Grand Designs Australia

Chris Clarke Web Chat Transcript

We spoke to Chris Clarke, owner of the Bushfire House from Episode 1. For those who missed it, here is a copy of the questions and answers. It’s a truly inspiring read.

Louise35: Hi Chris, I'm from Canberra and we rebuilt our house after the Canberra fires. I just wanted to say that your focus and determination, in the face of some very real challenges, is so inspiring! I suffered from depression after the fires but time has really helped heal, as have all the wonderful new things that will now come your way.

Chris Clarke: Thank you for your kind words. Life has an amazing way of making you stronger.

Robyn41: Your house is truly inspirational. It’s amazing how health can change your life! I just wondered if you got rid of your sensitivities, and if so how?

Chris Clarke: Hi, yes I did, through time spent at Saniviv, a resort hospital in Mexico and a lot of hard work.

Tim23: You have built a wonderful home. I am blown away by your vision and the execution of it. I wish you many years of enjoyment in your home.

Chris Clarke: Thank you so much, I am sure I will.

Melbournite: Wow Chris, you have such an amazing talent for design - I love your work!

Michael: Hi Chris. I just wanted to say that you've built the most amazing house. Your passion and determination is inspiring.

Jenni9: Chris, I love your design,your passion and you skill. What an amazing home. Congratulations on an inspirational design.

Trent3: Great work mate!! thought you were crazy at the start with the use of old material!

Mara: Chris you are completely inspiring - what renewable energy options did you consider?

Chris Clarke: Thank you. Photovoltage cells run my whole house - heating of my pool, hot water, water system. I have hydronic floor heating and an open fire which is neutral. The whole thing is sustainable.

Miss Eagle: Chris, I thought the house marvellous: poetry, artistry, survival and the spirit of fire and energy!

Penelope: I’ve seen firsthand and worked with the Bushfire, what you’ve done by incorporating the shell is amazing and testament to your drive and determination. Well done you must be so proud.

Chris Clarke: Thank you very much, I am proud and it's a true blessing to live in.

Glenn9: Did you use an architect for the design?

Chris Clarke: I designed it with an architect. We designed it together. He is a good friend of mine and he did it pro bono and it was such a beautiful, easy process. He pushed me to build again. He said, "We can rebuild this".

Jenni9: Is this what you do for a living? If so, you are about to get a lot of interest from prospective clients.

Chris Clarke: It is what I do for a living, I love what I do. The reason I build sustainable and non toxic places is that I get to work with amazing people who appreciate that type of build.

Charlotte9: your house is amazing, grand designs in my inspiration to become an amazing architect.

Cheryl27: Chris, I loved your design and your success in bringing the outdoors in!

TashC: What's next in line for you Chris? Any plans to design some more houses, especially more eco friendly ones?

Chris Clarke: Yes, many more. I am working on an amazing home that I can build in a number of weeks, but still fully sustainable and non toxic.

Rob17: The sense of not having rooms but a series of connecting spaces, and the way the outside comes into the house in so many ways is really something.

Nicki3: Hi Chris. Congrats on the house, its wonderful. Just wondering what and where you studied design/architecture?

Chris Clarke: Hi, I did a trade as a carpenter and studied construction management at RMIT University in Melbourne.

Glenn9: How did you know where to source the timber pylons? This was an awesome idea as were the huge rocks.

Chris Clarke: Through people I know through word of mouth :) They are a rich man's sport and they're so hard to find unless there is a big pier that is pulled down.

Nikki22: Hi Chris, I grew up in th hills of Perth and still feel very connected to the bush. I loved watching you rebuild you house and think it's even more impressive the second time round. Well done and keep enjoying you piece of luxury.

Chris Clarke: Hi, thank you very much.

Tinakori: Hi Chris, I must have missed this part in the program, but how is your house heated in winter?

Chris Clarke: Hydronic heating in the concrete floor. Hydronic heating is hot water that is pumped through the concrete slab. It has great health benefits because you don't get that hot air. It is the type of heat where you don't know that heating is on. You are just comfortable.

Anna42: What did you use for your roof and how may solar panels. Do they give sufficient energy?

Chris Clarke: Hi there! I have 16 kilowatts of power, which is a huge amount, so I can comfortably heat your pool and run anything that I like. There are no restrictions. It is a sufficient way of doing it because when you're off the grid you can get up to 20 kilowatts.

Helena7: Hi Chris, loved your house and your dog right at the end there - is he a Newfoundland?

