Imagine a house on top of a hill which stays warm throughout Orange winters and cool in the summer. Its owners Wayne and Karyn Vardanega look out over the town with views of cherry orchards below and best yet they pay, almost, no bills.
"Just a very small gas bill," Mr Vardanega said.
For more than half a century the family has run a commercial farm on Pinnacle Road, growing and rearing a diverse range of produce including apples, peaches, plums, cows and chicken.
I always say that I would not have started this build had I known what was in front of usWayne Vardanega
Two-years ago Mr Vardanega laid the foundation for the house they've since moved into, on a part of the property he'd had picked out since he was a boy.
The house on the hill faces north and is protected from weather from the south-west and south.
After five years of planning, a team of builders, as well as around 50 volunteers who chipped in over four days, worked with the family to create a sustainable straw-home powered by solar, wind and water.
"We've always leaned towards holistic and permaculture principles," Mr Vardanega said.
"The idea is to leave this place better for future generations."
Strawbale house designers, Viva Homes, drew up the initial plan, which the Vardanega's then developed based on what they'd learned through sustainable house days and a straw bale building course.
"We revisited plans to make it our own," Mr Vardanega said.
Iron bark from a shed was used for many of the timber elements of the house, including exposed trusses, internal doors, all bench tops and vanities, skirting boards and architraves.
Australian plantation hardwoods, second-grade or reclaimed timber was used throughout the house, as were recycled bricks and curtains.
Mr Vardanega said the biggest challenge was getting the development application approved, with a straw-bale house presenting a unique set of rules and regulations.
"I always say that I would not have started this build had I known what was in front of us," he said.
"True, but do we regret it? No way, not for a second."
Power is generated from a 2.7-metre wind turbine and 14 solar panels, with a diesel generated which "rarely" gets used for backup.
Drinking water is solar pumped to 17-metres before being gravity fed through poly and copper pipes, generating energy.
Batteries are fitted underneath the shed bench and an off-grid inverter charger controls it all.
The house stays between 16-22-degrees throughout the year, with little need for the woodfire and no air-conditioning and heating.
Mr Vardanega said he's proud of the fact there's no electric cables running from or around the property.
"You can incorporate some of these practices into your own existing house," he said.
"You can style it to suit your lifestyle."
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