Michael Young - Mud Brick - Homes - Kitchens - Bathrooms
Designing & Building timeless and contemporary homes specialising in mudbrick
Designing & Building timeless and contemporary homes specialising in mudbrick

Michael Young has been designing and constructing beautiful and elegant homes for thirty years.

Michael is a registered builder whose early inspiration was derived from working with the late Alistair Knox and the renowned landscape designer Robert Boyle. His siting and seamless integration of house and landscape is a defining feature of his work.

Specialising in the use of traditional ‘puddle made’ mud bricks, renewable plantation timbers and select recycled materials, Michael Young’s homes are energy efficient and ecologically sound from ground up. His business has been founded on quality one on one service: good advice and a painless and productive process that delivers what is for most people their biggest investment, on time and on budget.


    I was born in the Diamond Valley/Eltham area, and have lived here all my life. Since I was a young lad, my father stimulated a great interest in building, gardening and other skills associated with this creative region. He hand-built the family home in Greensborough 60 years ago and has been renovating and improving it ever since.

  • KNOX

    The Eltham area is known nationally and internationally as the heartland of mud brick building. My first foray into the industry was with mentor and industry leader the late and great Alistair Knox, who pioneered mudbrick building in and around Eltham back in the 40s and 50s. The enthusiasm he expressed for such a simple and accessible form of building was seductive: the thought of being able to dig out a flat area of ground for a house, mix the surplice dirt with water and straw, mould and lay the bricks out in the sun to dry was interesting enough; to then incorporate the dried bricks into beautiful walls of a timeless and environmentally flawless home was intoxicating.

    My passion for building contemporary and traditional homes, with a specialist capacity for mud brick, has not waned in my 30 years of involvement.


    As a 23 year old I was living with wife and child in my first mudbrick home, which I designed and built in Kinglake. It is interesting to note that in the recent disastrous fires of February 7, 2009-11, that home was destroyed although the mudbrick walls remained standing. The Building Commission in Victoria has rated mudbrick as being a stand-alone product, able to withstand a four-hour fire front. I think this aspect alone will engender a lot more earth building in these bushy areas.

  • 6 STAR

    In recent years mud brick has been challenged by the ever- increasing bureaucratic nature of permit processes. Several years ago, an energy rating requirement for all domestic buildings was introduced. It is scientifically accepted that mudbrick homes have a much more constant temperature variation than conventional Australian buildings. They remain cooler in summer and warmer in winter and, with proper assumptions and settings built into a well constructed thermal rating system, mudbrick will always outperform other modes of building.


    The challenge that confronted mud brick builders was to get involved in the design and settings of the rating systems at a grass roots level. I took up this challenge and formed the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association in 2004: I put together a committee, signed up the first 70 or 80 members and took our issues up with the State Government and associated departments. We are now the largest earth building association in Australia, with a membership nearing 300 - a volunteer group that is well sponsored and is professionally recognized within the local and broader community, and all levels of government.


    Mudbrick homes date back 10,000 years, and two thirds of the world’s population currently lives in earth dwellings. I myself live in a mud brick home, and love all aspects of it. I have built for myself and others many different types of houses over the years and can offer a service tailored to your individual requirements. I hope you find this simple website of interest, and if you would like to discuss anything further, please don’t hesitate to make contact with me.

Builder queries rating

Mud bricks score poorly

By Dave Crossthwaite

Pictures: Lawrence PINDER

AN ELTHAM builder has called on the State Government to exempt houses made of earth from new energy efficiency laws after its computer modelling software rated corrugated iron a better insulator than mudbrick.

From July this year, all new houses in Victoria must have more energy efficient and water saving features, including a four star rating for building materials.

Houses built after July, 2005, will have to meet a rating of five stars.

Earth builder Michael Young put the Governments FirstRate program to the test after it awarded one of his mudbrick houses zero stars from a possible five.

Mr Young said further tests using the software, carried out by a Nillumbik Council officer, showed additions such as double glazing and wide eaves made little difference and that bare weatherboard or corrugated iron outperformed solid mudbricks. All three building materials, used alone, scored a zero star rating, but weatherboard and corrugated iron recorded higher energy points than mudbrick.

Mr Young, who trained under renowned builder Alistair Knox, and who like his mentor builds almost exclusively in mudbrick, said the results proved the software was flawed.

"It obviously doesn't recognise the thermal properties of high mass walls and until (it) can, mudbrick should be exempt" Mr Young said. All were asking for is a stay of execution until they get it right.

But the state's peak energy authority has questioned this.

The sustainable Energy Authority's leader of building development, David Craven, said the authority had put more than 40 designs through the system with vastly different outcomes.

