The design of the Thorn Street House in Ipswich, Queensland was primarily driven by a desire to produce an energy efficient home with a low ecological impact. To achieve this, the focus was upon achieving efficiency through the key areas of siting and structure, energy, water & material re-use.
Careful examination of the site’s micro-climate dictated the structure’s design and positioning. The living spaces are positioned to maximize the site’s northern orientation and city views. The sprawling branches of an old mango tree form a natural canopy over the deck as well as providing natural shade, light filtration and privacy screening to the kitchen area.
A key feature of the home is the re-use of nearly 3000 dry pressed common bricks. Whilst the bricks have been used externally for pathways and retaining walls, they are primarily used to create a structural spine dividing the private and public living spaces. Running East to West, the wall embraces passive design principles by utilizing the bricks’ high thermal properties to naturally heat and cool the house. During summer the wall absorbs heat, keeping the house comfortable. In winter the bricks store the heat from the sun and fireplace before radiating it back into home, thereby helping to warm all spaces. By re-using the bricks as a central aesthetic, structural and functional component of the home, their robust beauty is expressed. The peeling paint on the original bricks help to inject splashes of colour throughout the spaces.
Timber has been used in a variety of ways for its structural, environmental, cost-effective and aesthetic properties. Structurally, the use of engineered joists and bearers enable large spans to be achieved whilst using less material. The use of a lightweight timber frame and cladding placed lighter loads on the structural frame and foundations, therefore reducing the amounts of materials required. Where possible, the timber was bolted rather than nailed to reduce the use of toxic glues, paints & solvents and also allow for ease of disassembly. This is exemplified in the ceiling rafters where the bolts have been expressed, creating a beautiful feature against the white plasterboard and raw bricks.
The significant use of recycled timber for the structure, joinery and furniture demonstrates the continued flexibility of a recycled product, whilst also promoting sustainable material choices and building practices. Contextually, the raw and robust nature of the recycled timber, makes a direct visual and physical reference to the distinctive character of the surrounding timber and tin homes. In this way, the new home compliments its wider sub-tropical context and promotes a contemporary reinterpretation of the Queensland vernacular house.
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