Melbourne Vernacular – Hundred-Year-Old Worker’s Cottage gets an Eco-Friendly Makeover

Based in Melbourne, Australia, this hundred-year-old worker’s cottage recently went under the scalpel for a major face lift. The current owners of the property, wanted to rejuvenate the abode while maintaining a minimal carbon footprint.


They ended up approaching Altereco Design, a firm that specializes in producing environmentally-friendly projects. This particular project was completed in 2016 and has been dubbed Melbourne Vernacular, after the owner’s business



The historic property is set on a generous site that measures 2,012.85-square-feet (187-square-meters). The cottage itself contains a total of 1,076.39-square-feet (100-square-meters) spread across a single floor.



From the designers: “This hundred-year-old worker’s cottage in Yarraville was renovated with a meticulous approach to sustainability. We were fortunate to be engaged by clients who aspired to leave as small a carbon footprint to their new home as possible.”


The owners themselves took an interest in the redevelopment process. They took on board the task of removing decayed elements, and attempted to salvage as much as possible of the original structure.


Original red brick that had been used to pave the backyard was use to create an internal and external wall. Bluestone foundations and paving were also used to create the front paving of the home. Interior finishes are made up of materials with a high recycled content, such as the reconstituted stone found in the kitchen which is 80% recycled material.


The eco-friendly aspects extend beyond materials to the actual usage of the home. Altereco Design employed passive heating and cooling strategies to help reduce the home’s need for active heating. From the designers: “This industrious approach to build and design reduces associated wasted energy…all the while successfully preserving and celebrating the certain charm that comes with a house of this era.”


For more small houses, check out this modest extension by Taylor Knight that transforms a family home in Brunswick West. Or, this other renovation of an old worker’s rowhouse in Toronto by Alpha Bau. See all small houses.

UPDATE: The owners of this small home reached out to me to let me know they have a website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where you can keep up to date with them.

Photos © Nikole Ramsay

Niall Burke

Structural engineer by day, tiny house designer by night. Niall has a keen interest in small spaces, green design, and sustainability. He started developing Humble Homes while studying for his masters degree in engineering. He is the founder and managing editor of Humble Homes.

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