Mr Craven said mudbrick outperformed weatherboard and corrugated iron in every case.

"There is a whole range of ways you can do a rating," he said.

Right: builder Michael Left: a mudbrick house in Swan St, Eltham.

"It can come down to the expertise of the operator.

"We'd be happy to review the rating and assist the builder to improve the houses energy rating."

Nillumbik Council's manager of environment and community services Bill Forrest said mudbrick houses in the shire had achieved ratings of up to three stars and no permits would be refused before July.

Mr Forrest said the energy performance of mudbrick had never been tested and there were "significant weaknesses" in the software technology.

"They (the Sustainable Energy Authority) assume mud brick performs the same as a stone wall. They are guessing and they are getting it wrong." Mr Forrest said. "Failure of mudbrick houses to comply with FirstRate should not be the basis of refusing permits." Mr Craven said the CSIRO released test results for earth materials in 2000.

"We're confident in the Software and the 30 years of international research it is based on," he said. "Discussions have been held with the industry and the Government is committed to working with it before and after July." ×

Building for the future

Earth builder Michael Young and mudbrick homeowner Bev Brock will be among those Joining forces to help save NiIIumbik's mudbrick heritage.


By Dave Crossthwaite

MORE than 130 mudbrick manufacturers, architects, tradesmen and mudbrick homeowners and supporters have joined forces to fight State Government laws that threaten the future of Nillumbik's most iconic industry.

The Nillumbik Mudbrick Association will be launched at the Eltham Library tomorrow, Thursday, September 2, at a meeting from .

Earth builder Michael Young, the association president, said the industry had been dealt a near-fatal blow by new energy requirements that unfairly targeted mudbricks.

Mr Young said flaws in the Sustainable Energy Authority's computer modelling system could lead to a ban on mudbrick houses. "Its never been an organised industry as such but the time has come to band together and fight the injustices being dealt to us," Mr Young said. "Hopefully well be able to confront this and other issues to ensure a future for the industry."

Since July this year all new buildings have been required to show a five-star energy efficiency rating under the authority's First Rate program. Mudbricks score poorly under this program that rates materials and building designs on their ability to store and resist the flow of heat.

Mudbrick industry Unites for fight

Eltham State Labor MP Steve Herbert has written to Planning Minister Mary Delahunty seeking a review of the research into the efficiency of heavy building materials such as mudbrick.

It is an important industry and I applaud the effort to form a local group that can lobby government rather than rely on national bodies,Mr Herbert said.

Bev Brock, whose Nutfield home was the last building designed by renowned architect and earth builder Alistair Knox before his death, said

suggestions that mudbrick was inefficient were wrong.

Ms Brock urged the Government to do its homework before banning one of the oldest and most aesthetically pleasing building materials on the face of the earth.

Decisions are being made that simply lack reason. "Ive lived in a mudbrick house for 21 years and given the choice Id never live in anything else," Ms Brock said. "We have a small airconditioner that we hardly use. We have masses of Windows With no curtains, but we have no problem with temperature control."

Ms Brock will be a keynote speaker at the association launch. For details call 0417 599 677. ×

Mud-brick energy efficiency study

Above, Steve Herbert, Michael Young, Danielle Green and Alan Grimes discuss the merits of mud-brick technology outside Mr Youngs house. Builder Michael Young, below, Working on a mudbrick house.

By Dave Crossthwaite

ELTHAM environmental builder the late Alistair Knox is synonymous With Australias mudbrick resurgence. His distinctive houses are still highly sought after and attract top prices when they come on to the market.

THE State Government has offered Nillumbiks mudbrick industry an olive branch in the debate over the energy efficiency of earth building materials and the Governments mandatory energy requirements.

Last Week, following lobbying by State Labor MPs Steve Herbert (Eltham) and Danielle Green (Yan Yean, Planning Minister Mary Delahunty agreed to mount a research project into the energy performance of mudbricks.

Since July, all new buildings have been required to achieve a four star energy rating under the Sustainable Energy Authority's FirstRate computer modelling program.

From July next year, the Government will raise the requirement to five stars.

In September, more than 130 mudbrick manufacturers, architects, tradesmen and mudbrick house OWners formed the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association to fight energy efficiency laws they believed unfairly targeted the age old building material.

They feared the requirements signalled the death knell for their industry and called on the Government to rethink the Way it assessed mudbricks.

Association president Michael Young, a candidate in the

coming Nillumbik Council election, said the research project Was the first step in Securing the industry's future.

This research Will Validate What We in Nillumbik have always believed that ecofriendly mudbrick houses have outstanding thermal qualities,Mr Young Said.

Mr Herbert said the Building Commission, the Energy Authority Victoria, the Australian Greenhouse office and Deakin University were collaborating on the project.

