Birchgrove Road House

This three bedroom house incorporates a wide range of passive design techniques and ecologically sustainable strategies. Energy consumption is kept to a minimum using a variety of techniques, including balancing lighting and insulation, and the installation of a wind turbine and solar panelling.
Located in a high-density urban residential area, the house has been designed as an exercise in total environmental responsibility, as required by our clients, a professional couple.

Our clients also required the house to be a modern, energy-efficient, light-filled, comfortable, private and low-maintenance space in which they can find respite from the pressures of their daily lives.
The end walls, which face north east and south west, have no openings so that the early morning and late afternoon summer sun is excluded. A 1-hour fire resistance rating was also required in the walls.

The arrangement of the house uses horizontal external motorised operable louvres and vertical roll-down fabric blinds to exclude summer sun and selectively admit winter sun, reducing energy consumption. In addition, natural daylight is allowed to penetrate deep into the house through the vertical voids and by means of overhead roof lights and skylights, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Operable window openings have been located selectively to allow natural ventilation to flow through the building. The depth of the building has been restricted to between 6 and 7m to induce cross-ventilation. The basement level, located within the ground, has a high thermal mass and will remain at a relatively constant temperature. The solar ventilation chimney takes advantage of the natural heat-stack effect and draws cool air from the basement vertically through the building.

Stormwater is collected on the roof and surrounding hard surfaces and conveyed to the grey water detention tank located in the basement. From here the grey water is pumped and used for toilet flushing and irrigation, returning the stormwater either to the ground or to the Board’s sewer.

Construction materials with low levels of embodied energy are used wherever possible. Thermal mass and insulation is used to reduce energy required for heating and cooling. The walls of the house all employ light-coloured materials in order to reflect heat.

Photovoltaic panels are used for the conversion of light to electricity which is conveyed to the supply authority grid as “green power”. In addition to the photovoltaic array, electricity is generated by a wind turbine and again conveyed to the supply authority grid.