The house is basically rectangular in shape with kitchen, lounge and master bedroom to the north with large windows giving a view over our front yard, dam and down the drive. On the southern side are 2 other bedrooms, family room, laundry, bathroom and toilet. There are cathedral ceilings throughout, except for the utility areas which have a lower ceiling to allow for an attic space above. The kitchen, lounge and family room are open plan, which has proved very useful when we are hosting large groups (we’ve had up to 80 people inside).
Thermal mass provided by mudbrick walls, concrete slab and earth sheltered eastern wall heats and cools slowly, acting to moderate the internal temperature and making the home comfortable to live in all year round. The wood heater is only necessary on the coldest of days, but is used to create a ‘cosy’ atmosphere on other days.
Cross ventilation is obtained via windows to south and north in our open plan design. Vertical ventilation is created by low air intake from vents and windows and high air exit points in the clerestorey and high vents.
A Stanley Wood Stove is our main cooking appliance, heats all our water and provides some heating to the house. The flue passes through the wall into our HWS cupboard. This reduces the amount of heat coming from the stove in summer and makes the HWS area ideal for use as a drying cupboard. The hot water supply is gravity fed to taps using a 5m head from the header tank located within the ceiling space.
We’ve endeavoured to use natural materials to minimise chemical release from glues, plastics etc. Radial sawn timber is used extensively internally and externally as a wall cladding above windows and doors. The curves of the boards are perfect match for the flowing lines of the mudbrick. Radial sawn timber is a renewable resource, aesthetic and the milling process uses the whole log with little waste (unlike square cut boards).
Cypress macrocarpa is used for the frame. This is a plantation grown timber which is easy to work with, comparatively light, and contains oils that give it some resistance to insect attack.
These have been constructed to exclude summer sun but allow deep penetration into the house by the lower winter sun. They also protect the mudbrick walls from excessive rain.
Large built-in-robes provide storage space in each bedroom, a walk in pantry will have extensive specialised shelving and storage areas (for storing produce, home-made products etc.) and the roof space above wet areas has been built into an attic. We plan to build a cool cupboard in the pantry to negate the need for larger refrigerator.
The “A&A Wormfarm Waste System" processes our “grey and black” water. The water and solids flow into a below ground tank by gravity. A filter in the base holds back the solids which are broken down by aerobic microbes and worm activity. Liquids containing worm castings and minute particles of solids are pumped to absorption trenches. In the future, the liquids will be filtered through reed beds. The captured nutrients will be used to grow biomass as an additional source of composting material and the filtered water will irrigate fruit and nut trees.
IS THE DESIGN EFFECTIVE?
After chatting to a qualified energy rater, we believe that our design would not reach the 5 star energy rating that has been in use for the past couple of years. If this is the case, it is proof that the current computer program used to rate houses is unsatisfactory as its calculations rely too much on insulation qualities and do not consider the full benefits of thermal mass.
In summer, the temperature rarely gets above 30⁰C, and this should be improved once we install a vine covered pergola along the northern wall. Most of the time house temperatures hover around 20º. In terms of function and pleasant living environment the house performs extremely well. Every room is well lit and “airy” and the aesthetic qualities of the building materials are pleasant to the eye. All living areas have good outlook over surrounding gardens and bush allowing us to enjoy the natural attributes of our environment.