A scientific trial into the performance of mudbricks is long Overdue and has been high on the mudbrick industry's agenda for sometime,Mr Herbert said.

Nillumbik is Widely recognised as the most significant mudbrick region in Australia and local mudbrick builders are involved in the planning and design of this substantial trial.”

Ms Green said the study would be carried out over the 2005 Winter period because it was the heating performance of mudbrick buildings that Was of primary interest.

Nillumbik Mayor Tony Raunic said the council welcomed the decision, but it Wanted guarantees it Would be able to issue permits after July, 2005, when the five star rating requirement took effect.

Mr Herbert said the Government could not commit to a moratorium for mudbricks. There is plenty of time to have that discussion, he said.


Planning minister "seeing stars"

Planning Minister Justin Madden meets with NMA President Michael Young after a recent visit to the area

The Nillumbik Mudbrick Association was delighted when Justin Madden got the daunting task of becoming the States new Planning Minister. Before politics, Minister Madden was an Architect and with such a practical background it could be easily assumed that he would contribute positively to the issue of Energy Rating of new houses.
On a recent visit to Eltham, the Home of Mudbrick building, he was quick to praise not only the beauty of Mudbrick but also acknowledged the comfortable feel that a Mudbrick house generates.

"They're beautiful homes, and its fantastic to see that a well designed Muddygets rewarded with 5 stars". Mr. Madden says Nillumbik is renowned for its alternative building, and Mudbrick construction is viewed widely as the most ecologically sustainable building method available. It is only right that a modern computer program be developed to reflect this. Now in its fifth version, the First Rate" Five Star Assessment Program, gives well designed mud brick homes a big tick of approval.

NMA Inc. President and Nillumbik Shire Councilor Michael Young endorsed Maddens visit. "It is great to see Justin taking a hands-on approach and throwing his weight behind what is a great local industry. People want environmentally friendly and they want a high Star rating; These homes are leading the way in thermal efficiency and we can achieve 6 stars or better". Mr. Young says.

For more information visit : www.mudbrick.org.au


Mud-brick house for scientific test

Cr Michael Young with a mudbrickhouse under construction. Picture: LAWRENCE PINDER.

A Group of mudbrick house owners has offered to vacate their homes for a week to allow scientists to test the bricks energy efficiency.

Nillumbik councillor Michael Young, who is also the president of the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association, said that a dozen owners had volunteered their houses for the testing, which is scheduled to begin in June.

But he said that only one of the houses offered would be selected for the tests.

The science people will then get in there and test for a week in winter conditions," Cr Young said.

He said the program was a major step forward for the future of the shires mud-brick industry that had been fighting to prove the State Governments energy efficiency computer tests were flawed.

From July, all new houses will have to achieve a five star energy rating. but under the Governments present testing regime mud bricks have scored poorly, despite their occu

pants experience to the contrary. Cr Young said that unless the testing program was altered to rate mud bricks more fairly, mudbrick businesses could fold and, with them, workers jobs. In November Last year, the Government finally agreed to pay for a research project into the energy performance of mud bricks. Cr Young, who designs and builds mud brick houses, is convinced the scientists will support the association's arguments. ×

Mudbrick homes are cool

Nillumbik Mudbrick Association member Michael Young at his mudbrick home in Eltham.

DETERMINED to promote the iconic mudbrick industry, owners and local trades people formed the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association about four years ago. Today, the association, with 300 members, is the largest earth building association in Australia. The members includes designers, architects, builders, trades people, passionate home owners and supporters of mudbrick. One of the associations founders Michael Young, said there are many advantages of building well-designed mudbrick homes. Being naturally cool in summer and cosy in winter, mud brick homes reduce air conditioning costs. This saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, mudbrick homes are low maintenance and can be built in any style from rustic through to contemporary. While promoting the advantages of mudbrick homes, the association also aims to protect the area's rich heritage. The first earth and wattle and daub buildings were built in the surrounding gold rush areas. While earth building in its modern form was revived in the 1930s and 1940s, it took building designer Alistair Knox to popularise and mudbrick buildings in the 1950s. He encouraged the next generation of mudbrick builders and designers who created the areas earth buildings. For more information contact Nillumbik Mudbrick Association at www.mudbrick.org.au or phone 0417599677.


5 Star Mudbrickers: “Making the Earth Turn”

NMA Inc. - Committee Members - Alan Grimes, Karl Apted, Barbara Pittard, Michael Young, Greg Slingsby, Robert Marshall,

Making ground" is exactly what the Mudbrick Building Industry has been doing for generations in Nillumbik. In the forties and fifties it was the ambience and earthy appeal of Mudbrick that attracted so many to Eltham. The blending of house and natural environment was a perfect fit for artists, poets and musicians. With Global warming a driving force today, our search is for a truly sustainable and thermally efficient building method. This has once again led us to look to the humble Mudbrick. Mudbrick housing dates back 10,000 years and two thirds of the worlds population live in earth housing.

