Situated in the coastal town of Balnarring, this family home embodies the environment and lifestyle of the Mornington Peninsula. Blending in with its bushy site, the structure’s corrugated iron and timber cladding reference the Australian coastal vernacular. Environmental sustainability is addressed through large north-facing openings and reverse brick veneer construction. Generous front and rear gardens provide room for diverse activities. A central courtyard completes a hierarchy of outdoor spaces, connecting interior functions with the external environment.
What was the brief?
The clients first approached our office looking to build a small sustainable home on a vacant property in Balnarring. Their initial idea was to build a one-bedroom courtyard home, which could be extended under stage two works to include two additional bedrooms. As concept design commenced the clients decided to carry out all building works under one contact.
They were after a home that was environmentally and socially sustainable. The building needed to be energy efficient and have excellent passive solar qualities and natural ventilation. The social aspect and the relationship to the landscape and outdoor space were important elements to consider in spatial planning.
The house would predominantly be used by the couple, however needed to be flexible when their adult children came to stay.
Who are the clients and what's interesting about them?
During the eighties and nineties, our clients lived in the small seaside town of Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula. They purchase two vacant neighbouring properties, each for $9600, and built a home on one of these lots. The other lot remained vacant with only a shipping container used for storage.
Due to work and school commitments the clients moved back to the city. However, their love for Balnarring never faded and they would spend every school holiday camped along the foreshore caravan park.
Once their children moved out of home the clients turned their attention to building a new home on the vacant property. They had now owned this property for 45 years and possessed an excellent knowledge of the site’s conditions and constraints.
The clients were very involved in the design process and the construction of the project. Every internal finish, fixture and fitting was hand-picked by the clients. While a registered builder was employed for the construction of the dwelling, a number of tasks were undertaken by the client themselves, such as the construction of retaining walls, landscaping and site drainage. This collaboration between clients and builder resulted in a home that achieved all the clients’ specific needs. It minimised material waste on site as the clients were mindful of what could be recycled and repurposed on site. The outcome is a cherished home with a strong sense of place and an emotional connection to the owners.
How would you describe the look of the home?
The house references the Australian coastal vernacular and the courtyard house typology, both in its form and materiality. Corrugated iron and timber cladding are both found in typical coastal houses and convey a sense of familiarity with the Mornington Peninsula. Whilst the courtyard is the centre of the house, it separates the volume into different wings to make heating and cooling more efficient and connect all parts of the house to nature.
Tell us about the site conditions and how they informed the design?
When analysing the site, it was apparent the front of the property had wonderful opportunities in its wide 29m frontage, northern aspect, gentle topography and existing vegetation. The layout of the building separates the outdoor space into three zones:
• Front courtyard: Semi-public - a sunken northern front yard where it is shielded from the street by the shrubs and trees, the generous setback from the street and the landscape provides breathing space and outlook for the living and dining area. The master bedroom sets further back from the main façade. It allows for a private garden for the master bedroom to look out to.
• Central courtyard: Private – This is the family’s social courtyard where social events would happen. It has direct access to the living, dining, kitchen, workshop and entry from the driveway.
• Rear courtyard: Private – This acts as a functional outdoor space with firewood, garden storage, services, fire pit and veggie gardens. With the tall trees retained and new medium-size trees planted, the rear courtyard has a campground vibe, referencing the couple’s love for the outdoors.
What were the key considerations before undertaking the project? How did you address these considerations/solutions?
A major consideration for this project was achieving privacy whilst also keeping the home open to its leafy surroundings and northerly sunlight. A response was to utilise native vegetation and raised garden areas to shelter the building. The building sits 800mm below the natural ground level at the front of the property. The raised garden prevents passers-by from looking into the living and dining rooms. The retaining walls within the front yard create a sense of enclosure while maintaining views to tree canopies and surrounding gardens.
The central courtyard creates an additional sheltered outdoor area, protected from cold southwesterly winds. As there are two double storey dwellings on either side of the property, the roof form of the dwelling and workshop create a visual barrier to prevent overlooking into the central courtyard.
At a smaller scale, the placement of windows throughout the dwelling maximises outlook while maintaining privacy. The master bedroom window looks out to aspects of the northern yard, yet it is recessed from the front and screened by the landscape. The ensuite shower has a full height window facing the rear garden with an adjacent external wing wall obstructing sightlines from neighbouring properties.
What are the sustainability features?
The owners were passionate about creating an environmentally sustainable home, not only to achieve long-term savings on energy and water bills but also to reduce their carbon footprint.
For the house to be energy efficient, the following strategies were employed:
• Solar control: North facing eaves were designed to prevent the summer sun from entering the building while allowing the winter sun to penetrate the interior.
• Optimising thermal mass: reverse brick veneer construction was used for a majority of the external walls. The brickwork is on the inside face of the wall and stud frame with lightweight cladding on the outside. The internal brickwork together with the insulated concrete floor absorb solar heat during the day in winter and slowly release the heat in the evening. In summer, as the sun is kept out, the masonry walls and concrete floor keep the internal temperature cool. With reflective foil and insulation on the outside face of the brickwork, heat and cold transmission from the outside environment into the internal spaces is significantly decreased.
• The southern wing is separated from the northern wing by a sliding door. This enables a four zoned heating and cooling system, ensuring only the rooms being used are airconditioned.
• Natural ventilation: windows and doors were carefully placed to maximise cross ventilation. With the high angled ceiling and motorised clerestory windows, hot air can be easily purged.
• Solar power: Solar panels were integrated in the north-facing roof, generating power for the hot water heat pump and split system air conditioning.
• Rainwater tanks: A 2000lt rainwater tank provides gravity water supply to the toilet and laundry. A 5000lt overflow tank provides a pumped water supply for garden irrigation.
• Recycled materials: Recycled clinker bricks were used for all internal brickwork and courtyard paving. The builder recycled the timber cladding and corrugated iron cladding offcuts to create a built-in bookshelf, fences, gates, and wood storage.
Tell us about the home’s functional layout?
The layout of the house is based on the site’s northern aspect and the private courtyard. The courtyard is intended for social purposes, acting as both a point of arrival and the heart of the home. The home’s key living spaces: the living, dining, kitchen and master bedroom suite, open directly to the northern front yard. The living space and kitchen also open to the courtyard. The southern wing consists of 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry. This wing still has a northerly aspect and views of the leafy rear yard. The workshop and garage are on the east side of the property with direct access to the courtyard.
What are the key materials used?
A simple palette of corrugated steel and timber cladding responds to the surrounding coastal township context. Corrugated steel was applied to external walls that face harsher weather conditions, predominately from the south and west. The Colorbond finish of the steel cladding requires no maintenance. Spotted gum timber cladding was selected to soften the facade and provide a warmth that contrasts the tough corrugated steel. The timber cladding is applied to external walls that are weather-protected by deep eaves above.
What other key details bring the building to life?
The cantilevered steel PFC verandah awning brings the dwelling closer to the street, while not impacting setback regulations. The expression of the steel structure exposes the functionalist aesthetic, consistent with the overall design approach.
The workshop is our client’s retreat. With a background in civil engineering our client regularly undertakes home construction projects to further improve the property. This simple workshop relates in form and materiality to the dwelling yet provides much needs separation for sound and privacy.
Material Used :
1. Wall Cladding: Lysaght Custom Orb, Spotted Gum Shiplap
2. Roofing: Lysaght Klip-Lok 700 Hi-strength
3. Lining Board: James Hardie Hardie-Flex
4. Insulation: Bradford Gold Hi-Performance, Kingspan Kool-therm K3
5. Other Materials: Recycled Clinker Brick