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Case studies

The good house redefined
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A classic ranch style made light and airy


BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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The owners bought the property for the magnificent block of land and quickly realized that they would need to renovate the home, a classic ranch style only 8 years old, to make it brighter and more functional for their family of four.

KEY FACTS
point Service provided   Concept plans, permits, interior design,
contract administration
point Project type   renovation
point Home location   City of Nillumbik
point Original home built   1999
point Land size   10 acres
point Existing floor area   187sqm (21 squares)
point Proposed floor area (stage 1)   215sqm (24 squares)
point Proposed floor area (stage 1+2)   272sqm (30 squares)
point Budget   $150,000 (stage 1)

SITE NOTES
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Electric light is needed at all times in the dark dining and living rooms, mainly due to the low timber-lined ceiling and the deep verandah lining the whole length of the North façade.
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The verandah low roof also prevents getting a view of the superb block of land the home sits on.
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The lounge is too narrow to accommodate a lounge suite. The living areas together make a very long room in proportion to their width, creating a sense that one always walks in a wide corridor.
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The house has excessive amounts of thermal mass due to its concrete slab floor laid with stone and its double brick wall construction. As the sun does not penetrate the home, there are no solar gains. This combination results in a home that is cool in summer and icy the other 9 months of the year.
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Heating is a problem as the only form of heating is a wood heater which requires significant amounts of wood to keep the home somewhat comfortable.
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There is no insulation in the walls and a only a thin layer of rockwool in the ceiling.
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The entry to the home is either directly into the living areas or into the rumpus from the carport.

THE NEW DESIGN
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Master plan: it was decided to stage expenses by altering living areas first, as they had greater priority, while a second stage – also designed as part of the master plan – would address the bedroom areas.

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The first step: Pulling down the verandah in front of the North-facing living areas was an easy first step as it immediately brought more natural light to the rooms and allowed some sunshine to come in.

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Functionality and aesthetics: the next step was to enlarge the living room and create a new room for dining outside the existing home boundaries. This effectively creates a triangle which, combined with a couple of free-standing walls, brings more freedom of movement and different perspectives within the space. The existing stone floor, which appeared too rustic and cold in the dark rooms pre-renovation, was extended to the new areas and is now a beautiful natural feature of the space.

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Light and view: to bring light to the kitchen and brighten the living room, roof trusses above these rooms were cut, new higher roofs were installed with clerestory windows in between them to project light deeply into the rooms below. Higher ceiling heights were also able to accommodate taller windows, offering welcome views of the natural surroundings. The clerestory windows can be opened in summer to flush the hot air that accumulates near the ceiling, creating a cooling breeze in the home (Venturi effect).

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Insulation: a combination of fibre-free insulation and reflective sarking was installed in the ceiling and double-glazing units fitted to all new windows. New walls were insulated to R2.5.

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Heating: The home now works as a passive solar space, with the slab absorbing the warmth of the direct sunlight in winter and releasing it in the evening. As there is no natural gas in the home, energy-efficient electric heaters from Sweden offering the comfort of hydronic heating were installed in all rooms. The wood heater is now only used for ambiance.  The owners were surprised to find that with the right amount and ratio of solar gain, thermal mass and insulation, their home was comfortable in winter with additional heating only required for a few hours in the morning.

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Ventilation and shading: The clerestory windows – installed between roofs – can be opened in summer to flush the hot air that accumulates near the ceiling, creating a cooling breeze in the home (Venturi effect). The windows are protected by properly dimensioned eaves, effectively shading the slab in summer.

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Indoor air quality: the kitchen was built using particle board free of emissions, and solid recycled timber. Paints with no emissions (zero VOC) were chosen for the home interior, while natural paints were selected for the children’s bedrooms. Tiles are glued with non-toxic glue and plasterboard is fixed using screws rather than chemical glues. The stone floor was finished with a natural sealer.

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Conservation: bricks, doors and different timber sections from the demolition were reused in the new space.

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Water: the property operates only on tank water. Taps have been selected for efficient water use (WELS 5 star rating).

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