Pretty perfect pavilion

A self-contained prefabricated pod extends the living space without impacting the landscape on Mark and Julie’s NSW South Coast property.

At a glance

  • Robust prefabricated pavilion addition on a protected coastal property
  • Extensive use of recycled materials including timber and ‘green ceramics’
  • Landscaping for native species habitat

Tucked away on the 16-hectare bushland property, this Ecoshelta pavilion takes advantage of its jaw-dropping headland position while minimising the impact on the landscape and environment.

The owners, Julie and Mark, bought the property with its existing 1940s soldier-settler house in 2016 to enjoy as a holiday home, but soon decided they’d like to create a more comfortable, spacious and energy-efficient house. They considered renovating and adding a second storey, but the cost proved high and bushfire regulations meant they would have had to clear trees to extend the Asset Protection Zone. The couple had planted 3,000 trees since buying the property and instituted a wildlife covenant protecting the land in perpetuity, so clearing trees was in conflict with their environmental ethos.

A rammed earth internal wall provides both thermal mass and a beautiful backdrop to the living area.

Instead, they engaged architect Stephen Sainsbury, founder of Ecoshelta, to design a prefabricated pavilion connected to the existing house via an elevated walkway, with an outdoor entertaining deck at the mid-point. The pavilion has a bedroom and bathroom plus an open living, dining and kitchen area for the couple, and the original house is now used as guest accommodation plus study and sewing room. This solution not only provided a knowable budget from the start (avoiding the risk of hidden costs in renovating the existing house), but made the most of panoramic views of the ocean and coastline, and the construction had minimal impact on the landscape. Not a single tree was cleared.

“Planning regulations allowed for two residences, but there were actually already two on the property. However, one of the quirks of the rules is that if structures are joined by a walkway then they’re considered part of the same building. That was the gestation of the elevated walkway idea; then we added the mid-point deck for outdoor dining space,” explains Stephen.

The pavilion is a modular system built with aluminium and recycled timbers and capped with a curved insulated roof. Stephen uses marine-grade structural aluminium alloy because of its light weight, strength and long life. “It requires a quarter of the amount of material than would be needed for steel, and it doesn’t require paint even in this harsh coastal environment,” he says. A rammed earth wall (with soil from a local quarry) divides the living space from the bedroom, and a balcony wraps around the east and south. The floor level is 3.5 metres above ground for the views, and it allows the rainwater tank, kayaks and other equipment to be stored underneath.

Inside, the pavilion features many recycled materials, often locally crafted – including the innovative 'green ceramic' tiles used for the kitchen splashback.

There is extensive use of reclaimed timber, provided and crafted by local suppliers and tradespeople. “Engaging with your local community and finding people who offer different skills is very valuable,” Julie says. This includes window frames and doors from Architectural Hardware Joinery, salvaged timber floorboards from Thor’s Hammer, and external cladding, kitchen joinery, architraves, skirtings and timber furniture from EverGrain Furniture in Moruya.

Another recycled material is the innovative ‘green ceramics’ used for the kitchen splashback. The University of New South Wales’ SMaRT Centre manufactured the tiles using old sheets, linen and coloured glass bottles sourced by Julie. The shredded textiles and ground glass are heated, blended and pressurised to create the ceramic tiles. [Ed note: see ‘Putting waste to work’ in Sanctuary 56 for more on these ceramics.]

The pavilion is designed and configured for passive heating and cooling. In summer, cross ventilation, wide eaves, louvres and high-performance fans keep the house comfortable, while in winter, the rammed earth wall provides superior thermal mass. “It will take in heat energy quickly and absorb it all the way through, radiating it out again at night,” says Stephen. It’s so effective that Julie says they didn’t use the fireplace last winter.

The prefabricated pavilion is raised to make the most of the sea views and minimise disturbance to the landscape. It's connected to the original house by a walkway with an open dining deck at the midpoint.

The walkway not only connects the pavilion, deck and house, but it allows Julie and Mark to experience and be connected with nature and their land throughout the day. Stephen designed the landscape between the pavilion and house to marry the two buildings together, and Mark and Julie established the garden. Julie also enlisted local suppliers and craftspeople for the sculptures, fireplace, pizza oven and the outside bath. A mostly dry riverbed has attracted numerous frogs, and the native plantings have drawn birds and bees as well as the wallabies that were released on the property. “I love having this sense of being part of nature living on this property,” Julie says.

While Julie discloses that they invested heavily in some of the materials and technologies in the house, she explains that it’s because the total cost was still less than if they had renovated and extended the existing house. “It came to the same as the baseline cost of the original extension idea, and we got a home that is purpose-built, we don’t have to worry about fire, we can use both houses and have privacy for guests, and we didn’t uproot a single tree,” she says proudly.

Stephen Sainsbury Architect
Eurobodalla Shire, South Coast NSW (Bingi Walbunga Country)
New pavilion 70m2, decks and walkway 75m2, existing house 168m2, land 16 hectares
Energy rating
7 Stars before variations; approx 8.5 Stars as built
Bushfire Attack Level

Support our work

Renew is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to arming you with the unbiased advice and information you need to make your home and community more sustainable. If you enjoy our content, please consider supporting us by becoming a Renew member or buying our publications. Your support is critical to helping us achieve our goals.
support renew
Further reading
An alternative vision

An alternative vision

This new house in Perth’s inner suburbs puts forward a fresh model of integrated sustainable living for a young family.

Read more
Quiet achiever

Quiet achiever

Thick hempcrete walls contribute to the peace and warmth inside this lovely central Victorian home.

Read more
Energy efficiency front and centre: A renovation case study

Energy efficiency front and centre: A renovation case study

Rather than starting again, this Melbourne couple opted for a comprehensive renovation of their well laid out but inefficient home, achieving huge energy savings and much improved comfort.

Read more