Story by Anthony Coates
Photography by Jamie Cobeldick
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When architects design a house in a warm climate, they employ tricks of the trade that are not always obvious to the casual viewer
In Australian architecture, there aresome basic rules of thumb pertaining to the hot climate. The first rule: beware the setting sun. As any architect will tell you, it's imperative to protect your design from the hottest part of the day. This project by Gabriel and Elizabeth Poole Design Company at Elysium Noosa was designed to stay cool, through a mixture of sympathetic orientation and natural ventilation.
The architects received a fairly open brief from the developers – design a high-end home with plenty of architectural merit. The material palette was open, and the only restrictions concerned the setback on the site, the internal floorspace and the overhang of the eaves.
As with any design in a development, it must be seen within the context of the surrounding houses. The Elysium Noosa development has two distinct series of houses, known as Master Architects and Young Guns. Gabriel Poole was selected to design a Master Architects house, on the strength of his reputation, built over more than 45 years in the industry. During this time, Poole has become known for his delicate architectural touch. He has an aversion to making wholesale changes to the natural features of the site, and was using lightweight and low-cost materials long before they were in vogue.
The effect of Poole's tutelage can be seen in this design by project architect Graham Nottle. He overcame the design challenges presented by the development's building codes with a soft touch reminiscent of Poole.
"One of the first challenges was the site setback regulations, which drastically cut down the effective size of the site. This meant a small footprint, necessitating a tall design. Add to this the restrictions on the roof overhang, and we would have had large areas of exposed wall, which absorb a lot of heat. To overcome this, we designed horizontal timber cladding that sits away from the wall to minimise heat absorption," says Nottle.
As well as keeping the house cool, there are ambient techniques that have a peaceful, cooling effect on the house. The use of the water feature at the front door is a case in point.
"As well as imparting a serene feeling on entrance, the water cools air as it passes over, and even creates a gentle breeze, much like the way the warm land and cool sea create sea breezes," he says.
Creating breezes is essential in a warm climate. Each wall should have some form of opening, be it a louvre, a door or a window. As Poole puts it, there are to be no "dead corners." Even the roof has a cleverly integrated ventilation system to expel hot air from the apex of the ceiling.
"Through the combined use of clerestory windows and a ventilated ridge behind the timber on the ceiling, warm air will not accumulate in the ceiling space," says Nottle.
The clerestory windows also serve the important function of making the high ceiling seem less imposing, by breaking up the internal wall. They allow a limited amount of indirect light – enough to lighten the space, but not enough to have any detrimental heating effect.
First published date: 12 September 2008
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