Passion turned into action

A recent News post by Sven Maxa outlined his views on sustainable design.  Readers of that post won’t be surprised to learn that he practices what he preaches.

Maxa Design’s offices are located in the Melbourne suburb of Blackburn. They feature a low energy, water saving, non-toxic fit out, are powered by 100% green power and the firm purchases carbon offsets to cover any remaining emissions. A climate-appropriate dress code is encouraged, passive cooling and natural ventilation are used as much as possible and heating or air conditioning is only turned on when internal temperatures move outside a pre-determined range.

Organic growth

Maxa Design is owned by Sven and his wife and co-director Dawn Maxa. Driven by a shared passion for energy-efficient and sustainable building design they started the business from their spare bedroom in 2004. A converted granny flat in their next house provided enough space to allow them to engage their first employee, and about four years ago the business migrated to its current office.

The team now totals six people – five in Melbourne and one in the recently-opened Brisbane office. The last 18 months has seen very strong growth for the firm in both Brisbane and Melbourne.

Education pays off

When the firm commenced business client knowledge of sustainability and energy efficiency was low. Sven and Dawn spent a lot of time educating clients on what could be achieved by paying attention to these areas. “It’s a different story today” says Dawn. “Some education is still required, but we are finding that people are more concerned about conserving the environment, and have a higher awareness of sustainability.”

Sven is far from inflexible when it comes to sustainability. “Ultimately we design what the client wants, not what we want,” he says. “We can help clients decide just how far they want to go, and although that may lead to a more sustainable result than would otherwise have been the case the final decision is up to them.”

That said, with the firm proudly displaying its affinity for and expertise in sustainable design, it’s hardly a surprise that it attracts clients who are seeking sustainable outcomes.

Anything with walls

Maxa Design doesn’t limit itself to new homes. “We design houses, apartments, town houses, offices, factories, schools and recreational facilities – pretty much anything with walls and a roof,” says Sven. “We handle renovations as well as new buildings and we work with individuals, businesses and government departments”.

This provides plenty of variety for a team that is, to varying degrees, motivated by the firms focus on sustainability. This motivation helped the firm pick up two awards from the Building Design Association of Victoria and to be selected as a finalist in the 10-Star Challenge.

Even more sustainable

Sven and Dawn are far from finished in their quest to make their own operations even more sustainable. “We are continually challenging ourselves to see what else we can do to improve our carbon footprint,” says Dawn.  “We have set several goals for our future, one of which is to design and occupy a self-sufficient office that will be carbon negative. And we’ll continue to encourage our staff to contribute, whether it’s cycling to work more often or taking action at home.”

With Sven and Dawn setting such an impressive example, how could their team resist?

All images: Chris Neylon

Photo Gallery

Select the thumbnails to view fullsize image