Completed in 2019 and perched on a hillside at Wye River, this house is a direct response to a steep, difficult and post bushfire site.
Encapsulated as a fire-resistant metallic helmet-like object, the house sits embedded into the rejuvenating and transforming landscape, ready and prepared. The Hilltop Hood House was conceived as a positive response to a once heavily wooded seaside site at Wye River, where the forest literally meets the sea.
The response is a rather protective, dark, metal clad exterior shell that is an almost totally self-sustaining house, opening internally as a light, bright and airy space capturing spectacular ocean views.
The steep site necessitated that an elevated driveway access and stair be built from which visitors then descend to the house's upper level main living area and cantilevered deck.
Below three bedrooms, bathrooms and a small living space are tucked into the hillside. Underneath is a basement level with concealed services, water tank and septic treatment equipment.
Solar power panels, heat pump hydronic and water heating, high level insulation and fire rated windows and shutters combined with careful materials and equipment selection, have all contributed to a sustainable, bushfire protected house on a hill.
Careful site management, landscaping and sustainable planning will enable this house to last a considerable distance, as per their brief. It performs effortlessly as a semi-permanent, low maintenance beach house that is located high on the ridge overlooking Separation Creek / Wye River hamlets, beaches and surrounding bushland.
The owners have their escape capsule, landing successful. Context is this project is extreme, a 32-degree pitch steep site, now sparsely wooded with semi mature gums.
Conceptually the house is sunken into the slope, to appear as if emerging from the land. This was done by creating a U-shaped concrete retaining wall cut into the site that also tied into the main floor slab, providing an anchoring mechanism.
A light weight, fire rated metal clad structure could then be inserted within the concrete wall. The result is a direct and symbolic formal response, a protective hooded helmet, shaped to deflect the wind, fire and rain. The project required significant input of specialist consultants, bushfire, structure, civil, geotechnical and ESD/ Energy.
Coordination and input from each discipline was essential to not only getting the project approved through Planning and Building but also to achieve a well-considered, site specific design response that was admirably constructed by experienced local builders and trades. Materials, equipment and finishes have been kept quite simple, robust and low maintenance.
Where possible natural finishes such as timber floor, stone benches and tiles have been used to offset the metal cladding externally.
In terms of an Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD), this 6 star rated project has a number of attributes that represent a responsible and innovative ESD. The site has access to electricity only, no water, sewer, gas or stormwater are available.
For power, it is connected to the grid, but with a system of 24 PV solar panels producing 7KW this substantially offsets power requirements and is set up for battery storage operation. All stormwater collected is stored in concealed tanks with 30,000L capacity.
A 10,000L External CFA required firefighting storage tank is also provided.
Wastewater is treated with a locally produced two tank treatment system, producing recyclable water for garden use.
The effluent field disperses the water encouraging site vegetation, slope and landscape reestablishment. Water and air heating is managed by an energy efficient Heat Pump system, driving the hydronic heating and hot water supply with all rooms having heating panels. Cross flow natural ventilation is encouraged by highlight openable windows and door openings and air conditioning has been deemed not necessary.
All windows are double glazed thermally broken aluminium or FR timber. The simple timber stud frame construction is well insulated with low maintenance metal cladding.