Architects: McAllister Alcock Architects
Location: Elwood, Victoria, Australia
Design Team: Karen Alcock, Clare McAllister, Maria Danos, Ariel Lopez
Photographs: Trevor Mein
From the architect. The brief was to develop 2 existing house sites with 4 townhouses while minimising the impact on the environment. Our client Mick is a local who had lived in one of the existing houses, and wanted to make a contribution to the suburb he loves. Rather than use complex ‘active systems’ to meet the ESD brief, we took the approach that the DNA of the building needed to be based on a sustainable ideology. This was a two prong approach: the first was to engage a design and construction team who were based locally, cared about the area (a ‘think global, act local’ approach), and the second was to ensure that the building itself worked well ‘passively’ to minimise the need for air conditioning and artificial lighting - all without compromising the architecture. The outer residences have ‘traditional’ townhouse plans with living at the lower level and bedrooms upstairs.
The middle townhouses have been designed around central internal courtyards that are open to ventilated garages. The courtyards provide all of the internal rooms with access natural daylight and ventilation, and contain brightly coloured spiral staircases that penetrate the centre of the buildings. The stairs provide access to roof decks and an orientation point from all levels within the building. On the lower level the polished concrete floors provide good thermal mass to the living areas, and openings in all facades maximise cross ventilation. The front elevation has been designed to capture the seaside spirit of Elwood and reflect the marine inspired apartments that dot the nearby beachfront. The black framed windows cut into the white ‘ribbon’ of rendered brick and frame views of the street trees. In summer these trees will almost completely conceal the building from the street. In winter, when the trees are bare, the building is exposed and its simple, robust building form revealed.
To the rear, the ribbon of white brickwork changes to timber cladding, folded to capture the north sun. The material change creates a more tactile, intimate façade to the private gardens of each dwelling. Further sun control and definition is provided by the bold timber pergolas, which march east to west. In addition to sun screening, the louvres attached to the pergolas prevent overlooking of the private open space of adjoining properties, eliminating the need for window screens. The internal detailing is considered and simple - not precious; these are houses intended to be lived in.
The landscaping has been designed and planted by local practice Defreist Sapontsis to reflect the indigenous planting of the sand belt and provide a drought tolerant garden that will present a lush contrast to the simplicity of the building form. Hard landscaping has been minimised to increase site permeability. In addition to passive solar and ventilation initiatives, the project also incorporates rainwater harvesting and solar hot water to all the townhouses, and PV panels to the owner occupied units.