The Brick Courtyard House is built along a leafy suburban street, replacing a painted brick bungalow on the site whose significant structural issues prompted the decision to demolish and build anew. The primary design drivers developed with the client were twofold. The first was to create a home that allowed the family to continue living on the same site and reflected their upcoming retirement, but also satisfied their desires to keep actively engaging with work from home and to await the expansion of their family with grandchildren. The second driver was to work in close collaboration with the contractor to optimise passive design strategies, adopt appropriate sustainable technology solutions and consider embodied energy.
The resulting twin courtyard design achieves this dual brief. The two courtyards define a procession of spaces from public to private, with two home offices facing the street, the kitchen and living area occupying the middle of the site, and a private bedroom wing located to the rear of the site. All three areas are connected by a linear services and circulation spine, which orients the entire house to the north. Extensive glazing surrounding the courtyards provides visual connection between the different parts of the house, with family members being able to stay connected to each other while inhabiting separate parts of the house and landscape.
The house was designed with the Liveable Housing Design guidelines to best accommodate aging in place. Although requiring greater external wall area and hence risking heat loss, the twin courtyard design allows extensive opportunities for crossflow ventilation, with all habitable rooms oriented in two directions and further encouraged by operable clerestory windows, pitched ceilings and ceiling fans in the living areas. Pressed brickwork is used for in-built bench seating in the courtyards, framing a quiet space for contemplation in the first and forming a daybed in the second.
Internally, a 14m long thermal mass double brick wall runs along the east-west axis. Coupled with the polished concrete floors that conceal a heat pump operated hydronic heating system, the house takes advantage of extensive northern glazing around the courtyards to store solar heat energy in the cooler months and regulate internal temperatures during summer. Optimising passive heating and cooling, the house's solar heat gain is controlled by fixed timber shading screens of local hardwood, hung above north and west-facing windows. Brick has a particular sentimental importance to the clients, with the clients' family having run the Portarlington Widdicombe Brickworks; a feature brick, one of the last to come out of the Portarlington Brickworks kiln and stamped with the family name has been framed beside the front entrance, celebrating the brick's pride of place in this home.
Externally, recycled red-blue clinker bricks are laid with a subtle inset pattern to track the movement of the sun and to retain a memory of the original house. Thus, the new house is placed within the surrounding neighbourhood's material palette that is slowly being supplanted by rendered mansions. Furthermore, the use of recycled bricks is an expression of the need for architects to consider the embodied energy content of the construction materials that we specify. A native landscape of eucalypts, groundcovers and Castlemaine slate ties together the courtyards, front and rear yards.
The tones and textures of the landscaping bring together the warmth of the local hardwoods and brickwork that extend throughout the house. The Brick Courtyard House is a sustainable home for a changing family, that addresses the clients upcoming retirement and needs for aging in place, while optimising passive design principles and retaining a memory of the place that the family keep calling home.
- Minimising landfill at demolition by recycling/re-use of bricks and steel, and re-use of timber
- Converting the old pool to a 70,000L underground water tank
- Passive design (north orientation, thermal mass walls and floor, appropriately sized shading, cross flow ventilation and heat stack)
- Use of recycled materials (eg timber posts, clinker bricks, vanity benchtops), and sustainably sourced timber
- Thermally broken composite windows & 140mm stud walls to accommodate higher levels of wall insulation
- Natural pool and native landscaping.
- All electric house, with 10kW solar system and battery. Electric heat pump hot water & hydronic heating