Author: Rebecca Gross
Warehouses and sustainability are not often two words that you hear spoken together. But with the conversion of warehouses into residences, sustainability is apt, not only in that much of the structural materials are being retained and reused, but that they are often being redesigned for thermal performance and energy efficiency.

Up-Cycled Warehouse in Richmond, Victoria, is one such warehouse conversion. Designed by Zen Architects, the former art gallery warehouse is now a 6.1-star-rated home on the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), designed for a family of four, which features a redesigned courtyard to provide the family with outdoor space for their productive edible garden. It also includes a wealth of reused materials, including the building's original concrete slab, and retrofitted low-e glazing to improve its thermal performance.

Houzz at a Glance

  • Who lives here: A family of four who inherited the warehouse and wanted to keep it in the family
  • Location: Richmond, Victoria
  • Size: 310-square-metre site; 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
  • Design & Photos by Zen Architects

"The ethos behind the conversion of this 1960s warehouse was to retain and re-use as much of the existing building as possible, while still transforming it into a comfortable and energy-efficient family home," says architect Luke Rhodes.

Zen Architects retained and re-used materials throughout the project, including the building envelope, roof trusses and floor slab, and original elements such as light fittings, sprinkler pipes, doors, cladding and roof sheeting.

The warehouse was originally wholly internal, built boundary-to- boundary on the site, with a south-facing saw-tooth roof and no outdoor space to speak of. To provide the family with a garden area, Zen Architects did away with a section of the roof in order to create a north-facing courtyard and thus reorient the living spaces. This space now provides them with a generous amount of light and warmth in winter. "By inserting a garden and light into an existing warehouse, we have created a warm and liveable family home," says Rhodes.

Now, with ample outdoor living space, more than half of the warehouse's floor space is outdoors. More precisely, of 250 square meters of floor space (indoor, outdoor and upstairs), 130 square meters is garden, courtyard and deck.

Zen Architects used the demolished corrugated-iron roofing taken from above the courtyard area to clad sections of the building.

Custom-made Corten steel semi-circular planters host productive gardens, and are placed on wheels to enable them to be easily moved around the courtyard depending on the season and produce. Over time, these planters will weather in the elements to the rusty patina that Corten steel is known for.

Inside, the living/kitchen/dining area is open plan, forming an L shape around the courtyard. The colourful kitchen and dining area features custom joinery, and the space receives morning and afternoon sun, from the east and west respectively. A clerestory window allows northern sun to filter in throughout the day.

A north-facing living area sits beneath an inserted mezzanine. "It achieves the intimacy of a more residential scale within the bones of the original warehouse," says Rhodes.

The existing warehouse floor slab was kept due to restricted site access, and for its inherent embodied energy. The new raised deck, which covers floor space both inside and out, was made from recycled Australian hardwood, and mediates the living areas and courtyard to create a more seamless sense of space.

View gallery - 6 images