Brick Courtyard House exterior

This project is a twin courtyard house with passive design features, made for clients looking for a sustainable home to retire in. The home replaces the clients' painted brick bungalow, which had significant structural issues and could not be saved. 


The brief specified a home that would allow the clients to continue living on the same site in a house that reflected their upcoming retirement. The clients also wished to be involved in the design to optimise passive design strategies, adopt appropriate sustainable technology solutions and consider embodied energy.


Brick Courtyard House interior

The house was designed with the Liveable Housing Design guidelines to best accommodate aging in place. Although requiring greater external wall area and hence risking heat loss, the twin courtyard design allows extensive opportunities for crossflow ventilation, with all habitable rooms oriented in two directions and further encouraged by operable clerestory windows, pitched ceilings and ceiling fans in the living areas.

Internally, a 14m long thermal mass double brick wall runs along the east-west axis. Coupled with the polished concrete floors that conceal a heat pump operated hydronic heating system, the house takes advantage of extensive northern glazing around the courtyards to store solar heat energy in the cooler months and regulate internal temperatures during summer.

Brick Courtyard House glazing

Optimising passive heating and cooling, the house's solar heat gain is controlled by fixed timber shading screens of local hardwood, hung above north and west-facing windows. Brick has a sentimental importance to the clients, with their family having run the Portarlington Widdicombe Brickworks. A feature brick, one of the last to come out of the Portarlington Brickworks kiln and stamped with the family name has been framed beside the front entrance, celebrating the brick's pride of place in this home. Externally, recycled red-blue clinker bricks are laid with a subtle inset pattern to track the movement of the sun and to retain a memory of the original house.

Brick Courtyard House recycled brick

Sustainability features

  • Minimising landfill at demolition by recycling/re-use of bricks and steel, and re-use of timber.
  • Converting the old pool to a 70,000L underground water tank.
  • Passive design (north orientation, thermal mass walls and floor, appropriately sized shading, cross flow ventilation and heat stack).
  • Use of recycled materials (eg timber posts, clinker bricks, vanity benchtops), and sustainably sourced timber.
  • Thermally broken composite windows & 140mm stud walls to accommodate higher levels of wall insulation.
  • Natural pool and native landscaping.
  • All electric house, with 10kW solar system and electric heat pump hot water & hydronic heating. Battery ready.