House of the week: Nelson

Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013
House of the week: Nelson
By keeping the footprint minimal and building over three levels, Marc Barron has achieved plenty of living space, as well as good-sized bedrooms and bathrooms to cope with ensuing family requirements as the children grow up.

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Integrating a contemporary design into one of Nelson's more established streets, one that is already filled with diverse architecture, was a challenge for architect Marc Barron when creating his own family home. That task was made even more complex by his wish to include five bedrooms, but the final build has proven award winning.

Attention was paid to environment, family living and the community throughout the design, and the build is over three levels and is ultimately a response to site limitations. Other factors included the size of an adjacent build, topography and catering to a wish to maximise north facing frontages while minimising environmental footprint.

All principal rooms are orientated towards the garden, providing privacy, sun and views over the Nelson Cathedral. Secondary rooms are on the south side, with windows that boast views over the native planted road reserve. Living areas and bedrooms all open to north-facing balconies and terraces; these expand the living spaces while also shading spaces below.

Barron has achieved an average 20 degree ambient temperature in the house, no matter the season. In fact, it's in the winter when internal temperatures inside peak at 26 degrees, while in the summer they peak at 24 degrees: this is all the result of clever design that makes use of Nelson's sunshine.

The house is built from concrete tilt slabs, maximising passive solar gain on the inside, while outside vertical cedar shiplap weather boarding provides an insulated rain-screen. The cedar is stained to a natural timber finish, which blends nicely with surrounding trees and shrubbery. On the inside concrete is exposed, balanced by the colour and texture of Tasmanian oak joinery, polished black concrete floors, snug carpeted floors and white painted walls. 

Barron says much of the success is attributable to the professionalism of builder John Harris, who was short-listed for a national master builders award because of the project.

"It was technically challenging because of the sequencing of construction, things had to happen in order and the design required a high degree of precision because the concrete was exposed on the inside, it had to be precise. On the exterior the detailing in the cedar cladding also required equal precision."

The project won a local NZIA award and a Master Builders supreme award, which acknowledges the skills of both architect and builder. 


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Build Cost: $600,000 plus siteworks and garage

Architect: Marc Barron, Jerram, Tocker, Barron Architects Ltd., Nelson

Size: 300 sq.m, excluding decks and garaging

Builder: John Harris, Harris Builders, Nelson

Materials: Concrete, cedar, colour steel

Energy Efficiency: Passive solar house with back ups. Effectively a three-sided box in plan with few openings to the west, east and south sides and large openings to the north with overhangs for solar control. Polystyrene insulation on the concrete outside, beneath the rain screen, gas fired underfloor heating, double glazing.

Done Right: "It works extremely well," says owner-architect Marc Barron. "It shades the sun when it needs to and allows the sun in when it needs to; a generally constant 20 degrees Celsius is maintained throughout the year."I think I also got the basic site planning right, as architects we do tend to want to be creative and this is simple, a basic rectangle, street side facing north."

Done Wrong: "If you talk to my wife she'd say the wardrobe is too small, but it was quite deliberate." 

Unexpected: "How many people like the house, I thought it would be challenging for Nelson, it's quite uncompromising and I thought it would cause some negative public comment, but so many people tell me how they like it, and the colour of the cedar seems to have been copied ever since." 

Recommend: "I had to break all the planning rules to achieve this build so I don't think people should just follow the rules, they should challenge and consider what is best for their site. So many people slavishly follow the rules, our site demanded an approach outside the planning rules, and all sites are like this, unique and should be approached with that in mind."

Next Time: "A bigger wardrobe! I'm looking forward to the next time. The next time our needs will be different, we built this needing space for four children, next time we won't need that. Next time it will be a village approach and maybe in a rural environment where we can spread out more."

- © Fairfax NZ News


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