News Home & Design Century-Old Worker's Cottage Revamped as Eco-Conscious Home The design preserves and reuses materials from the existing structure. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published September 7, 2022 02:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Nikole Ramsey News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive There is growing awareness around the issue of how much carbon is embodied in building materials—in other words, all the upfront carbon emitted from the process of extracting, transporting, and assembling them into shiny new buildings. People are finally beginning to take this issue of upfront carbon seriously, with some experts pointing out that renovating an existing building (rather than building anew) can actually translate to less carbon emissions overall. Over in Australia, the message that the greenest building is the one that already standing seems to resonate quite well. Over the years, we've seen a number of workers' cottages from the turn of the twentieth century that have now been skillfully revamped as modern homes. Originally built to house working class families from the mid-19th century through to the early 20th century, the worker's cottage typically features wide verandahs, hip roofs and simple floor plans that maximized natural air flow, during a time when air conditioners didn't yet exist. Australian firm Altereco Design gives us yet another great example of how old can become charmingly new, with their eco-conscious renovation of one particularly old specimen in Melbourne, Australia. The project, dubbed Gladstone, was done in collaboration with a like-minded client, as the firm explains on Archdaily: "This hundred-year-old worker’s cottage in Yarraville was renovated with a cutting edge approach to sustainability. We were fortunate to be engaged by local sustainability consultants Melbourne Vernacular who wanted to use their home as an educational space for showcasing design that achieves an uncompromising standard of style, liveability and environmental performance." The clients, being well-informed sustainability consultants, first requested to keep as much of the original structure as possible. They started by identifying which parts of the old house could be retained, and also determined which existing materials could be saved and reused. For instance, the locally quarried bluestone that once lined the carriageway in front of the home was transplanted a short distance over to mark the entry path into the home. Nikole Ramsey Stepping inside, we see that original architectural details like this lovely ornamental archway have been preserved, providing a window into the home's storied history. Nikole Ramsay Going all the way down the hallway, we come into the kitchen, which has been remodeled with a small extension, with an open plan layout that now includes the kitchen and living room. There is a large sliding glass door, plus clerestory windows at the top to allow light to pour in. Nikole Ramsay The kitchen is defined with light-colored materials, which includes reconstituted stone that has up to 80% recycled content, and other materials with low VOC finishes. The minimalist and white-colored cabinets contrast nicely with the wooden accents found on the doors concealing the refrigerator and pantry. Nikole Ramsay Here, we can see that the existing red brick paving in the backyard was taken out and reassembled as a gorgeous feature wall that snakes out of the kitchen and into the backyard. Nikole Ramsay The dining area sits opposite the kitchen, and is equipped with upholstered seating and stools, an oblong table and retro-modern pendant lighting. A series of windows behind helps to provide more natural light. Nikole Ramsay Looking at the kitchen from the other direction, we see a row of books lining an upper shelf that has been built in under yet another row of windows. Nikole Ramsay We also see the sitting area here, outfitted with a L-shaped sectional sofa, placed against a set of corner windows. Nikole Ramsay One of the home's two bathrooms is situated at the rear, and features luxurious details like a freestanding tub, rainfall shower, built-in alcove for toiletries, and a wooden beam that one can hang plants from. The door here opens to the backyard, once again emphasizing that connection between indoors and outdoors. Nikole Ramsay Accessed via a metal gangway, the green roof is yet another sustainable feature of the home, in addition to the bank of solar panels. Nikole Ramsay A big picture approach to preserve and reuse influenced much of the design strategy, and ultimately, the whole point of the project was to also demonstrate that one doesn't have to tear down something old to in order to have something new, says Altereco: "The clients were not just mindful of the design, but of the building process itself, requesting to keep as much of the original structure as was feasible. [..] This industrious approach to build and design reduces wasted energy (often synonymous with demolishing the old and building something shiny, modern and new), all the while successfully preserving and celebrating the certain charm that comes with a house of this era." To see more, visit Altereco Design.