Its the simplicity of Mudbrick

that fascinates people

mna president michael young

Nillumbik is the home of Mud brick building here in Australia and hosts many highly skilled Architects tradesman and builders. It is these people that are leading the way in new generation building. "Its the simplicity of Mudbrick that fascinates people" says Nillumbik Mudbrick Association Inc. President and local Councilor Michael Young.

" Mixing dirt and water and drying them in the sun, and then watching as we form them into beautiful houses; houses that stand for ever and require little heating or cooling; that is the magic he goes on to say. The Nillumbik Mudbrick Association Inc. (NMA Inc.) was formed to protect this age old building method and to keep Nillumbik at the forefront of alternative environmental building.

During the last four years NMA Inc. has worked strongly with the Victorian State Government to help transform the new 5 star energy rating software to adequately reflect the unique thermal qualities of Mudbrick. State Member for Eltham Mr. Herbert said. The Eltham area has a great tradition of building fantastic environmentally friendly Mudbrick homes. I am delighted that this tradition will continue long into the future," The people from Eltham and Nillumbik have enjoyed the image of being trailblazers in the past. The formal recognition of mud bricks 5 star thermal performance is generating an air of excitement in the area once again. For information check the Website at: www.mudbrick.org.au

Nillumbik Mudbrick Association Ind


Mudbrick muddle Over

Fiona Willan

DIAMOND Valley's iconic mudbrick industry is set to rise from the dead. Sustainability Victoria has released long awaited software that proves mudbrick homes meet the State Governments five star energy rating. Local builders, homeowners and mudbrick enthusiasts who fought long and hard for the new software said it would bring the broken industry back to life. The industry was dealt a crushing blow three years ago, when mudbrick homes failed to rate above an average two stars.

Nillumbik Mudbrick Association president, builder and shire councillor Michael Young said the improved software proved what campaigners had argued all along. Mudbrick homes are thermally superior to other building modes and with good design techniques will rate five stars and more,Mr Young said. We are now ready to rebuild a vibrant local mudbrick industry in Nillumbik.” Mr Young and 300 supporters formed the Nillumbik Mudbrick ASSociation three years ago, to lobby to revise the software. Local MPS Steve Herbert and Danielle Green also joined the fight.

Mr Young said the original software did not offer a fair assessment of mudbrick homes. The Australian Greenhouse Office contracted CSIRO to make changes to the software. Sustainable building Specialist Tony Isaacs said the new software gave a more accurate energy rating of mudbrick homes. The former Sustainability Victoria employee developed the original software 11 years ago and was involved in its overhaul. The new Software is far more detailed and allows every room in the house to be regarded as a separate thermal zone,Mr Isaacs said. Mr Young said uncertainty over energy ratings had had a noticeable impact on the mudbrick industry. I was previously doing two mudbrick houses a year,he said. Now I've done two mudbricks in four years. People have been wanting timber and corrugated iron instead.” Eltham landowners Tony and Stephanie Jenkins said they now felt confident to proceed with plans to build a mudbrick home. "As far as the resale value of the home was concerned, we were hesitant to go ahead until we got a five star energy rating," Mrs Jenkins said.


Finding new favour after the mudslide

The Sunday Age, January 20, 2008

MUD brick. That oldest, cheapest, easiest and most sustainable building material literally put Eltham and its surrounds on the map in the 1930s as artists and back-to-nature types flocked to Melbourne’s bushy north-east, drawn by its creative and eco friendly potential.

But three years ago, the humble muddy fell foul of Victoria’s new housing energy rating system. Ina decision steeped in irony, it was deemed by the First Rate five-star energy program as having such poor to-negligible energy efficiency that few if any mud brick houses have been built in Nillumbik or any other part of the state since.

It is an outcome that doesn't sit well with architect Ross Henry. In his 30-year career, Mr Henry has designed well over 100 muddies in the rural shire. He deeply regrets the demise of a hand built housing tradition that had once allowed amateurs and a high percentage of the creatives attracted to the area to raise "one off, whimsical, character rich houses".

Mud brick is a material that doesn't require precision workmanship, says Mr Henry. Even grandma can lay mud bricks".

And while the associated technology of a modern alternative, pise (or rammed earth), has gotten around the rating system to some degree by including insulation in the core of relatively porous walls, pise is a job for professionals, says Mr Henry. Its a contractors role so the handmade aspect has gone out of it "He says pise is a fine material but it just doesn't have the beauty of mud brick”.

