The Bellbrae House, located in Bellbrae, is the realisation of a dream forever home that would serve its owners, and on occasion their extended family, as they enjoy their retirement years in this peaceful spot between Torquay and Anglesea along Victoria’s rugged surf coast.

Project Name: Bellbrae House
Studio Name: Wiesebrock Architecture
Project size: 180 m2
Site size: 40000 m2
Completion date: 2019
Building levels: 1
Location: Bellbrae, Victoria, Australia
Photography: Ben Hosking

Bellbrae House by Wiesebrock Architecture - Sheet1
Kitchen ©Ben Hosking

The brief began for Bellbrae House as an alteration/addition to the existing house on the 10 acre rural site for the retired clients however after further investigation the house was deemed unsalvageable due to bad building practices by the original owner-builder of the 1970s house, including stolen reflector posts used as stumps. The new house is within the footprint of the existing, responding to constraints on site that were to be retained including hay sheds, driveway, swimming pool and horse fencing.

The key design response to the brief was to create two pavilions separated by a large deck. The main pavilion is a one bedroom house that the clients live in day-to-day and is the first form seen from the drive approach. The served spaces of living, kitchen, dining and bedroom in this pavilion face north and open on to the deck. The servant spaces to the south include mud entry, tack room and laundry, cellar, pantry, ensuite and robe.

The second, smaller, pavilion houses two bedrooms either side of a shared bathroom and kitchenette in the entry. This separate pavilion is aimed at providing the visiting children and grandchildren their own space that can be closed down and shut off from the main house to conserve energy and minimise cleaning.

Bellbrae House by Wiesebrock Architecture - Sheet2
Horse Stable ©Ben Hosking

It is also used as a writers retreat when the children are not there allowing the client to get out of the house to complete their PHD. The positioning of this pavilion hides the water tanks and sheds from the main living pavilion and deck whilst still allowing a northern aspect.

The deck is the main informal point of entry and frames valley and farm views and is a stage for outdoor living and entertaining throughout the year. For this project to be successful a Triple Bottom Line approach was adopted. The couple were retired so there was no room for budget blowouts or costly future maintenance.

The house needed to work socially for two people, three families or a wedding for 100 guests. It also needed to respond to the client’s deep appreciation for preserving the natural environment and using less, including reusing salvaged items from the existing house.

Bellbrae House by Wiesebrock Architecture - Sheet3
Exterior ©Ben Hosking

Financially sustainable:
– All initiatives to make the house environmentally sustainable also add to the long term financial viability of the new house.
– Timber framing is used throughout. Spans were kept to a minimum to avoid steel and large lintels. Where required larger spans are permitted by prefabricated roof trusses to shape the gable forms, including scissor trusses over the main living area. Timber stumps, while being more economical than a concrete slab, also allow the natural flow of water over the land avoiding any costly ground water plumbing.
– The hard exterior of corrugated galvanised steel sheeting is designed to dull over time and provide a maintenance and cost free finish once installed.
– The interior is lined with plywood sheets designed to age gracefully instead of repainting in the future. The sheets to the living area ceiling are overlapped to break the monolithic surface and to utilise full sheet widths with no cuts required and no waste.

Socially sustainable:
– Two independent pavilions promotes long term social sustainability for multiple generations staying together
– Most social interactions take place on the deck, sheltered from the winds by the landscape to the west and by the economical polycarbonate roofing overhead

Environmentally sustainable:
– The small footprint of the primary living pavilion (124m2) creates a thermally and energy efficient home for two whilst still providing plenty of space for the extended family when needed.
– 6kw solar power system with battery (panels salvaged and reused from existing house)
– Solar hot water service (panels and electric storage unit salvaged and reused)
– Salvaged bricks were reused in the hearth
– Bulk insulation throughout
– Cross ventilation, ceiling fans for cooling
– Fireplace primary heat source for main pavilion
– Natural daylight access throughout
– Timber construction throughout, low embodied energy
– Sun shading to north-facing glazing. Future provision for sun shading to east and west.
– All stormwater connected to existing rainwater tanks
– On-site septic system


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