New Seed Home


Can you imagine how difficult would be for you to leave it all behind and move to another country? Would you be able to start all over without looking back? Or would you be looking for a comforting “home away from home”?

All these questions have run incessantly through our occupant’s mind, Ara, when she left Afghanistan and moved to New South Wales with her two children. Recently uprooted from her culture Ara is avid to plant a new seed and grow roots in her new community. Element Zero has condensed all her concerns and crafted the “New Seed Home”. A welcoming, affordable, healthy, and sustainable home where Ara and her children can settle for multiple generations.


My name is Amir and I was born in the city of Shiraz in Iran. I moved to Sydney in year 12 and then completed my Bachelor of Medical Science at UOW. I am currently studying a Graduate Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I think I have had an entrepreneurial mindset since I was a kid; my dad remembers when I was five and I had set up a little shop on our street selling my hand painted rocks!


Hi, I'm Laura! An architect that travelled 14,345 km from Mexico to Australia to pursue a passion that has now become my career... Sustainable Cities! As a student at RMIT, I explored opportunities to become an active contributor to the sustainable movement with the way we build and live. Leaving behind the "moral sacrifice "and "philanthropic dilemma", sustainability is a synonym of health, equity, well-being and improved quality of life.


Hi, I'm Jack, I’m a 3rd year mechatronic engineering student, I have a background in 3D modelling, project management and automation. I’m really fascinated by the implementation of industry 4.0 in a variety of fields, including sustainable design. I am passionate about living sustainably and reducing the effect that we all have on the environment.


Hi, my name is Kirra and I have recently completed my Honours thesis in International Studies. I’ve always dreamed of making a positive change regarding environmental degradation and poverty. What was initially a side-interest in biophilic, sustainable and vernacular architecture has now become my passion, for its potential to reconnect people with their environments, holistically addressing the above concerns.


Hi, my name is Valentina and I'm studying Architectural Engineering with a minor in Civil Engineering. I am passionate about sustainable design and believe it can be affordable and accessible. I strive to design for good mental wellbeing through biophilic design and aim to consider the needs of future users of a design.

Problem statement

Current human-nature interactions are creating mutually-destructive outcomes. A lack of biophilia has resulted in the perception that the natural world is merely a resource deposit for human exploitation. Such consumption harms the natural world and creates what we deem as being 'waste' materials which no longer have use as they have reached the end-point within a perceived 'linear' economy. The home is a major source of waste creation and unsustainable practices. Unfortunately, humans are largely unwilling to change their behaviours due to the misconception that sustainability is too expensive and requires sacrifices to quality of life.

The teams design philosophy guided the design of the New Seed Home and is built upon five pillars, Biophilia, Cyclical Thinking, Site Responsive, Regenerative and Flexible.

Biophilia is a psychologically intimate connection we feel towards the natural world (Soga & Gaston 2015, p. 3). Biophilic design restores occupant connection to nature through the built environment (Kellert 2015), changing the way we think about how we live on Earth.

Cyclical Thinking
Linear models encourage unmeasured exploitation of resources without consideration of the consequences. Redefining waste as a valuable resource is necessary to facilitate closed loop models that will decrease society's reliance on raw materials.

Site Responsive
The dwelling extends its impacts from the immediate occupants to the surrounding community that indirectly relate to the project. A strong sense of community prompt safer and happier neighborhoods ensuring harmonic relationships in the society.

Regenerative sustainability is the design and lifestyle paradigm for humans to reconsider our relationship to the natural world from the perspective of the ecological worldview, characterized by the themes; ‘wholeness’, ‘relationality’ and ‘dynamicity’ (Brandon & Du Plessis 2015).

We aspire to design a home that is adaptable to many different occupants over its lifetime. The ability for a design to be retrofitted or redesigned easily is a key consideration for a sustainable design.

Key Design Features

Listed below are some of the key design features which make our home unique and special

Water system

In thinking about the notion of circularity, we were inspired by the water catchment and treatment system used in Earthship homes, as designed by Michael Reynolds (see further links below). This system collects and treats water to be clean enough for consumption (and other associated uses) before it is purified by household plants to be reused for flushing toilets and then directed to outdoor landscaping. Hence, the household uses no more water than it can collect (which is generally sufficient), water efficiency is increased there is no waste produced.


