North Balgowlah House

By Bawtree Design

North Balgowlah

By: Bawtree Design

North Balgowlah House, photograph by Simon Whitbread

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

This new house is located in a suburban setting in North Balgowlah amongst neighbouring houses built in the 60's and 80's project homes to the rear. The site is characterised by a large drop to the road on the south side, permitting a lovely outlook towards the eastern suburbs.

Our design response was to address the view to the south and capture the northern sun for the backyard in a contemporary way. As the house is raised from the street, it did not impact on the streetscape; however, it did need to respond to the neighbouring houses in a sensitive way and not impact on their light or privacy.

Access via the rear lane was carefully considered so as to not impact on the nighbours with the cars coming to and from the site.

What problems did you have to solve?

Parking via the rear lane with restrictive covenants was definitely one of the biggest restraints of this site. It was also a challenge to direct the views from each room to something uplifting such as the beautiful trees and sky rather than the surrounding built form. Capturing the view to the south, while responding to solar design principals was also a challenge. In addition, the budget was very tight, so there was continuous research into how to procure the house in an economical way without compromising the design.

Some of the sustainable features of the house became design issues, such as where to locate the reverse brick veneer walls and thermal mass to the floors so they would work most effectively, and were solved with thermal modeling and expert help. In addition various glass types above the requirements of Basix were also modeled to ensure maximum comfort for the occupants.

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

We had valuable input from Graham Hunt, the sustainability consultant. The structural and hydraulic engineers all came up with simple ways to design the structure and stormwater system so that budgets were maintained.

The hydronic floor heating system was new to all consutlants on the site so this had to be carefully integrated and understood before installation. The landscaping was designed to ensure greater privacy for the home and be sensitive to the native bush surrounds.

The builder was open to trying new products and ways of building such as the reverse brick veneer wall and decking without visible fixings which allowed the job to run smoothly. The clients were very much involved on every level and meant desicions were made quickly and thoughtfully.

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

The budget was tightly controlled on this project, with a QS advising up until DA stage. The design was guided by a philosophy of simplicity and authenticity to contain costs. All materials and ways of constructing were thoroughly researched to make sure the best value for money was gained. The client continuously challenged all consultants to make sure there was no part of the budget wasted and the result was that variations came to under 5%.

What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?

All design decisions and material choices were guided by passive design principles and a mindfulness of our environmental responsibility. The floor of the north facing family room was finished with polished concrete in order to retain heat and allow the hydronic heating to warm it. Reverse brick veneer walls used recycled bricks and retain the inside temperature very effectively. Recycled timber was used within the house and high level louvres facing east capture the sea breeze from Manly. Two large rainwater tanks and a bladder service the pool, garden, the WC's and the laundry.


What do you consider to be the benefits of the project for the client, users and the community?

The clients appreciate the house as a durable and comfortable home for their young children and also as a showcase for the skills of the client who is a stylist. The house sits comfortably within the neighbouring houses and injects some considered design into the built environment.