Home Improvements

by Jenny Mcfarlane

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Mark and Karen Bartkevicius couldn’t resist the opportunity to convert this Twenties electricity substation in Tasmania into a family home.

australian tv series tasmanian conversion

Names Mark and Karen Bartkevicius
Location Launceston, Tasmania
Property Restored electricity substation
Bedrooms 2 Bathrooms 2
Project started May 2014
Project finished August 2015
Build cost AU$600,000 (approx £356,000)

Self-confessed ‘old building people’ Mark and Karen Bartkevicius have spent more than 20 years restoring period properties, using traditional methods to return ruins to their former glory. The pair undertook a two-year campaign to secure an iconic hydroelectric substation in the riverside city of Launceston, northern Tasmania, and although the derelict building wasn’t a place most would like to call home, Mark and Karen aren’t most people.

Erected in 1922, the substation was something of a local landmark, in a commanding position high on a hill, with a bird’s-eye view of the city below. Mark and Karen’s goal was to turn the hollow shell into a home in an ambitious timescale of just eight months. Opting to restore rather than rebuild meant that they had to undertake a series of painstaking works to make the structure safe after decades of decay before the build could commence.

australian tv series tasmanian conversion2

The pair were optimistic about their Tasmanian conversion challenge, however, choosing to focus on the positives, such as the fact that they could refurbish the substation just picks up more character,’ says Mark. However, restoring the historic brickwork took longer than anticipated, which pushed the original schedule off course.

By May 2014, work had begun on the new roof, but trouble hit in August, when costs rose above Karen and Mark’s initial estimated budget, threatening to pull the plug on the build. The couple compromised by ditching their plans for a swimming pool in order to leave enough money to push ahead with the restoration; a substantial sacrifice that marked their commitment to the project.

australian tv series tasmanian conversion2

Their tenacity was rewarded shortly after when the second floor was laid using a high-end dark concrete that’s both moody and practical, since it will act as a heat store absorbing warmth from the sun. In October, the bulk of the structural repairs were complete and steel lintels for reinforcement installed.

Once the panoramic windows were fitted came the realisation that the structure was no longer a ruin, but a house, ‘signalling its transformation from industrial ugly duckling to retro-modern swan,’ said TV show presenter Peter Maddison. Mark and Karen completed their all-consuming project in August 2015.

The pair have expertly preserved this imposing building, immaculately conserving the original brickwork, while introducing modern essentials, such as insulation and solar panels. In doing so they have created something of lasting value; the substation is ‘imposing, loved by generations and no longer derelict,’ said Maddison. ‘In short, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime restoration.’

To read the full article and to see more images, pick up the December issue, out November 7th 2016

All information correct at time of print: Decembr 2016.

Photography: Rhiannon Slatter

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