Earth Building Projects


Dooley/Keevers Home

Dooley/Keevers Home, Woodhill Mtn, NSW. 

Peter Hickson, Builder. Saltbush Studios, Architect


The above home is one of my favourite building projects. It displays what can be achieved using earth as a material.  We utilised the Earth Building (EB) techniques of mud brick, cob and what I call “cob-art”. It also clearly shows what can be achieved with the energy and creative input of the client and their friends who were encouraged to be involved in rendering and decorating the earth walls.  The use of earth together with recycled and natural materials and climate responsive design were used to achieve a beautiful and comfortable home in harmony with the environment. Passive solar design, low embodied energy, solar hot water, grid connected PV array, dry compost toilet and grey water reuse, spring water, ground water tank, biofuel for heating and cooking and permaculture gardens combine to ensure a sustainable housing solution and a very small ecological  footprint.


Casey Home

Casey Home, Callala Bay, NSW.

Peter Hickson, Builder.  Brian Woodward, Architect.


This building was by far the most difficult home I have constructed. Fortunately I love a challenge and the clients were the best a builder could ask for. It is quite large home though was built in 3 stages the Garage/Loft, the Studio and then the House.  Part of the complexity was that there are 46 corners to the walls and most are 45 degrees. The mudbricks were supplied by Make It Mudbricks and because the production is a simple process they were able to supply 45 degree corner bricks. The building has loadbearing mudbrick walls throughout and the ceilings are timber lining over hardwood exposed rafters.  We built the windows and door frames ourselves.  The clients wanted to be involved and save costs so we showed tehm how to bag the outside and render inside and they completed there own painting.  

The Passive Solar Design works extremely well with no cooling required and heating is minimal.  The building has dry composting toilets, vertical reed bed grey water treatment, solar hot water, tank water only, grid connected PV array, and permaculture gardens using bio dynamic practices and poultry.  A shallow pond to the north of the building is used to capture and store stormwater. It also reflects light into the house and creates a cool microclimate in summer.  Some beautiful shots of inside walls appear in Photos.  


Yallah TAFE - Green Skills Training Centre


Peter Hickson, Builder.  Peter Hickson / Ray Trappel, Architect, Concept and Design.


The original brief for this building was a training room and low roofs for PV cell installation training. We came up with a raft of sustainable ideas the TAFE was ready to accept.  


This beautiful little mudbrick building was what we delivered. It was designed, constructed and fitted with the latest sustainable, renewable technologies available and includes the two low roof PV training roofs behind. Naturally it couples passive solar design and low embodied energy. It was aligned true north.  The beautiful aesthetics, low embodied energy and longevity of the building are created with natural raw earth walls, exposed hardwoods and galvanised iron.  The greatest design feature is the striking butterfly roof.  This design allows the winter’s sun to bathe the entire 6 m depth of polished concrete floor and reach the rear wall of the training room.  The summer’s sun is cut off by the upper roof eave overhang and lower roof overhang and 4 m wide pergola with deciduous Kiwi fruit vines.  Yet natural light is able to enter the room all year via the northern highlights. Louvre windows are located to draw air across the room and out the top or bottom sets of louvre windows assisted by the raking ceilings and ceiling fans. The rear section of roof is set at the exact pitch for maximum annual energy return for grid connected PV array at that latitude.    


A massive fully welded stainless steel box gutter allows access to the PV cells and Solar hot water system and it directs stormwater into the rain water tank without gutters and downpipes.    


The building features, loadbearing mudbricks walls, earth based renders and paints, hardwood plantation structural timbers, recycled hardwood large section posts, beams and kitchen joinery and Forest Stewardship Council approved hardwood timber for window and door frames and joinery doors. Rain water passes through a series of filters before it enters the building, all waste water and food scraps go through a wet worm farm and into a forested area. The urinal is waterless and toilets very low dual flush to conserve water.  Lighting is a combination of LED, T5 Fluorescent and Induction spot lights, cooling is passive assisted by fan, minimal heating if any should be required. The building is equipped with 2 KW of grid connected PV panels and solar hotwater.  The concrete slabs used for the verandah and pergola utilised low embodied cement manufactured from steel slag and power station ash.


The building is set in an edible landscape, including vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and fruit vines. The design includes classroom break out areas through folding doors directly opening onto the the wide pergola. A level terrace cut into the natural embankment between the low roofs and the building was transformed into an amphitheatre. 


Waxwood pine logs and boards and natural compacted gravels complete the landscaping with inclusion of a selection of low water/maintenance local native garden species. 


The building was central part of the highly acclaimed Yallah TAFE Environment Sustainability Initiatives.


More featured projects will be added in time so please visit again.



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