Chris Clarke: He is! I am in Sydney at the moment and I miss him so much. He is 75 kilos and the most beautiful animal ever.

456770 How intrusive was having a camera set on site whilst re building?

Chris Clarke: It was actually kind of fun, I really enjoyed the process. It gave me strength to rebuild and go on and capture the process that I love so much that I had lost last time. Not only did I lose the building, I lost the process.

atie23: The rocks and lines felt very Japanese. Are you inspired by Japanese architecture?

Chris Clarke: I am. I love playing with an Oriental feel.

Darren19: Hi Chris. Did you find that using recycled products was more affordable than using new materials?

Chris Clarke: If your purchase them correctly then yes they are cheaper and they have soul and character and a story!

Tracey141312: Wow, what a stunning house, I wish you could bottle you enthusiasm and drive, I know my husband could do with a little of it :) Well done and enjoy your beautiful home.

Augustus: How is the house going now? Would you like to design more houses? Augustus, age 9.

Chris Clarke: I love to design with amazing people who are looking for something different. People are so conservative. There is a fine line between getting it right and wrong. You need to play within that fine line.

AussieSmoggie: Hi Chris. Do you now wish you incorporated more privacy into the home e.g. shower for when guests stay?

Chris Clarke: I am waiting for my bamboo to thicken up a little more! There is that much steam in my shower that I don't have to worry anyway.

Shannon12: Hi Chris, congratulations on your wonderful home. Tonight moved us to tears. We had friends who lost their home near Flowerdale so we clearly understand what you went through. We also have an interest in organic food/lifestyle - finding it hard to find stuff locally in the country or are you well supplied?

Chris Clarke: I am well connected ... I think. When life pushes you to a point when you need to be connected you soon find your own path.

Alison34 Inspirational - especially for a fellow CFS/ME sufferer. How is your health these days and are you well enough to work?

Chris Clarke: My health is fine. There were times in my life when all I wished for was a healthy glow in my cheeks and to have my health recover fully is so precious. I am surrounded by incredible people. It has gone from a huge issue in my life to something I would not replace. You will break this, just go on.

Lynn12: Where did your inspiration come from for the outdoor theme inside? It looks like a tropical rainforest!

Chris Clarke: It's my attachment to nature. It's the way I want to live my life.

Jacinta5: Fab house! Great use of the recycled products from the previous home and especially the incorporation of the wharf timber, simply divine! Too open plan for me, but the way you have immersed the building into the environment is simply wonderful. You've created a stunning piece of architecture. Well done to you and your team.

Dieter: Hi Chris. I'm interested in the weathered steel on the inside of your house. The colour is amazing but does it mark clothing etc.?

Chris Clarke: You have to seal it with a non toxic sealant. It's a water based urethane.

Raceyc: Just want to say I have never done a live forum chat before but felt so inspired to after watching this show. Chris, your sustainable vision and scope, not to mention your courage is SO inspirational!! Well done!! May you live a long and peaceful life in the beautiful space you have created. Absolutely cracking first episode of Grand Designs Australia too-brilliant all-well done!

Chris Clarke: Thanks! Good to have you on here and happy to know Australia loved the first episode.

Debbie40 I am really interested to know how you got permission through council to rebuild on the same footings as well

Chris Clarke: I didn't have to get it through council. I just had to make an application for a permit and they accepted that within two week. BUT I had to comply with really extreme fire proofing.

Charlene6: So overall, how long did your project take from start to finish?

Chris Clarke: About 8 months, but to keep the costs down I did a lot of work myself which of course slowed it down.

Kirsten7 Hi Chris! This may sound lame but I was brought to tears by your amazing design! I'm so in love with your timber. Recycled materials are something I really want to use in my interior design career. Any tips for a new designer?

Chris Clarke: Sure, heaps of them! Where do I start? I think the biggest thing is that people who try to take natural materials and turn them into something they are not will fail. Don't be too fussy. Wind it back, be more natural.

Superfighter: What an awe inspiring story & home. It goes to show what can be accomplished with loads of hard work, determination & vision, truly a Grand Design. Well done mate! I could only dream of building something this beautifully, one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen!!

Chris Clarke: Thank you so much mate. I'm blown away by everyone's responses.

JackieJ: Hey Chris...I work in the building trade, if you ever want a new career direction, I think inspirational talks to worn out grumpy builders is the job for you ;)

K9: Fabulous house and amazing uplifting story. Well done!!! Also noticed your fabulous double wood framed hammock in the last shots....where did you get it from?

