Design Ideas: Northcote House

In the first of a series of blog posts we will look at some key aspects of the Northcote Passive House Project that is currently being built.

Design Approach
From the outset we wanted the Northcote Passive House Project to belong to All Nations Park, where it is situated. The house had to be in tune with its surroundings. The orientation of the site was used to maximise light and views to the interior spaces. The house is compact and there will be plenty of opportunities for cross ventilation. Our aim is to create a comfortable home for the client to enjoy. In addition, we wanted to design a dwelling that required fewer non-renewable resources to maintain internal comfort and wellbeing.

Above all we wanted to use architectural design thinking and a sustainable approach to deliver a low-energy house that suits its park location.

Site Response
So where to start? Nature and setting provide the inspiration for our architectural design thinking. Materials were chosen for their earthiness, resilience and durability. Our response to the project was to create a form that is clear, simple and legible.
The scale of the house is just right – the roof slopes away from the park and large windows allow views into and from the house. The project does not demand attention and we were mindful of the shared experience of the park that belongs to the community.

The indigenous landscape design for the garden is similar to the landscape of the park and so there is no clear boundary between private and public space.

Energy Efficiency
Taking our ideas further – by collaborating with Alex Slater from Shared Space – we introduced energy-efficient design using Passivhaus principles.

Passivhaus is a technical and rigorous approach to sustainability. It requires an analytical mindset and training to understand the impact of building elements and context on thermal performance of buildings. Thermal bridging, U-values and the impact of adjacent obstructions – like trees – have to be considered in the evaluation of performance. As a consequence, this home will need fewer non-renewable resources to maintain an internal temperature of between 22 and 27 degrees – without over-relying on heating and cooling systems.

The Northcote Passive House Project will deliver sustainable design based on two important principles – an appropriate site response and thermal performance. The completed project will make a tangible contribution to people and place – exactly as we set out to do.