The greenhouse can provide a number of benefits to New Seed Home.  In the first instance, it houses the botanical cells which are essential in purification stage of the homes water system. However, it also provides a space for the occupant to grow their own edible produce (of which require warm, humid conditions) and create an opportunity for the children to learn gardening skills. The openable windows between the greenhouse and the living room allow the occupants to open and close the windows according to their preferences. For example, they may wish to open them and create a sense of ‘bringing the outdoors in’ to establish connection to nature. The presence of nature is well-known to have a positive impact of mental wellbeing through its calming and healing effects, which is especially important to our occupants who may be recovering from past trauma. The greenhouse also acts as a sort of privacy screen for the front windows of the living room, which may allow the mother to feel more comfortable if she wears headwear which is removed when at home. Moreover, this space serves as a point of interest within view of the public, being a social drawcard, which may assist our occupants in forming new connections within their community and reduce the chances of our inhabitants in feeling socially isolated in a new country.


Accessibility for occupants with both mental and physical disabilities has been considered in new seed home. The open-plan living space provides a comfortable amount of mobility for those with physical disabilities or elderly people, whilst also making navigation of the home easier for those with autism through allowance of a clear line of sight. The downstairs room may serve as a bedroom for less-mobile occupants and there is access to a downstairs bathroom.

Balance between privacy and community connection

As previously mentioned, the greenhouse can either welcome social interaction or provide an extra layer of privacy to the facade of the home. The foldout wall between the living room and kitchen allows the option of maintaining and open-plan, socially-focused space or creating a more intimate environment. The foldback wall between the interior space and exterior garden allows for people to gather in a larger area, whilst being located in a private area towards the back of the home. The earthen wall fencing between New Seed Home and its neighbours facilitates privacy in its function, though it also provides an opportunity for creativity as a canvas for occupants to tell their own story with clay-based paints.

Biophilic design through:

Indoor-outdoor living

Both the greenhouse windows and the western wall open up to blend the indoors with the outdoors. This allows occupants to better connect to the home and surrounding environment and lessens the sense of claustrophobia that we often associate with indoor spaces

Natural services

The presence of plants within the greenhouse, interior space and outdoor landscaping help to purify the air and water present within the home. Our design also utilises natural ventilation and light within the home through the use strategically placed windows. These features means that New Seed Home creates a safer and more eco-friendly environment for its occupants

Natural materials

New Seed Home’s design balances waste materials and biodegradable natural materials to increase the effects of biophilia on our occupants.




The teams design philosophy guided the design of the New Seed Home and is built upon five pillars, Biophilia, Cyclical Thinking, Site Responsive, Regenerative and Flexible.

The materials we used in the New Seed Home is selected using a Weighted Decision-Making Matrix that considers factors such as Use of Waste, Life Cycle Analysis, Affordability and Feasibility. Factors that weighed more heavily on our team were given higher weights. This gives quantifiable reasoning for many of the selections

Some examples of materials determined by this method were:

  • Recycled wood shakes
  • Green Ceramics
  • Reclaimed walls
  • GGBFS Concrete
  • Recycled Glass Bottles
  • Recycled PET

For other materials that we were determined to innovate more with but did not necessarily have an easily quantifiable performance in these areas we selected on a case-by-case basis. Some of these include:

  • Straw bale walls
  • Rammed Earth walls
  • Cork Tiles
  • Reclaimed Timber Floors

Many of our chosen materials are derived from waste product, this includes Blast Slag, Glass Bottles, Cork, Reclaimed wood, textiles, aluminium cans. By weight, these materials represent a significant volume of waste being diverted from landfill for each of the homes we construct.

Some of our more innovative materials such as green ceramics have nondetermined end of life, their resource recovery methods can be based on already existing and comparable products.

Because of the intergenerational nature of the house, it is important that the products are durable, maintainable and have minimal impacts after their use in the house, including being broken down into other materials for use in other homes. A good example of this is our glass bottle wall in the greenhouse, after its fulfilled its use in our home, the glass can be broken down to make other products such as the recycled glass that comprises our green ceramics. This gives many of our materials second or third lives, keeping more waste from landfill.

New Seed Home was designed as an intergenerational home that is accessible for most occupants, ensuring a flexible design for future uses of the building. Our team has considered the implications of each material we have selected and how those materials can be reused at the end of their life. Many of our materials such as our straw bale walls are completely biodegradable and can be easily separated at their end of life to enable easy recyclability.

