How to get the most out your new home build

With some projects, you know what to expect from the start. This was not one of those projects.

When the owners approached architect Chris Freeburn from Ironbark Architecture, they had set their hopes on a renovation of their Gymea property.

“But then we realised it was going to be more expensive to renovate than to start again because the old house was in poor condition and poorly designed,” Chris says.

With a long 800 sqm block to work with, the clients thought a duplex would be a good option.

“Their first image was more of a duplex but I suggested that we do a detached dual occupancy, with one house at the back and one at the front. Then we turned the house towards the side boundary which faces north.

“And that set the whole project in motion.”

After giving it some thought, the owners decided that they would live in the front house and rent out the house at the rear.

Chris designed them a three- bedroom 150 sqm home over two levels, with the master suite on the ground floor, along with the open-plan living space and separate library, plus two more bedrooms upstairs.

A key focus was to create a home that would be a pleasure to live in using sustainable design principles.

“When you talk about environmentally responsible design, size is quite critical,” says Chris. “With all our projects we advocate for less but better. We’re always asking the question ‘how little do we need?’ ”

Maintaining comfortable temperatures without the need for heating and cooling was also a key consideration.

“The three questions we always ask are: Where is the sun? Where are the views? Where are the breezes?” Chris says. “The answers to those questions drive the whole project.”

Using 3D modelling, Chris identified how best to capture the sun in winter and reduce its impact in summer, as well as the prevailing breezes.

“In winter the sun comes straight through the house so that the clients can walk around in shorts and T-shirts, unaware how cold it is until they go outside,” says Chris. “The windows are mostly louvres. They can capture the breezes on the ground floor and then and when the hot air rises, the louvres on the upper level can release that heat.”

The main living area faces onto a deck and plunge pool, which can be heated for use all year round. There’s a 5kw photovoltaic system to create electricity from solar panels and the rainwater tanks can hold up to 15000L.

“Often, there is a measure of doubt that it can work,” says Chris. “But people come back to me again and again once they have lived in the house saying how much they love it.”


Owners: A couple with three adult sons

Architect: Chris Freeburn, Ironbark Architecture:

The brief: To remove the existing house and build two houses that would be a pleasure to live in

The site: An 800 sqm sloping site in Gymea

Design solution: To create two separate houses based on passive solar design that would be comfortable all year round

How long did it take: 12 months

Builder: Build by Design –

Pool: Cronulla Pools –

Landscaping: Amrock Landscapes –

Cladding: Zinaclume cladding from Colorbond –

Ceiling fans: Haiku ceiling fans from Big Ass Fans –

Louvre windows: from Breezway –

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