Mind within matter: how jdbb became Ballarat’s leading sustainable builder

Joseph De Losa can’t remember a time when he wasn’t obsessed with buildings. As a young boy in the suburbs of Melbourne he’d sneak into building sites after the workers had gone home and explore the progress of the day, studying the ins and outs of the building and dreaming of the day when he could design and build his own homes.

Now the childhood dream is a reality. With Ballarat’s first sustainable display home now open and a number of projects under his belt, after almost 20 years in the industry, he is comfortable with the design and build process. There aren’t that many Designer Builders around, as Joseph remarks, often the design and building processes are thought of as two separate entities, however being a designer and builder you can design with building in mind.

With Joseph De Losa Design and Build, jddb, materials are used intelligently and with a purpose, creating a meeting of mind and matter, or mind within matter.

sustainable home is a joy to live in, it’s healthier, it saves you money on water and energy bills, it’s constructed using environmentally efficient materials and thereby reduces its environmental impact. One aspect that is extremely important is creating an even temperature. As Joseph explains, in Ballarat and surrounds the temperature ranges from -4 to 44 degrees, you really have to think about how you can keep heat out during the summer and keep it in during winter. Whether a building will maintain an even temperature is decided in the design process and you only have one go to get it right. Once it’s built that window of opportunity is gone. That’s why jddb have chosen to design and build because they know how to make a home that works, that is a home that not only uses energy but produces it.

The core concepts in sustainable homes are passive solar design; getting natural light and warmth into the building, storing it, and eliminating unwanted solar gain in summer, utilizing natural cross ventilation, incorporating thermal mass into the building, adequate insulation and creative use of air gaps in the building envelope to provide inertia against temperature fluctuations. High integrity construction demands double glazing throughout, non-toxic finishes, energy efficient lighting, appliances and water conscious plumbing, it’s a total home concept that works. A truly sustainable home is working towards a zero energy bill. It is brilliantly simple.

The jddb display home ticks every box. The home is constructed from Thermacell insulated concrete formwork, I.C.F’s, possessing excellent thermal properties. There is also a Trombe wall, a solid black wall of thermal mass, which absorbs heat with glazing 18 inches in front, creating a sealed suntrap. Within the resulting hot box air is heated by the sun, during winter this hot air is channeled into the home by a series of vents, naturally. In the ceiling the home has a Solectair state of the art heat recovery system, this transfers the warm air trapped in the roof space into your living areas in winter. Constructed on a slope it made sense to build a split-level home that incorporates a wine cellar under the house, cut into the natural slope of the land and a home office with it’s own little Tuscan courtyard, as Joseph says it’s all about creating possibilities out of difficulties. Creativity putting mind into matter. The display home is solar powered and is fitted with evacuated tube solar hot water it also incorporates a grey water system, water catchment, has a small orchard, olive trees and even a veggie garden.

As well as being passionate about building sustainable homes Joseph has recently returned to university, studying architecture part-time at Deakin University, where they have an emphasis on sustainability. Studying his passion has brought a new dimension to the design process.

It’s amazing, he says, to reflect back on his work and realize that while being a builder and having a trade was like knowing intimately the words of a language, studying architecture as a discipline has been like learning the grammar. It has really brought my work and understanding of the process to a new level, architecture is about using this language to create something emotional, intelligent and meaningful.

An idea, is the starting point of the design process, and becomes the framework around which space, light and form evolve. An idea about how the building should coincide with your life and the character and personality you want it to have.

The site, the brief, and choice of materials are meticulously explored in order to create a home that is comfortable to live in, that works aesthetically and environmentally and blends seamlessly with your chosen lifestyle.

**Each individual home jddb builds is site specific. This means that each home is designed around the property it sits on. Each site has different qualities, and poses different questions. It’s all about assessing a piece of land and seizing its natural possibilities. The process begins with a detailed site analysis, assessing its natural possibilities and attributes and germinating an idea.

Earlier this year Joseph designed a built a home for Steve and Sue Harling in Ballarat. They gave him a brief and after meeting with them and assessing their site Joseph was able to come up with a sustainable home specifically suited to their lifestyle and to their site. Sue says the home maintains an even temperature and the electricity bill is almost neutral! She loves the natural light that floods the home. Etc etc

Joseph’s own home is like a walkthrough laboratory; it has been added to three times as the family grew corrugated iron, triple brick and finally insulated concrete formwork. As you move through the house you can feel the differences in temperature. We live daily with a lack of thermal mass and cross ventilation in earlier parts of the house yet later areas require no heating or cooling. The evolution of design, research and experience is evident. You can never know too much, remarks Joseph, it really inspires you to keep asking how can we improve and perfect the process?

The doors of the display home are now open in the new Sailors Gully Estate, at 57 Hocking Ave, josephs extends an invitation to anyone interested in sussing out the cutting edge design of this environmentally friendly home to come and take a look around.

The home is groundbreaking for Ballarat, it’s the first modern sustainable display home in the area, a collaboration between Ballarat’s sustainable businesses and jddb that brings together the best that Ballarat has to offer under the one roof.

Everyone who appreciates a work of art is also invited to come along and have a look, We strive to make homes that work, that are going to be an asset in the future. The building industry can no longer afford to produce V8 dinosaurs when we can build a Prius. The technology is there; we need to make use of it. You should be surrounded by beauty. Says Joseph.