House of the week: New Plymouth

Last updated 05:00 08/05/2013

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Transforming a century-old cottage that compromised a mish mash of structural styles into a modern family home with panache was the task of Taranaki architectural designer Tony Biesiek and his team. 

Through alteration and extension the clients wanted a contemporary Pasifika-themed home with outdoor living, they wanted to maximise sea and bush views and have the opportunity to show off their collection of sculptures and artwork gathered from around the Pacific.

The change is substantial; the original was a single-level two-bedroom cottage with separate dining, separate lounge, separate kitchen, bathroom, separate toilet and separate laundry with decking at the front and back. 

The new home is over two levels, the lower level features three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one ensuite), garaging, an entrance foyer and stairs to the second level of living. This top level features a lounge, study, dining area, powder room, kitchen and upper level decking offering those client-requested sea views. The change has been achieved around five sustainable design principles, says Tony Biesiek, reduce, reuse, replace, recycle and rethink.

Peppers Construction, one of Taranaki's oldest family run building companies, built the renovation and addition. The team says dealing with an old villa can be akin to a minefield, until you really take off the outer layer it;s too hard to know, definitively, the condition of the structure.

The design has achieved reduction of heating costs using solar hot water heating, photovoltaic solar energy collectors and an inverter connecting to the network grid. A wetback on the woodfire provides hot water heating in the winter, which is supplemented by inverter heat pumps. Insulation has been maximised in the walls and ceiling and argon-filled thermally broken aluminium window joinery ensures maximum heat retention. Water consumption has been reduced through low flow fittings. 

Much of the structure was repurposed and reused, and while the bamboo flooring is new, it is a sustainable product, says Biesiek. The exterior macrocapra cladding and decking and sarking of eucalyptus was sourced from sustainable locally-milled plantations. Numerous natives have been planted in the build surrounds, far in excess of those removed for site clearance, ensuring minimum environmental impact.

The insulation throughout the build is polyester, manufactured from 100 per cent recycled product. And in terms of rethinking, Tony Biesiek says the whole decision-making process of design and construction on the home brought about a total rethink. 

"For example, the selection of the board lengths required careful thought, we were constantly aware of what was being dumped in the waste skip to ensure we were getting maximum use from materials. Planning included the collecting and use of rain water for irrigation, minimising reliance on town water supply. The custom-designed metal cladding we used was run locally, saving on over five hours freight cost from an out of town supplier, another saving."

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The client is delighted with the modernisation and extension of the old villa, which has created a light and spacious space more relevant to the surrounds and view. It's safe to say a villa originally built to the road has been transported into a home fit for 21st century living.



Build Cost: $500,000

Size: Existing floor area: 110 sq. m. New floor area: 254 sq. m.

Architectural Designer: Tony Biesiek, Imagine Building Design

Builder: Pepper Construction, New Plymouth

Materials: Macrocarpa weatherboard, zincalume wall panel on ply (made by builder) for exterior, bamboo flooring (with rubber underlay to soften the noise on the second level), Australian gum ceiling sarking, pine and rimu exposed laminated ceiling beams, ceiling soffits lined with aluminium, cedar barge and facsia boards, copper downpipes, coloursteel roof.

Energy Efficiency: Wall and ceiling batts, including internal and underfloor, 20 photo voltaic solar panels on roof feeding to the grid, solar hot water with a wetback on a solid fuel fire, under deck rain water tank for garden use (or emergency use). 

Done right: How comfortable it is and the added light upstairs. Also, the internal covered deck upstairs is lovely, provides al fresco living with a view protected from the prevailing wind, it was located very cleverly by the designer.

Done wrong: I probably wish I’d done gas hot water with more photovoltaic panels rather than solar hot water heating. 

Unexpected: The condition of the old house, we thought we could have retained more, but when we opened it up much of the 100 year old house was just too old for recycling. Also, at the entry Tony Biesiek created almost an atrium feel; it gives a real sense of space.

Next Time: Allow for a lot of contingencies to do with existing structure to bring it up to modern living standards. And I’d suggest allowing a bigger budget for site works, we did a lot of landscaping which involved a bit of retaining. But we’d use the same designer; Tony’s got a real skill and ability to envisage things.

Recommend: Having a contingency of 10 to 20 per cent for the unforeseen. When you build new on old you end up having to buy new furniture and fittings to suit.

Next Time: Get a swimming pool as well. And I’d probably build new not renovate.


- © Fairfax NZ News


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