Combining ecoluxe and environmental extremes: materials matter.
After exploring a number of alternatives, a semi-retired couple purchased land in the sustainable, award-winning Sunrise at 1770 Estate in the coastal town of Agnes Water on the Great Barrier Reef.
Architects’ concept drawings came as part of the deal, but when it came to building the house itself and choosing materials that would comply with the estate’s stringent sustainability criteria, they left that up to their builder.
“The owners wanted to create a smart, contemporary coastal home that was all about outdoor living,” says builder Royce Beale from Optam Building Group.
“To achieve this we had to construct a home that could weather the harsh coastal environment with minimal maintenance requirements.”
Taking advantage of the slope
Oriented towards serene ocean views, the home includes three bedrooms, a study, three bathrooms and open plan living areas that flow out on to the timber deck and pool outside.
“The home has such great views thanks to its location on a coastal escarpment,” Beale says.
But the site’s remoteness, steep slope, sandy soil and the sustainability requirements of the estate, presented many challenges – all of which were ultimately turned to advantage.
“We had to maintain all existing vegetation on the sensitive site, because cutting and filling weren’t acceptable,” he adds.
“Because of the sandy soil, the need to minimise impact on the ground below and the sharp drop off, the house is built on concrete piers that reach up to 3.5 metres at the steepest part of the slope, with additional piers supporting the weight of the pool.”
The master bedroom and ensuite are cantilevered out 600mm from the piers, with any visible piers around the property painted black so they are all but invisible.
From a distance, the home seems to almost float over the coastal escarpment while blending into its bushland setting.
Careful selection of external materials was required because of the home’s proximity to both coastal elements, including strong, salt-laden breezes, and to the bush and its abundant wildlife – including termites – and potential for bushfires.
The form of the home is broken up by textural contrasts, including rendered masonry and VM Zinc cladding, which was used in feature areas in combination with panels of painted Scyon Matrix™ cladding. These contrasting textures are further accentuated by the colour palette that draws inspiration from the silvery, green-greys of the bushland.
Without lighter-weight materials Beale says it wouldn’t have been possible to build the house in such an environmentally sensitive location, let alone create the striking balcony overhang.
“Matrix™ cladding is used extensively around the house, which not only added to the light, contemporary feel of the home, but it also helped economise on both building costs and long-term maintenance thanks to its durability and longevity in harsh conditions.” Its resistance to both termite damage and bushfires also made it an obvious choice.
“Scyon Matrix cladding gave us clean lines and the option to have expressed joints, creating further interest and adding to the overall luxury feel of the home,” Beale says, adding that Hardieflex™ sheets were used throughout for the eaves.
Architectural elements were integrated into the design for both aesthetic and practical reasons, and include wide verandahs and deep eaves for sun protection. These also contribute to its net zero energy rating.
Angled timber screens ensure privacy in bathrooms, while still permitting commanding views of the outside, and powdercoated aluminium screens provide a striking feature on the balcony overhang.
The house is approached from its bushland entryway, with glimpses of the dramatic ocean views preparing visitors for the dazzling turquoise vista that is captured from almost every room in the house.
A wide verandah wraps around the home, and cantilevers over the cliff edge, providing a range of spaces to entertain friends – or just get lost in the view.
Decks were built around the trees to protect their root zones and help integrate the house into its bushland setting; they also created inviting shaded spaces for afternoon tea and watching the grandchildren play in the pool.
Inside the home, generous ceiling heights and extensive use of glazing create a sense of space while reinforcing the connection with the outdoors.
Discreetly placed water tanks ensure that the home is self-sufficient – although it does have a backup connection to the estate’s water supply. Other sustainability features include rooftop solar panels, solar hot water heating, insulation throughout and onsite sewage treatment plant.
“Because Matrix cladding is lighter-weight than brick construction and easy to install, it really helped speed up the build. Fewer trades minimised the impact on the site and resulted in a high quality finish in only nine months,” says Beale.
The owners couldn’t be happier with the result.
“They really enjoy living in the home and love being able to enjoy the views from every part of the house.”
How to create a ‘floating’ home on a sloping sight.
Rather than using traditional cut and fill methods buttressed by the use of heavy looking concrete and masonry, consider building your home on piers that allow you to look out over the landscape. Use a combination of lighter-weight materials and structural shapes to stop the home from becoming an imposing mass on the surroundings. Carefully selecting colours and textures that draw from the surrounding landscape will help connect the home with its surroundings and give it a sense of place.
Budget: approx $1 million
Home size: 320m2
Land size: 2000m2
Garage spaces: 2
Roof style: Skillion
Roofing material: Colorbond
Exterior cladding: Scyon Matrix™ cladding, VM Zinc, Hardieflex™ sheets, rendered masonry
Time to completion: 9 months
Sustainability elements: Solar PV array, Solar hotwater system, rainwater tanks, onsite sewerage treatment plant, full insulation, recycled materials.