Idiosyncratic and sometimes amazing, mudbrick recycled stone house often built by owner builders of limited budgets but unlimited imagination have been the architectural vernacular of the semi rural areas around Eltham since the 1930s, when the template was established at the artists colony of Montsalvat by Justus Jorgensen and his friends.

From the 1950s, builder designer Alistair Knox Championed the material along with the use of recycled timbers and stone as part of what he called an "alternate Australian Vernacular".

Described as the father of the earth building movement, Knox is said to have designed more than 600 mud brick houses around the district and his name still headlines sales brochures whenever one of his comes onto the market. Today, depending on land sizes or aspects relative to the main townships, mud brick houses with a provenance can sell for a premium, says Morrison Kleeman Eltham agent Gayle Blackwood.

"Even grandma can lay mud bricks".
ROSS HENRY, architect

The name, the aura or the famous work an artist can help because the properties have a story that adds to their attraction, she says. These include Knox, Robert Marshall, Llewellyn Pritchard, Ross Henry or any of the artists who came to the area. The attraction of mud brick houses is certainly there. We have more people coming out to Eltham to look for them than we have on our books because mud brick houses are not your standard brick veneers," Ms Blackwood says.

She says some of her buyers have swapped swank Docklands apartments for muddies with land on which they can build a studio. There are also first-home buyers who gain entry level access in a suburban Eltham muddy for 430.000orfor marginally less in entry-level Hurstbridge.

On the bigger properties, which are viable for hobby farm agriculture in Kangaroo Ground and St Andrews, the prices touch million dollar plus levels.
In the unique Environmental Living Zone precinct on the Yarra known as the Bend of Isles, Ms Blackwood has for sale a four-bedroom mud brick house with hectares of land for just under 700,000. The proviso of settling in the zone, which was largely the brainchild of painter and potter Neil Douglas, is that residents cannot have dogs, cats, fences, firearms or any extraneous land clearing or development that might impact detrimentally on the native flora and fauna.

It is therefore one of the enclaves that has attracted a disproportionate number of creatives who prefer the quiet of the bush to the more immediate stimulus of the high streets of suburbia.

They are the people who live in the core of the area dubbed by real estate agents as Eltham and District" Since the 1970s, especially, so many painters, potters, writers, musicians, architects, jewellers and craftspeople have settled there that the district has turned into an arts hub.

When it comes to building houses and studios, they very famously do their own thing and their housing compounds are almost always unique and, invariably, micro village like collections of buildings surrounded by vaguely tamed bush.

Gayle Blackwood says that for the artists of Nillumbik, environmental sensitivity goes hand in hand with creativity”.

In 1970, when Tess Edwards was the young wife of nationally famous print maker George Baldessin, the couple faced a choice of buying an Albert Park terrace house for 12,000 or a fibro shack on .5 hectares up a dirt track behind St Andrews for 7750.

They opted for the bush and in the eight years until her husband died in a car accident, they built a cottage, studio and the bones of a big house out of recycled bluestone. As a European, George insisted on stone buildings and, at the time, nobody wanted the bluestones from demolished city buildings.

"We got them for the price of the transport," Ms Edwards says.
Though Ms Edwards ran away" to France for nearly 20 years, she never sold her house and eventually felt the call to return to it to honour Baldessin's memory and finish the vision he had for the place as an access studio and artists' retreat.

With new partner, artist Lloyd Godman, and other professional printmakers, she runs workshops and retreats in what is now known as The Baldessin Press.

"It's high maintenance", she says, "but I have no intention of leaving again".
Inspired by Clifton Pughs art compound, Dunmoochin, ceramic artist Judy Trembath and her sculptor husband Tony similarly took up cheap land in nearby Cottles Bridge in 1971. The recycled building materials lying in piles on their hillside block show they are still in the process of realising their vision of house, home studios, a fanciful corrugated tower apartment used by their 27-year-old son and sheds.

They started their compound with a hexagonal tower on which they learned how to make and lay mud bricks. Mud-brick was their option, says Ms Trembath, because we couldn't get a bank loan and because we could make them ourselves.
Though she now has the perfect pottery and teaching workshop with bush and distant valley outlooks, the place keeps growing as new ideas occur to the sculptor and as new needs for their practices arise.

Ashed is soon due to become a showroom for Ms Trembaths ceramics but even if they were allowed to build in mud brick, they probably wouldn't make the raw product themselves because making mud brick is very, very hard work.

That the Trembaths have never built to suit a market but rather in a place that they love is characteristic of the alternative building vernacular of Eltham and District.

