Home Among The Gum Trees In Applecross Pays Dividends With Sustainable Living Award

31 July 2021

Melding urban village living with Australiana and native surrounds, this sensational Applecross home is proving an icon in our local community and a trailblazer for sustainability.

When Adam and Kerry Mason commissioned Philip Stejskal Architecture to create a downsizer that would take them into retirement, energy efficiency and sustainability were paramount on their wish list.

“My wife and I were living in quite a large house in Booragoon and our kids were heading into their late teens so we knew we were going to be empty nesters in the not-to-distant future,” Mr Mason said.

With that in mind, the couple purchased 16A MacDonald Road six years ago with a green title 1980s triplex on the site. They rented it out for a few years while they beavered away on design plans for a new home – a process that took more than three years.

“As soon as I saw the block, I knew this was the place I wanted to live,” Mr Mason said.

“The reason for that is as we age-in-place, we wanted services close to us and we felt that Applecross village offered that. There’s also good access to public transport and the new Woolworths at Mount Pleasant, which is walking distance.

“We knew that we wanted a house that was going to be different. We didn’t want a grey box so we scrolled through Pinterest and came across Philip’s work and liked it.”

The collective dedication to the design has been celebrated in the Australian Institute of Architects 2021 Awards as winner of the Wallace Greenham Award for Sustainable Architecture and runner-up for the Residential Architecture Houses (New) Award.

MacDonald Road House draws inspiration from the classic Australian homestead with a wide timber veranda and external cladding to invoke privacy. This theme is complimented by native vegetation and a towering spotted gum in a yard curated by esteemed landscape architect Annghi Tran.

The house, which essentially comprises a one-bedroom apartment at ground level and two guest bedrooms and a bathroom in the roof space, employs passive solar design principles, including north-facing orientation, protected glazing and adequate shading while overcoming privacy concerns due to its busy corner location.

With a compact floorplan, the home’s circulation strategy allows its residents to comfortably remain in place with mobility aids as they age.

The brief also required high levels of thermal comfort with an 8+ NATHERS energy rating. Features to achieve this include hydronic underfloor heating, a heat recovery ventilation system, natural raw materials to minimise maintenance, high grate insulation and lift and lock sliding doors to ensure an air-tight result.

“Sustainability was a prime consideration for us,” Mr Mason said.

“We also wanted the house to be lock-and-leave capable as well, so part of the sustainability was to have a low energy footprint and also a native garden that attracted birds and was easy to look after.”

Mr Stejskal said the design of MacDonald Road House stepped outside the box and away from other homes in the suburb.

“They asked for something ‘iconic’, so we created a building that makes a significant contribution to its immediate setting, recognising the site’s role as unofficial gateway to the local shopping precinct,” he said.

“We looked firstly to history – particularly the great Australian homestead – and also its mid-century counterpart; a type that was well represented in Applecross until the advent of the MacMansion.

“Despite its location beside the roundabout and commercial hub, the house offers a sense of quiet and retreat behind its solid brick fence and spotted gum veil. We worked closely with our landscape architect to create a sanctuary; a unified domain of building and garden.”

Mr Mason said the AIA Awards were fitting recognition for the expertise of Mr Stejskal and Ms Tran and their teams.

“It’s not that hard, it’s not any more expensive. It’s just being smart about how you design your home and work with the sun and natural breezes rather than against them,” he said.

Photography courtesy of: Bo Wong

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