Our chosen occupants are a thirty-five year old single mother and her two children under the age of twelve. The family has recently arrived from Afghanistan and have refugee-backgrounds. One of her children has autism. We have thus prioritised providing a sense of safety and wellbeing through our design, whilst catering for multigenerational living and long-term residency given the likelihood that New Seed Home will be a forever home for our occupants. We have considered the mental and physical needs of our occupants as well as future occupants which has ensured our design is accessible and flexible.

New Seed Home focuses on what nature can provide in regards to making a healthy home. We have particularly focused on natural light and ventilation while giving the occupant control (within a healthy range) over humidity and temperature levels to suit their own comfort. The incorporation of plants throughout the home aims to act as an air filtration system to ensure healthy, clean air for our occupants.

Sense of community is important for the wellbeing of the collective, especially for vulnerable populations. Our project aims to find balance between privacy and welcoming through various features such as our multi-purpose greenhouse. We also aim to emphasise the connection between the home, the occupant, the environment and the community whilst spreading the vision of a sustainable future by utilising the social contagion theory.

Our team has approached the supply chain flow with a cyclical mindset, with waste becoming a material resource which at the end of its life becomes another resource. Wherever possible materials are sourced from local providers.

New Seed Home tackles value from three perspectives, the occupants, the community and the environment. Ara and her family found in New Seed Home a flexible space, easy to navigate for her child, with sufficient rooms to become a multi-generational home and with an adaptable floor plan that could allocate bedrooms on the ground floor for elder occupants. 

The greenhouse bridges the dwelling with its surroundings providing a semi-private space for food production. The design of the east and west windows incorporates an innovative wall composed of recycled glass bottles. Aiming to address social psychology and positive peer pressure, food production and the recycling of waste materials are sustainable practices that can promote sustainable behaviors in the community. The concept of a 20-minute neighborhood was implemented to promote local-living. The design has eliminated the garage given the background of the occupant but also to enhance sustainable transport and adapt to a future of improved cycling routes. A carport has been kept at the front to maintain flexibility for future occupants. Provisions for future EV chargers have been considered to allow for clean transport options. With the implementation of the greenhouse the need for transportation to purchase goods has also been reduced anticipating completion of everyday necessities locally within an 800m walkable catchment.

Our team has aimed for New Seed Home to be net zero energy by following guidelines from certification such as GreenStar and WELL. The home incorporates passive design strategies designed specifically for the climate and utilises renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and an off-grid self-sustaining water system. The design of the home also aims to reduce emissions by providing space to store alternative transport options such as bikes.

Through features such as the greenhouse and fold-out wall between the kitchen and back yard, New Seed Home creates spaces which merge indoor and outdoor environments, affecting changes in perception of how people interaction with their homes. We are also challenging the concept that nature is ‘separate’ to the built environment by utilising it for key functions such as air and water purification, privacy, food production and as a social drawcard. Our sustainable water system disrupts the building industry by demonstrating the potential for homes of the future to run off an entirely off-grid, self-sustaining water system.

Pitch Video

[No sound]

[Description] This video is a proof of concept of using Virtual Reality software to perform a walkthrough of a house rendered on blender.

Brandon, P, Du Plessis, C 2015, ‘An ecological worldview as basis for a regenerative sustainability paradigm for the built environment’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 109, pp. 53-61. 

Cultural Atlas, n.d., Afghan Culture, SBS, webpage, viewed 15 October 2021, <>. 

Earthship Biotecture, n.d., Earthship Biotecture Design Principles, webpage, viewed 14 October 2021, <>. 

Mani, A., Rahwan, I. and Pentland, A., 2013. Inducing peer pressure to promote cooperation. Scientific reports, 3(1), pp.1-9.

Soga, M & Gaston, KJ 2015, ‘Extinction of experience: the loss of human–nature interactions’, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 94-101. 

University of New South Wales 2021, Living Locally and the Rise of the 20-minute Neighbourhoods, viewed 20 October 2021 <>

Whitzman, C, Tucker, D, Bishop, A, Doyon, A, Jones, C, Lowen, T & McMillan, E 2013, November. Plan Melbourne: Can Outer Suburbs Become 20 Minute Neighbourhoods?. In State of Australian Cities National Conference, 2013, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

New Seed Home Floorplan

Link to our straw bale wall panels -

Link to our green ceramics -

Links to Earthship Biotecture for extra information about our water system:

Waste Water Treatment-

Catch Water-

  • Deck render
  • garden render
  • House render
  • image of kitchen render
  • image of kitchen render
  • Image of stairs render