The client was a licensed builder and presented floor plans and front elevations as part of the brief. The plans were substantially developed, particularly through the double skillion roof and blending the structural elements into the design to optimise space. The client required us to develop the documentation for Building Approval. The client was an HIA Greensmart professional and we shared our knowledge of products suitable for a sustainable house.
The lightweight home featured excellent cross ventilation, insulation, lighting and a choice of finishing materials in a modern context.
The ‘Kula House’ was designed to take young families into the future. The house was affordable, practical, comfortable and complied with many ‘green building’ principles.
The ‘Kula House’ typifies the traditional ‘long house’ design, common to the cultures of the Pacific islands and South East Asia. The challenges presented by the shape and size of the land lot make this house design very suitable for new housing estates in the tropics.
The contemporary low set home design follows our philosophy that the structural lines should be simple with the main emphasis on the roof. Get this right and everything else falls into place. The long house has a 1:2.5 width to length ratio and works with a contemporary steel frame skillion roof system. The main double skillion has an average height of 5.5 metres with a 20-metre spine. Clerestory windows run for three-quarters of this central span. The double system skillions to the front and rear with the carport skillion roof flying over at complementary angles mix practical function and style well, delivering on sustainable ‘green’ living outcomes.
The work that the 900mm roof eaves perform is critical to comfortable tropical living by keeping the tropical sun off the walls. The decks to the western side of the house also have a large eave to protect it from the sun and rain.
The house is raised off the ground above sand fly level, allowing air to circulate under the floor and reducing the risk of flood or tidal surge and high water damage. The open carport allows prevailing dry season south easterlies access to the house.
The ‘Kula House’ achieves desirable natural light and breeze for every internal space and no air-conditioning has been installed. Traditional ‘Queenslanders’ in the tropics can be quite dark in the middle of the house, particularly during the weeks of very high rain fall when we are in the hottest part of the year. These parts of the house can also be mould traps due to poor air circulation in times of high humidity. The ‘Kula House’ has a central split in the main double skillion and along this spine, the high clerestory louvred windows deliver light and cooling breezes.
Every room in the house has an external wall with a full height louvre galleries. The cooling breezes push hot air up into the high raked ceilings to the clerestory windows promoting passive cooling. Sea breezes and northeasterly monsoon breezes are captured through the 7 metre opening onto the rear deck.
There is covered access from the carport to the house to help take children and shopping from car to home during weeks of monsoon rain.
Sustainable building principles include smart design, producing smaller houses that deliver standard features. The 180 square metre internal floor plan delivers four double size bedrooms, a full-size ensuite and walk-in wardrobe for the master bedroom, a large main bathroom, a laundry, and storage room, dedicated kids play area and a study room. The high raked ceilings bring about bigger room volumes and an increased sense of space. The central hallway is strikingly wide and complimented by the high raking ceilings and angles. The children’s play area is central to two of the bedrooms and also acts as an open breezeway. The open galley shaped study is tucked behind the kitchen keeping electromagnetic fields away from sleeping areas. The laundry opens to a large covered drying deck on the western side of the house. The open plan kitchen, dining, and living area is only 50 square metres in size although, in true appreciation of tropical design, the adjoining 50 square metres of the deck will be the main living area for most of the year.
The building materials selected add to sustainable features. The roof is a light coloured colorbond steel with 8 mm E-Therm reflective thermal insulation blanket under the roof sheeting in a 260 mm cavity with a raked ceiling achieving a R3+ rating. The external walls are light weight FC sheeting and boards and cool quickly. The yellow stringybark timber floorboards throughout are coated with a low VOC water-based product. All paint used is from the low VOC Wattyl ID range. Compact Fluorescent (CFL’s) or LED lights are used in 100% of the house, including the outdoor floodlights. Ceiling fans with 1200mm blades are plentiful and strategically located. All water fittings have water saving flow restrictors. A Conergy solar hot water system is installed. Plans are in place to also install Photo Voltaic Panels, water tanks, and a grey water system over time. Most importantly, the design of this house reduces the demand for electricity, in particular, air-conditioners throughout the long summer months.
The house is named after ‘Kula’ shells that are valuable in the PNG Trobriand Islands. The Trobrianders believe that mere argument is unlikely to change someone's mind and the art of persuasion through indirect and subtle means like the physical allure of gifts such as valuable ‘Kula’ shells are a vital part of negotiation. The ‘Kula’ barter system is an inherent part of this culture.
This house is designed and built to appeal to future generations, ensuring it remains valuable and relevant. Design principles based around traditional Pacific island ‘long houses’ will last the test of time in the tropics.