Thursday, 13 February 2014

out and up

And so to our renovation.  There will be few people who undertake to renovate their home who haven't felt completely overwhelmed by the number of decisions which need to be made, the things they wish they'd thought of, or the things that changed during the process that they felt powerless to control.  I have been an architect for 30 years, this is my second renovation, - and I am still overwhelmed.

Back to the beginning.  We started with the idea of providing a room for every child, plus a study, and a more liveable living space.  The original house Californian Bungalow, built just after the Second World War.  Mostly is was still in one piece, other than the inevitable miserable, shoddy rear lean-to.

While up to 40% of the embodied energy costs associate with the life-cycle energy consumption of a building are contained within the design and construction phase of it's life, I didn't feel too bad ripping this down and starting again. Joists lying on the sub-floor dirt, gaping holes in the external cladding, and cracks in the existing internal plaster you could pout your finger through.  It leaked, the electrical wiring was faulty, and the sewer blocked up.

We ended up with the following design.  Two boxes, one light and stretching upwards, the other solid and lateral.  The main living spaces of Kitchen and Dining housed in the permanence of contoured brick, and the sleeping areas lightly clad in ply.

This naturally, was version 12.  Two architects rarely agree on a theme or a concept or a stylistic gesture, and even when we do agree we kept coming up with new approaches.  This usually involved wine, debate, beer and some surly silence.  Eventually we formed something that resonated.  Then there was council insistence on both a physical and thematic design difference between the original house (in a Heritage Overlay) and the new work.  (none of which we theoretically had a problem with, but we always had a sense that the planners wanted to design our home for us.)  Sometimes a frustrating process.

Environmental efficiency was the key thing here, both from an ongoing and embodied perspective.  Recycled floorboards, windows, bricks, joinery, doors, skirtings and screens.  A concrete slab on the ground floor for thermal mass, R6.0 insulation in the roof and ceilings, no airconditioning, rainwater tanks for toilet flushing, window positions to encourage fresh air ventilation, and every window shaded by either the house or the local trees.

After a long tender process we settled on 90,000 Hz to build our house.  Jess, Dean were really interested in the challenge of our house, and we bonded over the chickens and the dog.  We started the build in November 2013.

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