Some of the most individualistic houses present a challenge to conventional buyers. But if mud brick compounds do come on the market, Ms Blackwood says they are often targeted by other artists from within the area and, increasingly, by overseas buyers looking for a definitive Australian bush lifestyle experience.

"On the second or third day of a five day heat wave, sure, it will heat up. But it also cools down.” Michael Skewes

Potter Michael Skewes and his wife, Annie, had always dreamed of living in a mud-brick house in the bush. In 1996, they bought wild hectares in the Environmental Living Zone and the mud-brick house built by Neil Douglas and Abbie Heathcote. The houses provenance was a bonus, says Mr Skewes.

Despite the fact that some of the rooms had been built by a mudbrickie “who didn't believe in using a spirit level, says Mr Skewes, it had the wow" factor. I loved it as soon as I walked in. "The Skewes have changed very little about the house they well recognise as part of Nillumbik's heritage and say all it really needs, perhaps, is a dishwasher.
"For us, its just fine as it is”.
Having spent a decade living in mud-brick, Mr Skewes finds nothing to fault in its energy performance. "On the second or third day of a five day heat wave, sure, it will heat up. But it also cools down.”

He is just one of many in the area who feel it is a terrible shame that the mud-brick industry has gone off the boil because it is so much a part of the heritage here.

Mudbrick advocate Michael Young is working to have the humble muddy" restored to favour.

Restoring a master material brick by brick

BUILDER Michael Young was once apprenticed to Alistair Knox and has constructed numerous mud brick houses. So its natural that the 49-year-old builder finds it frustrating that, in the past three years, he has only been allowed to build two small extensions out of a material that he feels has proven itself to be ecofriendly for 10,000 years.

As president of the Nillumbik Mud Brick Association and a local councillor, Mr Young has been lobbying hard to have the software that rates a buildings energy performance recalibrated to consider the embodied energy of mud-brick manufacture- and its actual thermal performance- more realistically so that the mud brick house building industry can start up again.

He claims the virtual ban on using mud brick comes down to glitches in the software, rather than the material itself, which in a house made out of 250mm bricks works so beautifully that it can have less thermal fluctuation than a normal house.

"With good design we can get a five star rating or better."

While the NSW mud-brick building scene has been thriving under different energy measurements, he says his association has been forced to battle on through a succession of Victorian planning ministers with the argument that mud brick is the most environmentally friendly of all building materials, and that not everyone in Australia wants to live at 21 degrees, seven days a week.

Mr Young says the software determining the five star criteria is already up to version five and there is hope that, with a few more tweaks, it might finally measure the right reasons for building in mud-brick.

The breakthrough is inevitable, he believes. When it happens, he says, Nillumbik, the heartland of mud-brick building in Australia, can emerge from its temporary retreat as a showcase of a fantastic heritage that uses a fantastic material.


Mud brick man quits top job

Michael Young is happy his Nillumbik Mudbrick Association has restored
mudbricks' environmentally fr.iendly status. Picture: MARK FRECKER

Engel Schmidl

MICHAEL Young is used to getting his hands dirty.
A registered builder for more than 25 years, the Eltham resident and Nillumbik councillor learnt his trade under the guidance of Alistair Knox, a pioneer of mudbrick building in Australia.
Knox made mudbrick building synonymous with the Diamond Valley.
I was a pimply faced 18- or 19-year-old when I started working with Alistair Knox,Cr Youung said.
It was very hard to be alongside Alistair Knox and not pick up an enthusiasm for mudbrick.”
Mudbricks rustic look was popular with Eltham home builders looking for an alternative to the prefabricated houses that dominated Melbourne's suburbs in the post-war years.
But in 2004, mudbrick builders were sent reeling by a new state law that threatened their industry.
They formed the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association in response, with Cr Young as president. New, narrowly defined State Government environmental ratings tests did not give mudbricks a fair chance, so association members set out to change the situation.
It was an ironical situation because mudbrick is quite possibly the most eco-friendly house form you can imagine,Cr Young said.
Four years of intensively lobbying the Victorian Building Commission and State Government, including Eltham state Labor MP Steve Herbert and Planning Minister Justin Madden, led to a breakthrough.
New testing software developed by the CSIRO and released last September restored the reputation and, more importantly, official recognition, of mudbrick as a green friendly building material.
It was a big success for the mudbrick association and a signal for Cr Young that it was time to step aside as president, which he will do this month. Its a fantastic example of how a Small community group can get things changed at a government level,he said.


Tourism hub for town

FASTFACT The Eltham Community Centre, opened in 1978, was Australia's first mudbrick community building.

St Andrews leaders endorses $1m bed-and-breakfast apartments and shop development

Development I Raelene Wilson

A SHOP and housing development in St Andrews promises to be the towns biggest private development in 100 years. Nillumbik councillor Michael Young has begun the 1 million project opposite the towns Saturday market site, already completing the shop and having started on building two bed-and-breakfast apartments.

