The Soulsby residence is a new family home, located in a new semi-rural housing estate in East Gippsland. Designed for a busy family of 5, the house has a split personality, with the south side being minimal in its scale and exposure to the street, whilst the north side contains expansive glazing and high ceilings, connecting easily to the rear yard and pool, and maximising the enjoyment of the terrific north light and views.

Project Name: Soulsby III
Studio Name: John McAuley Architecture Pty Ltd
Location: Gippsland, Australia
Photography: Felix Mooneeram

©Felix Mooneeram

A key challenge of the brief was to deliver a house that was energy efficient – to ensure year-round thermal comfort and minimal ongoing heating and cooling costs – whilst working to a limited construction budget. Whilst the semi-rural location affords terrific views over paddocks to the bush beyond, the site is exposed to strong winds and weather particularly from the south-west, with a BAL12.5 rating. Robust materials selection and the design of entries and outdoor living areas in particular needed to address this.

©Felix Mooneeram

The house also needed to be designed for long term flexibility, able to serve the immediate needs of a young family, but considerate of changing needs in the future. The solution was to rationalise the layout of the house into a simple rectangle, with the primary living areas and master bedroom suite on the north side, and the kids’ bedrooms and service spaces on the south. A simple, single pitch roof rises to the north, facilitating extensive 3.2m high windows along the north facade, whilst on the south side, glazing is contained to a single framed ‘strip’ of windows. The front door is recessed – both for privacy and weather protection – behind the form of austere concrete garage, presenting a unique yet restrained presence to the street. To minimise exposure to neighbours as well as harsh winds and weather, the east and west end facades of the house are left blank, with heavily insulated double-stud walls.

©Felix Mooneeram

The kitchen is located in the heart of the house at the junction between the various zones and operates as the ‘command centre’ for the busy family. The children’s zone at the east end is able to be shut off acoustically and thermally from the rest of the house anticipating future flexibility of use. To minimise exposure to harsh weather, the outdoor living area is recessed under the main roofline enabling enclosure on three sides without inhibiting light or views to the primary living areas inside. The north facade is ‘framed’ by a single eave along its length, proportioned to permit winter sun and shield harsh summer sun. Through the living and master bedroom areas, raked ceilings maximise winter light penetration and natural ventilation through highlight windows, and a feature masonry wall and concrete hearth are positioned behind the wood fire for thermal mass to assist with passive heating and cooling. This has resulted in a house that requires minimal heating and cooling year-round.

©Felix Mooneeram

The simple passive design principles that informed the planning, building form and construction of the home reference the site responsive, energy-efficient and cost-effective homes of post-war Australian Modernism – a particular passion of this ‘Modern Family’.

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