Elizabeth Beach House

By Bourne Blue Architecture

Palmtops Avenue Elizabeth Beach

By: Bourne Blue Architecture

Elizabeth Beach House, photograph by Bourne Blue Architecture

How does the project respond to its context, contribute to the public domain for example street or neighbourhood?

Elizabeth Beach, a secluded beach on the mid North coast of NSW, Australia, is a small village with a mix of approximately half holiday houses and half permanent residences. The climate is temperate and the surroundings largely unspoiled. The site is located opposite a remnant littoral rainforest, situated midway between the estuary of Wallis Lake and the Pacific Ocean.

The dominant opportunity that the site presents is a long boundary that abuts a nature reserve, immediately to the East. To the West is a steep hill with established existing houses. The client’s requirements were that the house would suit a young, growing family, with allowance to accommodate extended family from interstate and overseas. The house should take advantage of the site’s attributes, with strong connections between each internal space and the landscape, and should frame out the less desirable views.

What problems did you have to solve?

The site subdivision included a reasonably restrictive permissible building envelope, the site was overlooked by neighbouring uphill residential properties, and the site was classified as bushfire prone.

The concept behind the building is for a grounded, timber element extending along the Western side of the block, thereby creating a screen for the rest of the site.  More open spaces such as living areas and decks sit to the East of the timber element, with total privacy, direct outlook to the forest and good solar access. 

The living spaces open to a sunny grassed area, a roofed deck and an open deck, so that through the year, different areas can be used depending upon the weather. The children’s rooms open into a playroom, creating and defining their own private area of the house. The upper level is the parents' own zone, where considered openings frame views of the forest and garden.  The home is designed to be sheltered from the undesirable weather from West and South, yet open to the North and East. 

What was the contribution of others, including engineers, landscape architects, artists, builders and other specialists to the outcome?

Engineer – Brett Bargallie

Builder – Stuart and Jamie Rodger

The client owner-built the house with his brother, assisted by a dedicated group of local tradespeople and craftsmen.

How would you describe the value of design in relation to the cost of the project?

The value of the design is within the original concept (as described above) maximising the site's opportunities, and within the fine detailing (selection of materials and surfaces) creating a livable family home connected to its site.

What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?

The house has a large perimeter to floor area ratio, with most rooms capable of opening up in three directions.  This provides significant opportunities for cross ventilation, and for natural daylighting of all rooms.  A polished concrete slab to the main kitchen/ dining area acts as thermal mass, and eaves/ sunshades are designed to shade glazing throughout summer while allowing winter sun deep into the floorplan.   

There are also rainwater tanks for collection and reuse, a solar hot water system, a photovoltaic array that feeds back into the grid, and high levels of insulation to floor, walls and ceilings.