Retrosuburban House & Garden Tours

Transition WarringalBackyard Gardening, Energy, Food, Housing, Waste and consumption

Image in shape of a house with door and windows, all green

Do you want a comfortable home that costs nothing to run? Energy efficiency is key! How about self-reliance in fresh food? It’s easier than you might think.

Image in shape of a house with door and windows, all green

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Transition Warringal presents local house and garden tours showcasing energy and water efficient design and retrofits for sustainable living.

Over a 2 hour visit, tour participants hear the household’s experience of designing their homes and lives for energy and water efficiency and self-reliance. We tour a range of houses each year to present a variety of solutions.

Every tour tells a story of hopes and healthy compromise. Not one is presented as a model to be imitated. We are all on a unique journey; our choices reflect our values and our path. We hope you will be inspired to take steps towards sustainable housing that aligns with who you are.

Tours include morning or afternoon tea and bookings are always essential.

Would you welcome a tour at your own retrosuburban/energy efficient/sustainable/tiny home? Express interest in being a host for our Retrosuburban House & Garden Tours by email transitionwarringal[at]

Read about the Houses featured in this project below. We also recommend Renew’s Sustainable House Day in September each year, where visitors can tour many environmentally progressive homes all in one day.

Thermal camera image showing a gap in ceiling insulation

Thermal camera image showing dog footprints on a timber floor




 The houses included in our tours are:

Penelope and Kevin’s
Mary and Robert’s
Peter and Monique’s


Penelope and Kevin’s retrofit 1960 brick veneer house in Rosanna

Recognising that their dream of building a strawbale house on a suburban block in Melbourne was beyond their budget, Penelope and Kevin settled for an existing house with potential for some simple retrofits that could raise the energy efficiency of the home from <1 star to 6+. 

When they bought the house, the internal temperature closely followed the external temperature due to gaps, over-glazing and inadequate insulation. Applying passive solar design principles as best they could in a basic retrofit, the living room temperature can now be maintained at 13-29°C 360 days a year with no auxiliary heating/cooling. These days their electricity use is on average 5kWh/day to run the house, plus more to charge Kevin’s electric car. Most of this comes from rooftop solar.

In the spirit of producing no waste, they have made minimal changes to the home’s interior fit out, contrary to modern renovation trends. By not owning much stuff, choosing mostly secondhand things, maintaining a productive garden and buying bulk foods, they keep their footprint small. 


Windows: Paarhammer
Draught sealing: Raven window and door seals, Draftstoppa, EcoMaster Draft Dodgers
Insulation: GreenStuf and Renshade
Electricity: Rooftop solar with Tesla Powerwall 2 by Enviro Group
Cooking: Sun Oven, insulative cooker and homemade rocket stove
Transport: bicycles, Burley Flatbed bicycle trailer, Tesla S
Cooling: Aeratron 3 blade ceiling fan

Recommended resources:

Your Home, available online for free is an invaluable resource for anyone planning to build, buy or renovate a sustainable home.

Renew, the organisers of Sustainable House Day and publishers of Renew and Sanctuary magazines. 


Robert and Mary’s retrofit 1940s double brick Art Deco house in Heidelberg

Following decades of “small living” and moving from city to city for Robert’s work as a church minister, Mary and Robert settled in Melbourne for their retirement in a 1940s Art Deco family home in Heidelberg. Having become seriously concerned about climate change during the few years preceding their Heidelberg house purchase, Robert aspired to create a “showcase” sustainable home through renovation of the rear section of the house and retrofitting the rest. They invested Mary’s super in the works and have created a beautiful and comfortable home that has been opened several times for Renew’s Sustainable House Day. It has been estimated at 8 Stars.

Robert has always been a champion of simple living, having been inspired by parents who lived through the Great Depression. Seeing his workshop shows that he’s a tinkerer. Through his life-long hobby building radios, he has enough knowledge to keep lots of things going. His frugal attitude extends to transport. He uses a car quite a bit, as foot problems prevent walking and cycling for local transport, but he keeps an old one going. He’s always said this will be his last car; now he says maybe it will be his last before an electric one!

With the recognition that a big part of sustainable living comes from community connection, Robert is a regular at many local community gatherings, including food swaps. His nearest one is at Olympic Village, where he catches up with other frugal consumers and chats about what’s growing in the garden. It’s like gathering around the old village well.

Products and suppliers:

Edwards solar hot water and combustion heater/cooker with hot water jacket from Insolar
Grid connect solar power system from Solar Charge
Double-glazed windows from Paarhammer
Retrofit double glazing from EcoMaster
BioPaints from the EnviroShop

Energy consumption:

Before renovation and retrofit:  ~13 kWh/day electricity and 140 MJ gas/day
After renovation and retrofit:  ~3kWh/day electricity, <30 MJ gas/day, scrounged wood

“Hotel Castaldo” — Peter and Monique’s retrofit mid-century brick veneer in Rosanna

Peter’s love of mid-century design and building energy efficiency have combined to transform a house not designed for energy efficiency into a showcase retrofitted all-electric home that respects its architectural heritage. Adding insulation, shading, DIY double glazing, and making wise use of the lower storey in hot weather, the house can be maintained at a comfortable temperature with a fraction of the energy it consumed in the past. Outside, the garden produces food year-round, including eggs and honey, and the hand-built pizza oven tops it off as a community gathering place.

This retrofit is heartily conventional, with numerous new energy efficient appliances, battery-powered tools and an off-the-shelf greywater system. Beginning with a plan to remove fossil fuels from his everyday life, Peter systematically redesigned his home’s energy supply and transport infrastructure. There’s now a large rooftop solar array, electric bikes, and a plug-in hybrid car. The gas connection has long since been cut off.

In an effort to produce minimal household waste, they use cloth nappies, compost all their food and garden waste (their green waste bin hasn’t gone out for years), and make the effort to take recyclable materials to a wide range of drop-off points.


Retrofit double glazing (possible for timber frames only): DIY Double Glaze
Air conditioner: Daikin Urusara 7 heat pump (split system) from Pure Electric
Hot water: Sanden heat pump from Pure Electric
Clothes dryer (for nappies): Miele heat pump
Gap sealing: Raven for doors and windows, FulaSeal 701 Ultra Clear from Mitre 10 for old air vents
Electric car: Holden Volt
Power tools: AEC with interchangeable battery

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