Completing a Griffith University degree in architecture has created the catalyst for 21 year-old Masters student, Courtney Villegas to conceptualise a totally off-the-grid, 120-acre property, just outside of Lismore, in northern New South Wales.
The initiative has evolved through necessity, with entrepreneurial vigour and creativity a hallmark of the project. This complete undertaking is seeing a significant overhaul of the off-grid house typology and Queenslander style, utilising cutting edge techniques acquired through the Griffith university architectural degree to create a home that subsumes both aesthetic appeal and ecologically sound application.
“Where my parents live it’s hard to get any power or water resources so what we’ve been doing is gradually designing a totally off-the-grid house,” confirmed Courtney.
“With the sustainability techniques I’ve learned at Griffith Uni, we’ve started implementing an underground water spring reserve, water tanks, solar panels and working on our own sewerage system, so it’ll be a completely 100 percent off-the-grid house.
“Within Griffith Architecture they push us to try new and creative things, try and work outside of the box so we’re not fitting into any pre-conceived notion of what architecture should be.
“Through incorporating sustainability principles we’re really able to push the envelope and come up with new and interesting concepts.”
Courtney’s personal success shouldn’t come as any great surprise with the Griffith University Architecture study program recently rated number one in Australia, within a Quality in Learning and Teaching (QILT) student satisfaction survey, conducted by the federal government.
“The site is comprised of undulating hills in an isolated area, which makes both the design and construction quite challenging. Currently we are in the design and concept phase for the house, working on an inclusive design appropriating passive design techniques such as solar orientation, natural ventilation strategies and sustainable energy options.
“The home will adopt a typical Queenslander construction elevated on pier footings with a large wraparound veranda and gable roof. We’re trying to source the majority of materials locally, using recycled timber, windows, corrugated iron sheeting and internal fittings.
“My whole family is taking charge of the construction; my father has just excavated the site, clearing the pad for the foundations; my brother will be doing all electrical work; and my mother is making all interior design choices. Personally, I’m implementing the architectural design, sustainability strategies and working with my dad and brother to construct the actual home. At this stage we are still finalising the design before commencing full scale construction in 2018.”
During her studies, Courtney joined classmates who undertook valued community work in New Zealand, assisting officials in Christchurch as part of earthquake clean-up efforts. Here students examined the validity of implementing sustainable practices in potential adaptations to church buildings and schools within the area.
“Griffith in my opinion has the best version of this degree — you have the best chance to start out in the real world if you study here because you’re learning a lot more than you would at other universities.
“I’m currently completing my Masters and would still like to go on to further PhD study and into the future I’d like to get into retrofitting old, derelict structures. I’m interested in revitalising buildings that may be perceived as having gone past their use-by-date.
“At Griffith we act like we are family and help each other out getting through assignments and that kinship helps develop your spectrum when it comes to learning new things.”
Regional Queensland and Northern New South Wales will have the opportunity to find out more about the new STEM degree programs that will be available in 2018.
“With the continued acceleration in scientific discovery, coupled with the ongoing impact of technological disruption, means individuals with STEM skills will have an advantage in the highly competitive job market,” said Griffith’s Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Andrew Smith.
‘Future-proof your career, The Griffith STEM Roadshow’ will take in Ipswich (Thur 13 July), Lismore (Wed 19 July), Toowoomba (Thur 20 July), Cairns (Tues 1 Aug), Rockhampton (Wed 16 Aug) and Mackay (Thur 17 Aug).
Research and teaching academics who have ties to each of the regions will also be available to discuss the multitude of program study options available and highlight some of the many achievements and milestones of Griffith Science students.