Chris Clarke: Thank you! It comes from New Zealand. It is the most comfortable hammock ever.

Janine16: Thank you for sharing your amazing house. I am just wondering where you sourced the steel sheets that rusted from?

Chris Clarke: Thank you. They are from Blue Scope Steel.

Kellie8: Hi Chris, your house is amazing. Did you enjoy the experience with Grand Designs? Have plans awaiting council approval and was considering signing up for the process.

Chris Clarke: Yes, do it! I loved it. But be prepared that it does put you in a position where you cannot hold off on finishing the project completely.

Melissa68: What an inspirational design. Thanks for sharing it. What are you doing for cooling?

Chris Clarke: Thank you! I don't need cooling but I have a big fan if ever I needed it. I went through my home before it burnt down with a week of over 40 degrees and it was cool!

Leigh7: OK, this is ridiculous... you are so inspiring and I wasn't sure men like you existed in Australia. Will there be a follow up "Builder Wants a Wife" show? Heh heh. Well done, Chris! Fantastic home & lifestyle :-)

Chris Clarke: Haha. Thanks Leigh.

Rosalind: Chris, you seem very calm. Do you think the house will enable you to maintain this and have you considered feng shui at all?

Chris Clarke: Thank you! I did a lot of feng shui throughout the building and I think this has helped!

CORALIE3: The last hour has been most enjoyable watching the realisation of your creative vision. We were cheering when you were talking about that excavator cowboy, cracked us up. Cheers and all the best!

Chris Clarke: I was sooooo frustrated with that guy that I wanted to jump on the machine and do it myself!

Urangaline: Is building with steel beams cheaper than traditional methods? Looks great!

Chris Clarke: NO! You have to love the concept to use steel.

Michelle102: Hi Chris, do you have any advice for anyone wanting to build a sustainable house?

Chris Clarke: Yes, it varies with each project and the passion of the people. It's all research. Everyone has a budget and you have to find the best solution for the dollars you want to spend. I recommend you do it though!

Chris Clarke: Just wanted to say thanks for all these messages guys.. wish I could respond to them all but I'm blown away

Ellie8: Is there anything you would change with your new design?

Chris Clarke: I'd change every building for the element that I want to work with and every site gives me a different feel. Conceptually, I still believe in the same fundamentals.

Lyn17: Chris, are the large glass panels fireproof? Also, how do they affect the heating and cooling of you home?

Chris Clarke: The glass panels are toughened a double glazed high performance unit filled with low E glass argon gas.

Urangaline: Are your cooking appliances on bottled gas?

Chris Clarke: Yes. I didn't want gas but I had a hiccup with the panels from Russia, so I changed from bottle gas. But I could have run it from my solar panels. I love the bottled gas now. It's the only fossil fuel that I use.

Reed: Hi Chris, I'm fifteen and while watching Grand Designs, I must have said "What a COOL guy!" about seven times! The appreciation you have for the materials and positioning of them is fantastic!

Nick28: Chris, not connected to the grid? No detail on your solar setup. Can you give a few details?

Chris Clarke: Sure, find someone you can trust, work out your RECS and see what’s feasible. And if you can, wait for the new technology, as it's all about to change. It’s designed at RMIT in the city from a company in Brighton.

Annavdg: Hi Chris, absolutely love your home. Could you please let me know where the timber yard is that sell the recycled piers?

Chris Clarke: Hi, the timber has come from Peter at Timber Search.

Julie86: Hey Chris, just a bit confused by the kitchen benches. Were they concrete.

Chris Clarke: Yes and steel!!

Jason31: Chris amazing job! Do you have a fire bunker somewhere if needed?

Chris Clarke: My home is the fire bunker! There is no way I feel any concern in regards to a fire in that home now.

Emma: I think i might be the biggest Grand Designs fan ever! I just love Kevin and the show. I'm so excited that the Aussie version is all that and more! well done to the creators. Chris - what you have done is so inspirational, in design and in purely you being strong enough to have done what you have done. Every future happiness to you and your pooch - you deserve it!!!

Kristin5: I was completely blown away by your drive, ambition and creativity. You have just built my dream home! I work on Pyrmont Bay, so was great to see the old wharf used!!

Steveperry1963: Hi Chris. Awesome project. What is the floor finish in kitchen area?

Chris Clarke: It's a polished concrete floor - it gives a natural gun metal look.

