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Gidgegannup Bush Retreat

Status: in progress

Services provided:
  • Architecture /
  • Design

The Gidgegannup Bush Retreat was borne out of our clients’ desire for an escape from their daily life in an urban environment. As you emerge from the lush Gidgegannup forest the dual-wing home appears as a timber refuge in the clearing. The home is offset to the elevated end of a sloping block, providing them with an outlook across a rural paddock onto the surrounding bush that falls away from the property. Upon entering, the living areas of the home are contained in the structure to the left, with an open plan kitchen, dining, and living area, which open to a covered alfresco, and an expansive deck area with features such as a firepit and a built in BBQ. There is a secondary wing to the right connected via a covered walkway that contains the private areas of the home. There are three bedrooms, each with built-in-robes, a laundry, powder room, and bathroom adjacent to an outdoor shower. On the block is a small shed / studio separate from the house.

The focus of the home was on creating a place of welcome for family and friends, one that prioritises communal interactions and has been designed to facilitate relaxation & connection for the guests. The individual private areas of the home are separated into a different wing, encouraging the inhabitants to remain in the communal spaces and promoting more time spent together.

What were the clients’ main driving priorities for this house?
The brief was to create a holiday house on a farm block purchased by our clients in Gidgegannup. It was to be a place to take their young family to on weekends to get away from city life. The primary focus of the house was to create living and outdoor spaces that bring the family together in a relaxing environment. The bedroom wing was developed as separate pod to the living areas so that if the owners decided to entertain guests and friends the kids would not be disturbed while they were sleeping. Sustainability was also a high priority for our clients, thus for example, a lot of natural timbers were used. As the home was in a fire prone area the timbers selected were fire resistant timbers, pre-burnt to improve their fire resistance.

What sort of lifestyle did these clients want to live?
As this was not to be the clients’ primary residence, their intention was to create a relaxing environment to get away from the stresses of city life. Key to achieving this was to emphasise the connection to the surrounding natural environment. The site of the house is a rural paddock within the lush forest of Gidgegannup, the design of the house is focused to maximise the views of the surrounding nature from both indoors and the various outdoor spaces. This bush retreat home allows them to transcend their daily routine and usual lifestyle, and immerse themselves in nature.

What was the biggest challenge or compromise that had to be made?
As the project was in a rural location, we designed the home to be modular for ease of construction. However site access was also very difficult, this meant that we had to complete a highly accurate site access assessment. This then informed what size modules would be possible within the access constraints, and the design stemmed from this. Having to plan in detail the transport and access for construction first in order to design was a reverse of the standard design process.

The secondary challenge was to address the orientation of the house. Ideally, the largest aspect of the house should face north for the best lighting and energy performance. However the site slopes downwards to the south, this meant that the impressive views that we wanted to capture were to the south. With the clients we decided to prioritise the views and so oriented the living areas to open up to the southern side of the site, with the bedrooms also positioned to the south with full height windows to the view. This meant that the back of the home faces the top of the hill to the north. One advantage of orienting the building to the south is that we could include expansive amounts of glazing without fear of the building overheating from excessive direct sunlight exposure. Additionally, as the skillion roof angles down towards the back of the home, this means that the roof is perfectly oriented for solar panels. To combat the reduced sunlight of a south-oriented building, we included highlight windows on the northern side of the house that will capture the winter sun. These will also allow for cross flow ventilation in summer as the summer breezes come up the hill to the house.

What is the clients’ and your favourite feature of this home?
Our clients’ favourite feature is the large deck area with the sunken fire pit. They really wanted an outdoor space that could be used all year round and would be somewhere that would bring the family together to just hang out. The fire pit is perfect for staying warm, toasting marshmallows, and telling stories around on cool winter nights, whereas the deck is great all times of the year, and the covered alfresco is ideal for when it is raining or to provide a shady retreat when the sun is too hot.

I personally love the materials used on this project. The use of pre-aged and pre-burnt timbers, in the way they look, and also in the sustainability aspect of these products, meaning that the whole building is essentially timber framed. The use of this timber results in minimal use of steel or manufactured products in the main construction of the building.

Can you give us a rundown of the sustainable features of this home?
There are no mains services to the site so the home had to be completely self-sufficient. We designed the home to be fully sustainable, generating its own power and collecting and storing its own water. The home has an off-grid solar solution, consisting of a 9kW solar PV system, a 8.2kW inverter, and a 24kWh battery bank. The cost of this off-grid system was equivalent to the cost of a Western Power run in to the property, thus it was a cost neutral exercise to make the home off-grid. A 100,000L colorbond rainwater tank supplies the water needs for the home.

The house was built predominantly with timber, including the structure and the cladding. Rammed earth was also used in the home, with the product materials being pulled up from the site. Windows are double glazed to minimise heat transfer, the timber wall frame system has an R3 rating and the ceiling system is rated R5.