Somers Courtyard House is a low maintenance home to accommodate an expanding family with regular guests. The best part? It's completely off-grid!
The client brief called for a low maintenance home to accommodate an expanding family with regular guests. Located in Somers, a semi-rural beach town, just one hour from Melbourne it's a popular weekend getaway spot. The clients wanted a playful home that would allow them to customise and grow into it over time.
The house is completely off-grid — designed to operate independently of public water, gas, sewerage and electricity. It is therefore self-sufficient and consequently environmentally friendly.
Passive Solar Design
The design incorporates a range of outdoor spaces as an extension of the living spaces. Spaces are orientated due north and the shape of the house is designed to allow the sun to heat spaces during winter and to naturally ventilate during summer.
"We decided on a backbone concept of a tent-made-solid. We found this a conceptually, structurally, environmentally and economically appropriate response to the brief. Throughout the process good building practice created a tension with my desire to express this idea more literally. — Opat Architects
A sustainability consultant guided the selection of all materials:
- External walls and roof are insulated lightweight structure and finish.
- The fireplace and concrete floors provide the thermal mass.
- Ecoply is used for the courtyard surface
- Radially sawn Silver Top Ash for external board and batten cladding
- The house was positioned amongst existing trees to minimise felling
- The depth (north-south) of the plan, height of ceilings, circulation of air, catchment of heat and controlling seasonal direct natural light were refined to optimise the passive solar effectiveness.
"The brief crystallised into a loose arrangement of discreet living and utility buildings. The need to avoid internal overshadowing resolved itself by arranging the buildings in a square. The spaces in-between then grew into outdoor living areas. Introducing a courtyard house to a one hectare site offered seclusion and hierarchy into an otherwise open field." — Opat Architects
Indoor and Outdoor Living
The result is a house comprised of outdoor spaces that are an extension of living areas, the interplay of which form verandah, portico, catwalk and breezeway. All combine to offer a spectrum of indoor and outdoor experiences.
The ceiling height changes throughout the home according to the interior layout — lofty and monumental over the living spaces and low slung over bedrooms. The roof edge is expressed as an upper layer, a cloak over the external walls that continues on to meet the ground at the rear.
Use of Colour
Darker external colours integrate the house into the shadows of the surrounding bushland. In contrast the courtyard employs a lighter colour thus accentuating the courtyard as a type of interior.
Study of the Sun
"The architectural process revealed a design force in the study of the sun. Sciagraphy became an essential part of this scheme and continues to be an interest in my work as does the significance of the sun historically." — Opat Architects
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