An environmentally responsive home is one which many of us aim to achieve when we are building a house. Sustainable finishes and inclusions together with buildings that can withstand our tough climate conditions are often front of mind, but then budget constraints get in the way, builders don't always want to use new or different products and the whole process can feel like it belongs in the ‘too hard' basket. I often see clients start with the best of intentions when it comes to building an environmentally responsive home but it can be difficult to stay on track.
One of the major errors in design that I see is that homes are built with such a large footprint that the cost of quality building materials can really add up. My advice is always to keep the house at a more manageable size and really concentrate on the finishes and inclusions.
Employing an architect is also money well spent. What can seem like an initial large outlay, can in fact save you money in your build. Just by placing the house intelligently on the land and considering the climate conditions through the year, will provide you with a more comfortable home and save on precious energy bills.
I was really interested therefore when the house below came across my desk. East Street in Albury, New South Wales is an award winning environmentally responsive home. Making the best use of the landscape with materials and finishes that mimic its bush setting, it is an innovative home which I thought you should see more of.
An award winning environmentally responsive home
Modest in size and rural in sensibility were the overarching briefs for East Street, a private residence located in Albury, New South Wales. Architects, Kerstin Thompson Architects, took inspiration from the surroundings and all that nature has to offer when designing this single-storey evocative and finely crafted, climate considered home.
In a desire to capture its rural setting, the material palette is robust and direct, with concrete slab, bricks, cement sheet and ply for interior linings and joinery. An environmentally responsive building envelope, it incorporates flyscreens that can open up or shut down via sliding perforated cement sheet screens, louvres and windows to adapt to the extremes of Albury’s climatic variation.
“The client had chosen the site many years earlier because of its sweeping views to Mt Huon, the design of the house frames and captures these stunning views,” said Lynn Chew, Kerstin Thompson Architects. “Adjusted to the slope of the land, the house is arranged along two terraces, an upper and lower one, which organise functions and differentiates between a warmer north side and a cooler south side. The stepped floor in combination with the roof angle create living spaces that are shady in summer, sun-filled in winter and completed by magnificent views south towards Mt Huon.”
Keeping in mind the material palette, Kerstin Thompson Architects, having worked with leading timber supplier Big River Group previously, knew that timber would complement the aesthetic of the home perfectly. Using Armourpanel Blackbutt hardwood sheet lining on doors, walls and for joinery timber, injected warmth into the home and further enhanced spaces with the combination of a restrained palette of darkly stained plywood, raked cement-sheet ceilings and matt sheened concrete floors.
“The timber walls and joinery are a feature of the residence, not only do they complement the concrete and cement sheet interior and the grey brickwork on the exterior, they also visually connect with the colours of surrounding bush environment,” says Lynn Chew. “The natural colorations and depth of colour of the timber, chosen in a large format 3mm thick face veneer panels, along with the unique timber characteristics, accompany the views and changing landscape. As the dwelling is located within a bushfire prone area the choice of Armourpanel in Blackbutt is a natural fit being a bushfire resistant timber.”
“Big River’s veneers are available in various thicknesses for use in floors, walls, furniture and cabinetry enabling a well curated and crafted palette of natural materials to be employed. We have specified Big River’s timbers on many projects and are really satisfied with their services and timber products, and quality and care of customer support in their sales and technical teams. We have used a range of products for education, civic, commercial and residential projects,” adds Lynn Chew.
“Kerstin Thompson Architects are a valued customer who really believe in supporting local industries and suppliers, and we were thrilled to be involved in this project,” says Stuart McGonagle, National Plywood and Specialty Manager, Big River Group.
The natural masterpiece has already won awards with East Street taking home 2020 AIA National Awards, Residential Architecture – Houses (New) Named Award The Robin Boyd Award and 2020 AIA New South Wales Chapter Awards, Residential Architecture – Houses (New).
You can find out more information here about The Big River Group.
You may also be interested in My Guide to Contemporary Timber Kitchens
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