Case Studies

As outlined throughout this guide, at Breathe we want to inspire, engage and support the people and community we serve while upholding an overarching priority toward social, environmental and economic sustainability. But enough talk, here’s what that looks like in practice.

Warehouse Greenhouse

View of a black kitchen with an island bench. To the left: windows and a parked bicycle.Outdoor, timber-decked courtyard inside a existing brick walls of an old warehouse. A kid sitting on the stairs with doors open towards the courtyard.

Warehouse Greenhouse is home to a family of gardeners and artisans who care deeply about the environment. They engaged Breathe to create a simple extension and carve a greenhouse garden into the heart of their 1960s warehouse home in Brunswick, Melbourne. Our approach was to keep as much as possible of the existing building to harness its embodied energy and extend its life, and to add only what was necessary to create a well-insulated, comfortable, small-footprint family home.

The structure of the existing building is preserved, and the steel trusses, brick and blockwork walls, concrete slab floor and factory windows are expressed inside and outside. The brick and concrete provide thermal mass, and new insulated walls and double-glazed windows upgrade the thermal envelope. The high-performance windows have been installed inside the existing windows to create three layers of glazing, improving thermal performance and air tightness. (It is exceptionally airtight with only 1.2 air changes per hour.)

The upper-storey extension is clad with corrugated Zincalume, and a section of the roof has been removed to create a new outdoor living space and protected urban garden on the top level of the home. Optimising passive design, this open-air courtyard maximises sun penetration into the interior in winter, while providing shading in the summer and facilitating cross- and stack ventilation.

There is no supplemental heating or cooling. Instead, the building relies on passive heating and cooling, a tight thermal envelope and an energy efficient heat recovery ventilation system. This ensures Warehouse Greenhouse remains comfortable and economical to run year-round. A solar PV array on the roof generates electricity and uses a 100% certified GreenPower grid connection as a backup.

View of a bathroom, in particular the shower and a bathtub. In the background a glazed wall with textured glas.

Sustainable materials and features

  • Australian FSC-certified strapped plywood internal wall and ceiling lining throughout
  • External Zincalume corrugated steel cladding
  • E0 yellow tongue flooring with oiled finish
  • Recycled hardwood timber stair treads, salvaged and remilled from the existing roof purlins on site
  • Recycled timber benchtop, salvaged and remilled from existing roof purlins on site
  • Existing internal brick walls
  • High-performance, timber-framed, double-glazed doors and tilt-and-turn windows by Binq
  • Raw brass tapware
  • Raw brass door furniture
  • Acoustic wall lining by Woven Image in entry area
  • Victorian plantation Formply kitchen joinery door and drawer fronts
  • Stainless steel benchtop in kitchen
  • Mild steel splashback, handrails and details throughout
  • Bathroom lining from strapped FC sheeting with zero VOC epoxy coating (instead of ceramic tiles)
  • 5000L water tank on ground floor, plumbed to toilet and irrigation on ground floor
  • Energy efficient induction cooktop
  • LED spot and track lighting throughout

Partners and collaborators

Edgars Creek House

Outside view of a rammed earth building with trees in the background.Interior walkway with timber floorboard, timer staircase to the left and a slatted opening to the right.

Edgars Creek House is designed to recede into the landscape and provide the homeowners with a peaceful bushland retreat. The clients engaged Breathe to create a sustainable home with a strong passive design and a material palette that is healthy for the occupants and the environment. We took a reductionist approach to ensure everything is functional, purposeful and robust, and that the building could be disassembled at the end of its life for reuse.

The U-shaped house comprises three pavilions — for sleeping, bathing and living — that frame a central courtyard. The comprehensive site assessment determined the best orientation of the building to capture views, connect to the landscape and optimise passive solar design. The building is appropriately sized to meet the clients’ needs and minimise the impact on the environment, and the window-to-wall ratio creates an efficient thermal envelope with a 7.2 stars NatHERS rating.

There is no adornment in this house; rather the beauty of the raw, natural materials — rammed earth walls and ironbark cladding and decking — is revealed throughout, and blends with the surrounding sandstone cliffs and ironbark trees. The rammed earth provides thermal mass for passive heating and cooling, and an insulated double skinned wall for a solid thermal envelope. The stone floor in the sunken living room provides additional thermal mass near the fireplace, and a brise soleil along the edge of the central pavilion opens, shades and ventilates the house, and filters sunlight through the timber screen.

There are no tiles or ceramic finishes, and all tapware is raw brass and custom bent copper pipe with simple brass hose cocks assembled by the builder on site. Nearly all of the building is held together without adhesives, which will enable the components to be disassembled and reused, rather than put into landfill, at the end of the building’s life.

An energy efficient, modern heat pump system provides all domestic hot water needs and powers a hydronic heating system to keep the house cosy on colder days without burning wood in the fireplace. We worked with the client to move away from gas and instead commit to an all-electric building (connected to 100% accredited GreenPower) that makes it future-proof with net-zero emissions. Two 5,000 litre underground rainwater tanks capture rainwater for use in all plumbing fixtures, including showers and basins.

View into a bathroom with the door half-opened showing a large concrete sink, round mirror and rammed earth.

Sustainable materials and features

  • Australian Grey Ironbark and Spotted Gum decking and battens
  • Recycled Victorian Ash joinery
  • Recycled Tasmanian Oak flooring by Urban Salvage
  • Natural rammed earth walls by Earth Structures Peninsula
  • Endicott Filetti stone flooring by Eco Outdoor
  • Timber doors and windows by Binq
  • Recycled Messmate benchtops
  • Raw brass tapware by Brodware and Par
  • Raw copper kitchen sink
  • Concrete bathtub
  • Dulux envirO2 paint
  • Black Mild Steel staircase
  • Surface-mounted downlights, outdoor spike lights, outdoor wall lighting, all by Ambience Lighting
  • Appliances by Fisher & Paykel

Partners and collaborators