Northcote Residence: Passive Solar Extension Keeps Its Cool

Northcote Residence by Wolveridge Architects

Keeping its Cool

This year Melbourne experienced a summer heatwave where temperatures reached a sweltering 45°C (113°F). Despite the raging temperatures outside, this charming extension based on passive solar design principles, remained a refreshing 27°C (80°F) inside -- without the help of air conditioning!

Wolveridge Architects have designed a stunning extension using recycled and reclaimed materials, showing respect for the original home's history. By incorporating passive solar design principles the home will be warmer in winter and cooler in summer -- and all around more comfortable for the family.

But that's not all. They've used recycled and reclaimed materials throughout the house to give the space a sense of richness that new materials just can't provide. All in all it's a winner all-round...

Northcote Residence
Reverse Brick Veneer, Concrete Floors, White Kitchens, Pendant Lighting, Subway Tiles

Passive Design

The project incorporates an extensive number of passive design features. The south and east walls are generally reverse or insulated double brick on concrete slab. As the living areas all face north, sun studies were undertaken to omit high summer sun from the dwelling’s interior, yet encourage the entry of the low winter sun. This was assisted by elevating sills 400mm above floor level, which provided a zone for hydronic heating panels.

The long length of the new work provided opportunities for light and ventilation wells along the southern side of the building. Each new habitable room benefits from cooling southerly breezes. During this summer’s 45 degree heat, the owners had just moved in and reported internal temperatures of around 27 degrees.

We encouraged the clients not to invest in air-conditioning, but just to relocate an existing one to the home office. 2KW of grid connected solar panels were provided, solar hot water, all of which are located in a north facing roof that is otherwise not visible from any aspect in the garden. All new windows are double glazed and casement openables are terrific for ventilation. The energy rating for the new work exceeds 6 stars. -- Wolveridge Architects

Northcote Residence
Pendant Lighting

Fusing Old and New

To tie this extension in with its Edwardian-era original, the architects used reclaimed materials (including bricks found on site). These reclaimed materials add a rich texture and a sense of history to the otherwise modern spaces.

The central strategy for connecting old to new is a brick path that continues the original central hallway configuration into the new open-plan space. This established one line of sight from the entry of the original home, through the new space and ending in the garden.

Northcote Residence
White Kitchens, Pendant Lighting
Northcote Residence

Updating the Original

The original Edwardian house hasn't been altered, other than a fresh coat of paint and a modern native garden. No part of the extension can be seen from the street, but this didn't stop Wolveridge Architects carefully considering how old and new would connect at an architectural level. One simple step was to paint the entire original house white, meaning it becomes a blank canvas for the modern extension.

Northcote Residence
Brick Houses, Bathrooms, Showers, Subway Tiles, Basins, Toilet Suites
Northcote Residence
Showers, Subway Tiles, Basins

Stylish Bathroom

In the new bathrooms, brick sized white tiles in a stretcher bond pattern visually connect with the original red brick used on other parts of the house. Cleverly, the architects mixed gloss and matte tiles to mimic the color and textural variation of red bricks.

A full-height glass window makes the end wall of the bathroom disappear. Combined with a large, screenless shower the bathroom feels completely open and spacious.

Northcote Residence
Joinery, Concrete Floors, Sliding Door, Rugs, Coffee Tables


The architects helped their clients to prioritize their living areas. There is a TV in the lounge, but it can be hidden behind a polished plasterboard sliding panel. Meanwhile, the family's record player has been dusted off and now takes pride of place after years of being confined to a box.

This was all part of a strategy to help the family live the way they wanted to live. If that means less TV and more family singsongs around the record player, that's not so bad.

Northcote Residence
Timber Houses, Swimming Pools, Showers, Butterfly Chairs
Northcote Residence
Fireplaces, Joinery, Reverse Brick Veneer, Concrete Floors
Northcote Residence
Fireplaces, Concrete Floors, Lounge Suites
Northcote Residence
House Plans

Respect for the Past in a Modern Comfortable Package

Northcote Residence is not just a pretty face. It's a well-designed, historically-minded space that will provide for this growing family for years to come.

Thanks to the passive solar design, the house will cost less to run and be comfortable to live in year-round.

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