Australian architects are no strangers to the voluntary but rigorous Passive House standards, which dictates that homes that require as little energy as possible for the heating and cooling of its spaces are built.
While it is important to follow these ‘rules’ closely, becoming too pedantic with the process may detract from the overall design. After all, ESD credentials should never be the be-all and end-all of a project. Rather, sustainability initiatives should enhance a residence’s aesthetics and occupant comfort.
For Di Mase Architects, this meant prioritising Passive House principles with another benchmark the team identified as “Gezellig”, an abstract Dutch noun with multiple meanings that include esoteric ideas such as shared or belonging, positivity and flow.
The word is difficult to translate,” lead architect for Gezellig House, Antony Di Mase, says. “However the house has become a tangible object of this complex notion, with a sense of belonging for those who live within it and a positivity by those who built it.”
A re-design of an established 1990s warehouse in an inner Melbourne suburb, Gezellig House is a two-storey residence that Australian lighting designer John Ford and his partner Kate now call home. John and Kate knew from the outset that their home had to be the “very essence of sustainable living”, which kicked into motion the transformation of a mere renovation project into one that would ultimately be a champion of Passive House and Gezellig principles.
This meant the design had to encompass many facets. Not only did it need to create an intrinsically sustainable house that incorporated best practice, it also had to realise a floorplan that would augment the owners’ lifestyle, incorporate a Heritage overlay, showcase the best lighting design, as well as exude a warmth that can be lost in industrial revamps.
Insulation is king on the sustainability front, as it is with most Passivhaus homes. Gezellig House features continuous insulation throughout with no thermal bridging, airtightness, and high-performance windows and doors. Bulk insulation, a reflective foil layer, an external weather wrap, timber cladding and reflective paint protect the home externally, while within, walls, floors and ceilings are insulated, and every join, joint and crevice (including power points, plumbing and light fittings) wrapped to ensure no air enters or escapes. These initiatives are complemented by solar utilisation for heating and cooling.
“The party wall was double insulated, rendered and painted; double glazing was fitted to existing windows and heat reflective triple glazed doors and windows were specified,” Di Mase adds.
“A heat recovery unit was installed in the ‘mud room’ to control air ventilation and ensure a constant temperature through every season. The end result is a house that sustains itself and those who reside within.”
And then there is the air-lock door, which separates the home’s back door entry – characterised by a foyer and double-storey void that fills with natural light during the day – from the rest of the house. This air-lock door is essential, explains Di Mase, as it ensures the process of Passivehaus technology and in-house climate control are effective and efficient.
To the side lie three bedrooms, a bathroom, two toilets, a study, and a small lobby and seating area at the base of the original stairwell. But go up the stairs and the mood switch flips to something more relaxed and casual. On this second floor, an open plan kitchen, dining and family area with three outside decks dominate, and are offered views of the inner-city suburb below. Stainless steel is used within the kitchen, including for the movable island bench top.
All that could be retained from the Heritage building’s interior was repaired and restored, while materials are pared back to the basics. Brick, concrete and wood are presented au natural where possible, complemented by a low-key colour palette of white, black and grey. Spaces are enlivened by artworks that introduce colour, and lights that inject drama.
It is the lighting, however, that adds the finishing touches to the series of well-crafted spaces, not least because they tell a story of the design process and who the home belongs to. The red neon ‘Gezellig’ sign, for example, functions as a visual point of interest, but more importantly announces the intention and spirit of the house.
“John Ford’s expertise was invaluable when specifying the luminaires and indeed the collaboration between architect and client was integral to the exceptional outcome of the project,” the Di Mase team acknowledges. “For example, the LED lighting system employed throughout the ground floor bedrooms and study are adaptable, low energy and visually exciting.
Embracing total sustainable practice and innovation with style and creativity, The Gezellig House is not just all talk and no substance – it has achieved a 7.1 Star NATHERS rating and was shortlisted for the 2016 AIA Victorian Chapter Architecture Awards. It is also capable of staying cool without air conditioning or mechanical cooling while it is scorching outside, with a maximum indoor temperature of 27 degrees Celsius achieved on a hot 42 degree day last summer.
EXTERNAL TIMBER CLADDING
WOODFORM ARCHITECTURAL GLASS WALLING SYSTEM, PILKINGTON – UFORM
GUTEX, SUSTAINABLE BUILDING RESOURCES, WOOD FIBRE INSULATION BOARD
AMETAIN (PASSIVE HOUSE), DOUBLE SIDED REFLECTIVE EXPANDABLE INSULATION
PRO CLIMA (PASSIVE HOUSE), AIRTIGHT MEMBRANE
PRO CLIMA (PASSIVE HOUSE), WALL WRAP
REECE PLUMBING, LAUFEN TOILET SUITE
NIKLES, SHOWER HEAD
ROGERSELLER, VITRA HAND BASIN
TRETFORD, GIBBON GROUP
GAGGENAU, GAS COOKTOP
ASKO APPLIANCES, DRYING CUPBOARD
DOOR & WINDOWS
SKYRANGE, DOOR WINDOW
EUROPEAN TIMBER WINDOWS, GLAZED DOOR
EUROLUCE, FLOS MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL TRACK—RUNNING MAGNET
RELUME CONSULTANT, NEON SIGN