DesignInc’s recent clients are passionate about the environment and wanted their new home to reflect this commitment to sustainability. After seeing the high quality sustainable outcomes achieved by the practice on large scale public buildings, they contacted DesignInc’s Melbourne studio. In response, Director Stephen Webb and the project team conceived a new residence that seamlessly incorporates biophilic design, emphasising a strong connection with nature.
The house occupies a corner site in a heritage conservation area four kilometres south of Melbourne’s CBD. So, while a strict heritage overlay required the architects to respond directly to the streetscape and its built environment, the design’s driving concept was very much informed by the beachside location. As Stephen explains, ‘The home’s setting was of utmost importance because we wanted to provide a responsive arrangement that embraces innovative ideas and technologies through integrating solar passive design strategies.’
A rigorous plan takes advantage of the site’s northern aspect by orienting the scheme around a double-height protected bio-courtyard. This key feature is the living and breathing cavity of the house. Not only does it maximise CBD views, but the courtyard functions as an ecosystem or ‘bio-mechanical core’, acting as a life-sustaining force that environmentally supports the entire site and nurtures occupants with a high quality biophilic indoor/outdoor experience.
‘The courtyard provides an ever-present connection to nature by filtering air and capturing and recycling water,’ says Stephen. Indeed, the home’s ‘mechanics’ begin in the basement which includes an EV charging station, solar energy battery and rainwater storage. More significantly, the basement’s thermal mass is used to provide natural ventilation by drawing air upward into the floors above through natural buoyancy. For the clients, this biophilic experience is what maximises wellbeing and happiness across every level of the home. The courtyard’s abundant soft landscape is visible and accessible from every part of the house.
A palette of blonde timbers and concrete characterises the interiors, while brick dominates the courtyard and exterior. From the outside, the building’s form responds to the dominant streetscape context, with the singular masonry expression punctuated by a series of apertures. This recycled brick cladding appears as a robust yet highly textured ‘protective plate’, which, like a mollusc’s shell, protects from exposure to the seaside environment. The material hardiness is further reinforced by the courtyard’s strong angularity, from the steps and planter boxes to the blackened steel window and door frames.
Three levels of accommodation are organised into horizontally distinct functions. The basement’s thermal mass supports a naturally filtered ventilation plenum to create year-round indoor thermal comfort throughout the home. The ground floor is a flexible family zone allowing for future adaptability with bedrooms and secondary adaptable living areas. The first floor, elevated above street level, has panoramic water views which are framed by dramatic windows with generous banquette seating. The expansive living spaces embrace a sun-filled balcony garden, celebrating the northern aspect and views of Melbourne’s skyline.