He said he was yet to sign a tenant for the shop but there had been " strong interest" from a specialist in natural therapies and a chef for a woodfired pizza restaurant. The site is on Kangaroo Ground-St Andrew Rd.
"The site has been sitting there for a long time," Cr Young said.
"It's a prominent site in St Andrews and was at risk of the wrong development. Sometimes the best way to preserve an area is to sensitively develop it in tune with the neighbourhood character.”

Cr Young said he hoped to open both the shop and the yet-to-be-named bed and breakfast in six months.

St Andrews resident and former Nillumbik Mayor Robert Marshall welcomed the development and said it "enhanced the character of St Andrews".

"What Michael has done is a good development that is in sync with the lifestyle of St Andrews and is complementary to nearby facilities, such as the hotel and the market," Mr Marshall said. Fellow Andrews resident and Green Wedge Protection Group presid Kahn Franke said Cr Young was "thinking on the right scale". Its a small-scale development that ties in with the green wedge and is still right in the heart of the community," Mr Franke said of the development. Cr Young said he had used recycled building materials for the development, including timber, steel, bricks and mud bricks.

Mud bricklayer David Young works on a building at St Andrews, with a new study hoped to prove mudbrick building's energy efficiency.

Study goal to show energy efficiencies clear as mud

THE Nillumbik Mudbrick Association has set out to prove once again the energy efficiency of the shires iconic building material.
Sustainability Victoria last week gave the group 12,500 towards a 25,000 study into the requirements mudbrick homes needed to meet new six-star energy ratings.
Association vice-president Michael Young said in-kind support from local builders and architects would cover the rest of the two month project. "What we want to do is achieve six stars without compromising the beauty and integrity of mudbricks," he said.
"We've looked at the essential elements of a mudbrick home and what can be taken away to get the rating.”
Cr Young said the study would involve the design of three mudbrick homes of various sizes, storeys and styles to meet the six star energy rating.
He said the study would ensure a smooth transition to the new rating, to become mandatory for new homes from May.
In 2004 mudbrick homes failed to rate above an average two stars.


The association fought relentlessly for new energy rating Software, released in 2007. "Historically we've lobbied government and had success along the way and through that built a partnership with the energy agency," Cr You said. "We've got a good thing going for this new six-star challenge." Sustainability Victoria said the study would help builders meet the new regulatory requirements.


Mud brick investments

A builder in Victoria constructs a future investment income
from a complex of owner built structures

Ever thought about creating an owner built investment property as a potential answer to your long term superannuation and retirement fi nancial needs? Superannuation, life and disability insurance are sometimes absent from the thinking and personal fi nancial issues embraced by self employed tradespersons and even owner builders. Several years ago these issues entered the thoughts of Eltham based mud brick designer and builder Michael Young. Having acquired a very prominent site in the village of St Andrews on the outer northern edge of Melbourne, he has set in motion his own ‘self built mud brick superannuation fund.’

Location, location

Michael’s land comprising about 1500m2 is located at the junction of the Kangaroo Ground – St Andrews Road and the Heidelberg – Kinglake Roads. It is adjoined to the south by the St Andrews Hotel where a licensed establishment has been located since the 1860s. Importantly, directly across the road on a public reserve is the famed Saturday morning St Andrews Community Market.

Extremely popular for its offerings of alternative lifestyle products and services, homemade foods, fruit and vegetables, craft productions and collectables it has traded from this site for some 40 years, predating the popular trend to ‘farmer’s markets’ which have multiplied signifi cantly in recent years.

The market attracts regular exhibitors, some of many years consecutive participation, so much so that there is a long waiting list to acquire an exhibitor’s site. It is such a feature that to park on a Saturday morning along the adjacent roads usually requires a walk of a kilometre or so to reach the market action.

Commercial mud brick buildings

Michael had the idea that he could construct a complementary building in the St Andrews style in mud brick and recycled timbers which could be let to a commercial tenant, possibly even an exhibitor with a connection to the market. And in the longer term it would be an effective superannuation investment. After the relevant building and planning permits were obtained, Michael has embarked on an owner built project which, so far, has seen the construction of three buildings with a fourth, and the largest, at the frame up stage. Although the project has been underway for the past four years, he says it might take a few more before all the work is fi nally completed.

The fi rst three completed structures are all loadbearing mud brick buildings employing puddled mud bricks that Michael sourced from Mudlarks, a local professional brick maker. The timber for the framing is all recycled, often traditional hardwoods and some oregon he located from a number of sources, usually as pack lots.

