Energy efficient and robust housing design breaks the mould


August 12, 2015

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A view of the interior of the EnviroDome accommodation unit.

Thermally stable housing that is maintenance free, unaffected by flooding and resistant to cyclones and fire is the brainchild of Albury-Wodonga architect Paul Simpson.

Mr Simpson established EnviroDome several years ago, a business manufacturing prefabricated concrete modules in Albury.

The modules exit moulds complete, with the shell and floor integral, and weigh 14 tonnes.

The relocatable and energy efficient modules are ideal for bush retreats, weekenders, ensuite or ablution blocks, park amenities, kiosks, accommodation units, camp kitchens, park shelters and cellars or fire bunkers.

For those interested in subterranean housing, the EnviroDome is the answer.

Mr Simpson conceived the idea while listening to the topic, Articulating the Void, at an architects forum at Melbourne University in the mid 1990s.

He said the forum examined design responsibilities for other cultures.

The concept sat in Paul’s mind for many years until he was eventually inspired to design organic and spacious housing with solidity several years ago.

EnviroDome have been supplying prefabricated public toilets in council parks and at rest stops up and down the Hume Highway.

Featuring natural passive light and ventilation, the ensuite blocks are installed by crane within a few hours and operational within two days.

“All the internal fit-out is done – you only have to hook up power, water and sewer at one point,’’ Mr Simpson said.

“Our buildings sit directly on the ground, the only preparation necessary is to prepare a level earth pad.

“Two modules with a roof spanning between the two are ideal for ensuite or ablution blocks at caravan parks.

“We also make large modules which are trucked to the site in panels, craned into position and bolted together.

“These are designed for people living in bushfire prone areas and with machinery, equipment or valuable collections they want to protect.’’

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The interior of the EnviroDome two-person accommodation unit.

They have thermal mass, solidity, walls up to 180mm thick and can be buried underground, making them ideal as community fire bunkers.

The double module bunker, able to hold 175 people, has steel lined solid core timber doors, rooftop water reserves, viewing windows, emergency lighting, internal pump and a generator.

“There is a ground level floor for disabled and aged people, while able bodied people can use the mezzanine floor,’’ Mr Simpson said.

“There is a metal roof over the concrete as thermal management. Tanks on the roof have thermostatic valves allowing mist sprays to be used once temperatures rise.

“It could also double as a multi-purpose indoor gym and safe retreat for schools.’’

EnviroDomes have been installed in North-East Victorian vineyards as cellars.

The cellars have optional glazed end walls, and can be installed above or below ground.

EnviroDome’s display of a two-person accommodation unit for the first time at the Henty Machinery Field Days last year drew plenty of interest from people seeking bush or weekend accommodation.

This year, a second module will be added with a roof span in between of curved plywood panels to create a spacious dormitory or lounge area.

“There is such a wide variety of visitors to Henty and we found people were interested in do-it-yourself fire resistant and exceedingly robust accommodation,’’ Mr Simpson said.