city in a high-density area.

3. Space! (Or lack thereof.) It’s easy to be off the grid when you have the square meterage, but she only has 104m2 to work with. The limited roof space severely limits harvesting water and sunlight. The small block also makes it difficult to incorporate solar passive principles into the house.

4. Cost. Laura want to prove that it can be done for the same cost as a ‘normal’ renovation, or less.

But there’s more

On top of the above constraints (and just to make it even more difficult for the project team), she has imposed these requirements:

• No heating or cooling systems to be installed in the home, but the house has to be warm in winter and cool in summer.

• The electricity and water systems need to be self sufficient.

• She needs to salvage as much of the existing property as possible for re-use in the new build.

• The house must look, feel and function like a “normal house”. The inhabitants should not have to make liveability sacrifices.

• Only sustainably sourced materials are to be used, e.g., there is no concrete.

So where has she landed? Laura will likely start work in early 2021, based on these solutions:

1. The house will be self sufficient for water and electricity

None of the water she uses will leave my property and she will not be connected to the mains. While Laura will be plugged into the power grid, she will have a battery and the goal is to never use electricity from the grid, only to put electricity back into the system.

Both the water and electricity solutions are non-standard. They have required engineering knowledge and extreme tenacity and persistence from her water and solar experts: Tony Towndrow from Rootzone for the water solution and Roland from Roland Lawrence Electrical for the solar.

2. Laura's incredibly creative and solution-oriented architect, is also the builder

Paul Adams from Fairweather homes is the backbone of this project and has somehow managed to incorporate all my ideas into one tiny space. The building itself will be built off site and is predominantly made of wood.

3. Her designer is not just incredibly talented, she is passionate about sustainability

Denby Dowling is tasked with making sure my home’s fittings, features and materials are sustainable without sacrificing quality or aesthetics.

4. She will have an incinerating toilet and Laura won’t be connected to the sewerage system.

Laura hopes her story will inspire as well as provide useful tips and information for anyone else who wants to live sustainably in the city. She wants people all over Australia (or the world!) to be able to take what she's learnt on her journey and apply it to their new build or renovation.

Please join our talk to discuss the designs for the new renovation and ask questions of both Laura and her architect/builder Paul Adams.

• Dr Laura Ryan Sponsor, client and homeowner

• Paul Adams (Paul is an architect and director at Fairweather homes and is an expert in pre-fab)




24 Sep 2020 at 06:00 PM - 07:00 PM


New South Wales


For more information please contact Sustainability Education Officer .

: 02 9936 8398

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