Project Name: Concrete House
Practice: Rob Henry Architects
Firm Location: Australia
Completion year: 2017
Gross Built up Area: 433 sqm
Project Location: Canberra, Australia
Contractors: Preferred Builders
Photo Credits: Lightstudies PhotographyMore Specs
Excerpt: Concrete House is grounded in its attention to detail and longevity of the program. This ensures that the minimalist aesthetic of the house’s form and materials is not ostentatious, but rather a restrained expression of the contemporary family home. The fully sealed building achieved 1.3 air changes per hour @50 Pa. The design also achieved an 8.5 stars energy rating, which was based on data for lower-performing windows than installed.
(“Text as submitted by architect”)
Designed for a typical family of two parents and three children, the building has been programmed for family living. The clients were intensely involved in the entire process, were incredibly specific about their requirements for the dwelling, and yet were also entirely respectful and appreciative of the architect’s role. A strong bond between client and architect over a 4.5-year period drove the process and allowed this house to be tailored to the occupants whilst also maintaining and strengthening its design integrity.
The planning started with overlays of sustainable principles and aesthetics. Each space needed to optimise solar orientation, and thus the U-shaped planning with a central courtyard was developed. A desire to reduce bulk and scale to the street front was overcome by sinking the house into the sloping site to present a 1.5 storey front façade with semi inset basement parking and guest wing below, the entrance at a mid-level, and the main house above.
The layout is broken down into three wings; a north-easterly bedroom wing, a south-easterly circulation spine/services wing, and a northerly living and study wing. Each room is modest in proportion yet eludes generosity through material choice and by visually borrowing from other interior/exterior spaces.
Circulation wraps around the courtyard and offers views into the pool area; the children’s corridor with a low slot window, to suit their height, capturing water reflections, and the main corridor with full height windows delivering sunlight through into the family, kitchen, and living zones adjacent.
Driving the aesthetics was a contemporary material palette. The Concrete House is appropriately named for the predominant use of concrete to the front façade and its interiors. The concrete forms both anchor and frame elements, whilst also defying convention through a floating cantilevered projection. Charcoal zinc cladding wraps the main structure to induce a recessive quality. The zinc profile changes from wide to narrow to differentiate between elements that are forward or recessive.
The interior palette references the exterior with concrete flooring, stairs, and blade walls that extend through the circulation spine. Charcoal framed windows, door hardware, and joinery details are inset into crisp white surfaces. The introduction of oak on slatted screens and bespoke joinery units adds warmth and texture to the spaces. Every detail and junction are considered with precision and minimalism at heart. The spaces seem effortless; disguising the underlying detail.
Concrete House is grounded in its attention to detail and the longevity of the program. This ensures that the minimalist aesthetic of the house’s form and materials is not ostentatious, but rather a restrained expression of the contemporary family home.
Aside from maximising the solar orientation and cross ventilation, Concrete House has been built with high-quality detailing and thermal performance systems to achieve targets close to Passivhaus standards. The fully sealed building achieved 1.3 air changes per hour @50 Pa. The design also achieved an 8.5 stars energy rating, which was based on data for lower-performing windows than installed.
To achieve such highly efficient outcomes, all services (plumbing, electrical and mechanical) are installed within the air-tight volume, preventing leakage through penetrations of the building wrap. Triple glazed windows and doors were installed with expanding seals and then double-taped. Several checks of construction quality and air-tightness were conducted throughout the build.
A mechanical heat recovery ventilation system, air-sourced heat pump hydronic slab heating and cooling, solar panel battery storage system, and solar pool heating mean this house does not require electricity from the grid and remains a comfortable temperature year-round.