A render of the 5×4 Hayes Lanes Project

28 May 2013 — A new project in the heart of Melbourne is hoping to bring sustainable building practices to the fore. The 5×4 Hayes Lane Project aims to use current available technologies, passive design techniques and green living principles in a holistic fashion to create a best-practice sustainable dwelling. And, as the name suggests, it’s all being done on a tiny five-by-four metre footprint.

Ralph Alphonso, principal of Melbourne-based production company Barley Store, came up with the idea when thinking about what to do with a left-over parcel of land. Instead of using it as a car spot, he came to the conclusion that “building in a sustainable way means maximising functionality”. And so he decided to build a house at the end of a Melbourne laneway that – all things going to plan – he’ll move into once complete.

Alphonso wants to create a dialogue about what is achievable in the sustainable building industry, and start debate about healthy forms of densification in cities.

It’s about “opening up discussion about what you can do”, says Alphonso. “It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation at the moment. Green products aren’t being specified because they’re too expensive; and they’re too expensive because they aren’t being specified.”

He hopes to help break this stalemate by incorporating a range of commercially available technologies and using the building as a showcase of how buildings can be done more sustainably. Aspects of the building can then be taken and applied to other projects.

In trying to create a high-performance house with a minimal eco-footprint, the house will feature best-practice passive design and advanced engineering techniques, including:


  • Water efficient appliances and systems
  • Rain water storage tanks
  • Storm water capture/retention systems
  • Grey water recycling systems


  • Geothermal heating, cooling and hot water systems
  • Passive solar energy with limited use of electricity
  • Five-star appliances
  • Phase change materials embedded in building
  • On-site renewable energy generation


  • Low emission materials and finishes
  • Natural or polyester insulation
  • Well-sealed, airtight construction


  • Low environmental impact and/or embodied energy
  • Use of recycled materials or materials with recycled content
  • Local materials and suppliers
  • Materials designed efficiently to minimise waste, and designed for recycling, re-use and/or disassembly

Passive Design

  • Shading devices
  • Solar reflective roofs and walls
  • Maximum insulation for roof, walls and floor
  • Natural cross ventilation and airflow
  • Light colour exterior surfaces for rapid cooling
  • A no-dig rooftop garden
  • Edible and native plants

The project isn’t solely driven by technology, though. It’s also driven by design, and finding ways in which architects, engineers, manufacturers and other stakeholders can collaborate to minimise waste at all stages.

The project team involves architect and builder ARKit, specialists in prefabricated buildings; the University of Melbourne’s faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, who will measure embodied energy; GHD, who will provide building physics, ecological accountancy and building systems design assistance; One Planet Living, whose 10 guiding principles of sustainability provide a project framework; and Felicetti, providing structural engineering services.

The 5×4 Hayes Lanes Project has the support of The City of Melbourne, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Beyond Zero Emissions. Design for the building is almost complete and construction is expected to commence in August.

Go to https://www.fivexfour.com for more information.