Michael has also fabricated most of the windows, doors and other fi t-out components from the recycled timber.

Building One

The first building was always designed to suit a retail purpose as it has high visibility to both local roads and fronts the Kangaroo Ground to St Andrews Road. It is a single level loadbearing mud brick building 66m2 in area complete

with a Colorbond roof. This was originally intended to be occupied by an alternative therapist but as the construction was completed this plan fell through.

Michael was then approached by a partnership of enterprising and experienced foodies with a view to opening a part weekday and weekend trading pizzeria and local food sourced eatery and coffee shop. Michael says ‘I liked what they proposed, with a focus on low food miles so we proceeded to negotiate a suitable tenancy arrangement.’

The business, which opens on Thursday evenings through to Sunday late, trades under the distinctive name of ‘A Boy Named Sue.’

The business, it is fair to say, is booming and attracting patrons from a wide area and is always packed during the opening hours. It acts on Saturday mornings in particular as a great adjunct to the Market directly opposite and is a popular place for a coffee or meal. The demand has led to an expansion into the adjoining structure.

Love of alternative construction

Michael explains his interest in alternative construction by noting that in his late teenage years he came into the company of Margot and Alistair Knox nearby in Eltham.

‘I haunted their property at weekends and as there was always a building project in progress I gained experience in a wide range of building skills. I learned to pave, lay and make from natural materials at the hands of lovely people’.

He says he also developed a great affection for Montsalvat, the building complex also in Eltham constructed from the 1930s onwards in local and recycled materials. So he thinks it was ordained that he follow a career as a builder and specialist in the local mud brick idiom.

Ten years ago Michael was one of the founders of the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association, which now has an Australia wide membership of some 300 and actively advances the cause of owner builders. ‘The Association was formed in response to the introduction of energy ratings using software that failed to appreciate that the solidity of mud brick construction was not being recognised in the calculation. Now we see mud brick homes that regularly achieve a six star rating for energy effi ciency and there is much wider appreciation of what the combination of mud and solar power can achieve’ he says.

Building Two

This building is a two level loadbearing mud brick building, with each fl oor being 36m2 in fl oor plan. Notwithstanding its relatively small area, it has a kitchen and living area on the ground level and one bedroom and bathroom facilities on the fi rst level. Its current use is to provide overfl ow space for the food business and is being developed to include a linking local kitchen garden in large planter boxes along the walk way between the two buildings.

Building Three

Michael built the next loadbearing mud brick construction with a view to it being used as a Bed & Breakfast. It also has two 36m2 levels with kitchen and bathroom services on the lower level with the living areas above. It is currently tenanted as a rental situation.

Building Four

The framing is already up after a cut was made into the falling land level (which slopes to the Hurstbridge to Kinglake Road) and is constructed along an east-west axis. It has two levels each designed to be of 100m2. The concept is to provide an apartment style upper level, with the

ground level as open space for possible use as a craft gallery, artist’s studio or workshop, or even as a cellar door to suit a number of wineries, of which there are several in the area.

Michael has obviously developed a liking for the structure as the construction has got underway as he is considering moving into the building when completed; living upstairs and continuing his own mud brick building and construction business from the warehouse space on the lower level.

The structure has a post and beam large sectioned timber frame with a second-hand fi red brick retaining wall up against the areas at the rear of the building for soil moisture control purposes where the cut has been needed into the slope.

The fi nal infi ll in the frame will be more puddled mud bricks and rendered in an appropriate earthy colour like the adjoining three structures. Michael is hoping to have the Colorbond roof fi tted soon.


The project site has limited services so the provision of a large rainwater harvesting and storage system has been needed along with an equally extensive water treatment and disposal system for the retail food business. In addition the tenants of Building One have constructed a large recycled brick wood fi red pizza oven at the rear.

Michael was also keen to encompass the best energy effi ciency for the projects so he installed a 5.2 kW solar panel assembly on the west facing roof of Building One.

Good investment

There are some important issues addressed here in creating a future investment income and capital investment from a complex of owner built structures.

At St Andrews, Michael has had the vision to take advantage of securing an excellent site located immediately opposite the vital and highly successful Community Market. He also recognised that the location is a central point in a local touring route that is increasingly popular with cyclists, motor bike riders and the tourists from the adjacent metropolitan area who travel to St Andrews ‘to see how the local hippies really live.’

He also had a local network of tradies that he could call upon when needed to help in the build. Sweat equity is not only an investment in creating effective and effi cient living accommodation. The process can also be employed to provide a long term investment.

Does your property, or does your local area have a demand for B&B or permanent rental accommodation? Perhaps you could be investing your personal resources and building skills in creating another structure additional to your home and capable of adding an income stream, or future capital value to your property.