The 5×4 Project – the first home built using One Planet Living


Ben Gill, International Technical Manager for One Planet Communities, shares the story of a tiny home in Melbourne with big implications for sustainable living.

After developing several townhouses in inner-city Melbourne, Ralph Alphonso was left with an alley way occupied by a shed. Rather than let this space go to waste, he set about creating a unique, inner-city dwelling that would encourage discussion about how to achieve sustainable living and healthy densification in a city.

Measuring just 5 x 4 metres and set over three floors (with a roof garden), this innovative house used the One Planet Living principles to guide its design. The whole lifecycle – from conception to decommissioning – was done in an environmentally responsible manner, while refusing to compromise on style, comfort or mod cons.

During my recent visit to Melbourne, I was lucky to be given a tour around this exciting home that showcases just how much can be achieved on such a small-scale – as well as how flexible the One Planet Living framework can be.

From its solar panels,  ground source heat pumps and rainwater collection to food-growing space and waste wood use, this small house has an even smaller footprint. And with its rooftop hot tub with views across the city, Ralph has made sure he is meeting health and happiness standards!

This is the first time that the One Planet Living Principles have been applied in detail to a single house. While considerations such as energy, water and materials are not dissimilar to a larger development, addressing other principles like culture and community or equity and local economy may seem less straightforward.

But Ralph’s project has taken these themes into account and is making a huge contribution to the sustainable community by documenting the entire project and sharing all of designs, processes and technologies involved. He will also be running four public events per year from the house to share his learning. It’s a great example of how a committed individual can drive change in the construction sector.

The project is also an excellent illustration of how One Planet Living is about making a journey – taking one step at a time to get from where we are today towards truly sustainable ways of living. Ralph has made changes to his own lifestyle – swapping car-racing for green construction materials and public transport. Though he admits his food footprint still needs to be addressed and is looking at taking up weekday vegetarianism in the future!

The 5×4 Hayes Lane Project was showcased on Grand Designs Australia on Thursday 5th of November at 8.30pm on the 106 Lifestyle channel, Foxtel.

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