Sustainable Rural Hut With A Galvanized Steel And Timber Structure

Where once stood an old brick cottage in a small rural area near Mudgee, Australia there is now a new structure called Gawthorne’s Hut designed by Cameron Anderson Architects. The name pays homage to the original owner of the property. Parts of the old cottage were salvaged and used in the new building’s design as a sign of respect to the history of this place.

The hut features an angled roof frame which facilitates an optimal orientation of the solar panelsView in gallery
The hut features an angled roof frame which facilitates an optimal orientation of the solar panels

Apart from that though, the new structure is vastly different from the original cottage, featuring a galvanized steel frame and a much more sustainable design.

How long does galvanized steel last outside?

Galvanized steel is known for its ability to resist rust but what actually gives it this power and is it actually reliable? This resistance to corrosion depends mostly on the type and the thickness of the protective zinc coating which is applied to galvanized steel but also on the environment to which the steel is exposed.

The building has a small footprint and minimal impact on the the site and the surrounding landscapeView in gallery
The building has a small footprint and minimal impact on the site and the surrounding landscape

That being said, galvanized steel can rust in certain situations and it’s important to be aware of this when using it in any structure’s design. Here’s a few of the factors that can cause galvanized steel to rust:

  • a humidity level above 60%
  • the presence of salt in water or air
  • certain acids and natural gases
  • acid rainwater from wood shingle roofs
  • moss and lichen
  • contact with copper, iron or steel
  • acidic foods and drinks

It turns out galvanized steel has quite a few weaknesses but even so it remains the most corrosion-resistant metal out there. Also, all of these elements can be combatted by applying a protective coating such as paint on top of the protective zinc coating. So how long does galvanized steel last outside? The short and simple answer to this question is a long time.

The simple design and strategic orientation maximize the impact the views have on the experienceView in gallery
The simple design and strategic orientation maximize the impact the views have on the experience

Is Galvanized Steel Safe?

You may notice that one of the elements on the list of damaging factors for galvanized steel mentioned earlier was acidic foods and drinks. Let’s take a closer look at that. Most foods and drinks are safe to come in contact with galvanized steel because they produce no reactions. Only the ones containing acid are different and that’s because the acid reacts with the zinc coating on the galvanized steel.

The result of this reaction is the formation of salts which when ingested are absorbed by the body and can cause a mild sickness. At the same time, the acid damages the galvanized steel and reduces its resistance to rust and corrosion.

This is important because galvanized steel can be used for the structural supports, framing and cladding of buildings where food is being made and in some cases it can also be found on countertops and certain appliances. 

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Gawthorne’s Hut

The name is a reference to the history of the property but also to this house’s size. Gawthorne’s Hut has a small footprint of only 40 square meters and 62 square meters of living space inside. It was designed to fit naturally in this modest rural area and within the historic and social context of the region. The array of materials used in its design aside from the galvanized steel create a warm and inviting environment.

The timber-paneled walls and ceiling make the interior of the hut feel very warm and invitingView in gallery
The timber-paneled walls and ceiling make the interior of the hut feel very warm and inviting

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Natural timber was predominantly used for the exterior and interior of the hut. The architects also used whatever bricks they could salvage from what remained of the original cottage to build a fireplace and a brick accent wall reminiscent of the old cottage’s chimney. 

The double-glazed windows and glass doors maximize the views over Mudgee ValleyView in gallery
The double-glazed windows and glass doors maximize the views over Mudgee Valley

The hut is unique both through the way it looks and the way in which it was constructed. Sustainability played a very important role throughout the entire project. This materialized into a series of featured such as a solar panel system for off-grid living, a battery storage system for energy, and a 40,000-liter rainwater storage system. 

The materials used for the interior design reference the simplicity of the rural surroundingsView in gallery
The materials used for the interior design reference the simplicity of the rural surroundings
The interior design also prioritizes open and airy spaces and an eclectic aestheticView in gallery
The interior design also prioritizes open and airy spaces and an eclectic aesthetic
The bathroom has water-efficient fixtures for increased sustainabilityView in gallery
The bathroom has water-efficient fixtures for increased sustainability

Additionally, the hut featured double-glazed windows and doors throughout which reduce the heating and cooling requirements and help with insulation in general. It also makes use of efficient fixtures in the bathroom and there are plans to turn this into an even more sustainable and attractive tourism experience in the future.

Gawthorne's Hut offers a unique and sustainable off-the-grid tourism experienceView in gallery
Gawthorne’s Hut offers a unique and sustainable off-the-grid tourism experience

The Advantages Of Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel is highly praised for its resistance to rust and corrosion but that’s not the only advantage it offers. Here’s what you can look forward to if you’re using galvanized steel in construction or anything else:

Unmatched durability

The galvanization process consists of immersing clean steel into molten zinc to create a coating that’s metallurgically bonded to it.

This creates one of the most durable forms of corrosion protection on the market. A coating layer just 85 microns thick (the same as a sheet of paper) protects a galvanized steel structure for up to 100 years.

Sustainability

This is not something we usually think about when talking about galvanized steel. If we’re to compare the galvanizing process which offers long-term and proven durability to the repeated maintenance required by regular steel structures, it turns out that galvanizing is more sustainable.

Cost

There’s often a misconception that is commonly brought up in relation to the cost of galvanizing steel.

Galvanizing is often thought to be more expensive than it actually is because we tend to scale up the cost proportionally to the quality. Although the galvanized coating is so durable and qualitative, it’s not actually that expensive, especially if we take into account that the galvanizing costs have remained stable over the years while the painting costs have increased.

Reliability

The galvanization process is proven and is something that you can count on to offer the corrosion and rust resistance it promises.

The process is closely controlled and the coating it creates is consistent and predictable which makes galvanized steel very reliable in terms of performance and accuracy based on specifications.

Coverage

Unlike a paint coating, the galvanizing process creates a metallurgical bond and the zinc coating becomes part of the steel itself. Galvanizing offers complete coverage even for the most vulnerable areas and that means increased performance, reduced maintenance costs, predictability and reliability.