Shane O'Brien – Bachelor of Architecture

Category: Construction

Last year, we took twelve months to travel overland from Asia, through Russia and Scandinavia, to Europe with our 9 and 11 year old children. (The first leg can be found here and the second leg here.) There were many positive outcomes and personal reinforcements from this grand adventure, one of those being to continue to live in a sustainable manner.

cycletouring, quadtandem, France

Cycle touring on our quad tandem in the European summer

So, when it came to looking for a house to call home we had a shortlist of attributes: centrally located – to reduce reliance on car and foster reliance on bike; ability to provide elbow-room for a soon-to-be-teenage family (and to subsequently reallocate these spaces, perhaps through renting them out); energy efficiency; north facing; space for chooks and a vegetable patch; good outlook, space and light.

The alternative of building on a vacant block didn’t really stack up for us – it doesn’t tick the sustainability box of re-use; most likely results in greater travel distances; would most probably result in living on a much smaller parcel of land; would probably negate access to mains power, water and sewer; and (for the house we ended up buying) doesn’t give us 30 years of established productive garden.

Whilst looking for a house, we happened upon one that sorely tempted us – way too many rooms, not particularly well located, would keep us in debt for longer than hoped – then we came back to the one we’d seen previously and have now bought. It has an impressive energy rating; north facing; 14 established deciduous trees; 17 productive fruit trees; four bedrooms – with attached studio (also giving us the possibility to increase site density); wonderful hard landscaping; space for the chooks; and spaces (both internal and external) that we’re excited about working with.

Stonewalls, paving, landscaping

Wonderful hard landscaping to the rear of the house



A site plan of our house and gardens

Being an old house, it has some shortfalls with regard to energy efficiency in particular. To address this, we intend to install photovoltaic cells (and batteries) for electricity production. We intend to zone the house – closing off the bedrooms and heating the living areas only. (Yes, we do have electric blankets!) Plus, we want to expand on-site water storage.

A few other sustainability issues were addressed: double glazed windows and doors were installed to the living spaces; low VOC paints were applied to the walls and low VOC oils to the freshly sanded timber floors; low VOC joinery components for the kitchen joinery; and recycled timbers for the new joinery and floor repairs.

brickveneercottage, treedgarden

The house is somewhere in there – amongst the garden…

The house will be quite different to when we bought it. Our intention is bring more light into the house and to achieve a greater sense of openness – whilst improving the house’s energy efficiency.

The renovations are currently a work-in-progress. Every room in the house will receive varying degrees of restoration or uplift. We’ve completed the kitchen. We’ve constructed a contemporary bay seat inserted into the dining space, and a new deck is to be built off the lounge area.

We have added this recycled timber bay seat/bay window

We have added this recycled timber bay seat/bay window


Our new kitchen

We were inspired by so many gardens throughout our travels – particularly the woven timber fences and structures – but that’s a longer term project….

wattle fence - twig spiral

This is not a wattle fence, but it’s very inspirational!

Stick trellis-stick fencing

We’ve started to create some ‘stick’ trellises and fencing from found timbers from the site – though more to come.



Shane O’Brien has been designing buildings for over twenty years: large and small; awarded and noteworthy; complex and simple; modest and immodest budget; commercial, residential and hospitality in nature. Amongst the text are images of some buildings that he has been involved with in a variety of architectural practices.

A small hotel I have worked on in the past at BHI Architects

An hotel complex

He has been fortunate to have developed a good amount of hands-on experience in building, however his strengths lie in nurturing projects through the design process to their fruition in construction.

A mixed retail/commercial office building that I have worked on previously at BHI Architects

A mixed retail/commercial office building

Shane has undertaken a series of senior architectural roles up to Senior Associate level and has developed a complete skillset for design, documentation and contract administration. He has accumulated extensive experience in managing demanding residential and commercial projects and possesses highly developed stakeholder management capability.


An award winning medium density housing development

His practical understanding of the building process – he’s been around construction sites since he was a child – means the design outcome will be both livable and buildable. His passion is to craft innovative, sustainable houses designed with careful regard for the client’s brief.