Alison34: In the late 1950s, in New Zealand, my dad (a builder) built our house from reinforced concrete in earthquake territory. It was revolutionary then but still stands the test of time and would be regarded as contemporary now. Like him Chris, you have met environmental and aesthetic requirements :-)

Samuel J: Thank you Chris for giving us the opportunity of viewing your magnificent home... your story is inspirational and embedded in every facet of the build. We have been building our home now for two years and still much to do. It is difficult to maintain the passion and the budget! Not to mention the sanity. Thanks again.

Chris Clarke: Thanks Samuel. Never give in! Hold onto your dream. Enjoy the process, as you can never live in a place that has beaten you. Find the strength and finish it.

Chris Clarke: Thank you so much for all your kind words. I really appreciate all your support. If you have any more questions, please email them to me. Glad you enjoyed the show.. keep watching!

LifeStyle: Thanks again for participating everyone. Feel free to email any extra questions to or visit Good night and don't forget to tune in on Thursdays at 8.30pm on the LifeStyle Channel!

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Posted by Report
Just watching the terrible fires in OZ on tv here in NZ and hope you and your family and friends are safe. Hope your home hasn't needed to be put to the test.
Posted by Report
Hello Chris, I saw the show in Holland in November 2012 and could not believe my eyes and ears .. what an impressive man are you, and you have an impressive house built after so many setbacks ... it got me thinking Never give on ... thank you for this lesson love marion
Posted by Report
Hello Chris, I have just watched the rebuild of your home on GD and love the way it fits/flows so well into it's surroundings with your innovative ideas. I wish to do something similar one day. My attention was also sparked by the health issues you have encountered. I was recently diagnosed with coeliac disease (6 mths ago), so was interested in how your home has incorporated this aspect of your life too. Jane
Posted by ruthbrown24Report
Wow Chris I'm in love with your raw rustic style and your amazing journey to build an organic lifestyle. You really missed your calling as an architect, although your background in carpentry and project management would have truly helped you work and execute the materials so beautifully. I'm a third year architecture student and can"t wait to show your house to my class mates, as I feel it's essential to keep promoting the word on eco friendly house design. I have seen architects at the end of there career who would struggle to create what you have.I have had health problems over these last two years and I'm in the process of transforming my life to natural and organic, similar to your journey as i believe its so important. My dream is to create a natural way of living like you have done for your self. I can't help thinking you would have non stop phone calls of people wanting houses designed!!! If you continue designing I would love to see any more of your work. Well done and I wish you all the best with health and happiness. Ruth from darwin:)
Posted by CligoReport
Hi Chris, We just watched you and Callignee II in the making from Dublin. I grew up in West of Ireland and loved the use of the rocks around the house, we grew up beside a lake where rocks were plentiful. Thanks for sharing the design, build and ideas publicly, otherwise the rest of us would not have gotten to enjoy watching your journey so much.
Posted by Report
Dear Chris,
My name is Nora Wincent , living in Sweden. I have been watching Grand Design Australia and i liked your architecture of your two houses, before and after the big fire. I am now planning to build my own house in the Stockholm archipelago. The house will be situateted on top of a hill (rocks) in Fjärdgatan No 4 , Värmdö 24 km East of Stockholm (could be found on Google Earth - at present there is an old house which will be demoliched) .
Would you be interested in drawing some ideas how the house could look like?
The planning permision allouws a bilding area of 120 sqm ( 2 stories) or 160 sqm (1 storie). If you are interrested i will e-mail to you some photos on the land where the house its going to be built.
Looking forward to hear from you within short.
Best Regards

Nora Wincent
Södra Kustvägen 25 A 252 85
Tfn: +46 42 94488 +46 709 85 22 77
Posted by Report
Watched this programme last night from Germany. Have not been able to think of anything since. All I can say is that your house is my dream house in every way. Amazing-truly amazing.
Posted by Report
hej chris widzialam program z twoim udzialem w tv- garden deing, podziwiam twój upór w odbudowie domu, ale zastanawiam sie dlaczego odbudowales dom w tym samym miejscu...?Pochodze z Polski i takich warunków atmosferycznych u nas niema, czesciej mamy deszcze niz susze, ale nie zdecydowala bym sie na budowe w takim miejscu.. Zycze powodzenia Anka
Posted by Report
sir, we are the students of architecture from indiA and making a case study of your house featured in grand design, we would be highly obliged if you could e-mail us the floor plans of your home.
sir we are eagerly waiting for your reply.
thank you
Posted by Charmaine43Report
Hi Chris, I have just seen your show, I am very interested in properties, but I wanted to contact you regarding your ME, please let me know if this would be possible, thanks