House of the week: Whangamata

JILL WILD
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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When architectural designer Diana Blake planned a new family home in Whangamata, she and husband Barry wanted something they'd be able to hand down to their trio of kids: their selection of materials had longevity in mind, and the design needed to cope with touted environmental changes.

"We're harbour-front at Whangamata so we needed to think about rising sea levels, and with Barry an engineer I designed so that he could build our home," explains owner and architect Diana.

The four-bedroom house is constructed from 46 concrete tilt slabs, all made on-site, as well as 50 mm polystrene sandwiched between an inner thinner layer of concrete and an exterior thicker concrete layer. "Barry did the slabs in lots of 10 so there was plenty for the crane to lift at any one time."

For Diana the challenge was situating her design on a difficult section, which is narrow and long (nearly an acre) but also has sea views to the south east. "I wanted to maximise the views but also capture the sun, so we've got a nearly transparent link, which in the summer opens to the sea and in the winter can be closed to protect an internal courtyard.

The house is sort of T-shaped, the living in the central transparent link, kids and guest bedrooms at one side of the link and our master bedroom and bathroom at the other side.

"For Diana, the build has proved a perfect advertisement for her design talents, and she is now inundated with work, initially thinking she might have to travel as far afield as Hamilton for clients, she's now found all her work is on the Coromandel.

THE DETAILS

Build cost per square metre: $2000+

Builder: Barry Blake

Architectural designer: Diana Blake, Diana Blake Design

Size: 350 sq.m, plus 150 sq.m decking, 100 sq.m studio

Materials: Polished concrete floor, tilt slab walls, creosote stained traditional bevelled cedar weatherboards to break up the concrete exterior, zincalume long run roof, aluminium joinery left in natural metal colour.

Energy efficiency: "The electricity bills are remarkably low," comments Diana. The build has underfloor heating throughout heated by a wood fire situated in a boiler room and operated from April/May through to September, the sole form of heating in the house. "In the summer it's a constant temperature, not too hot and in the winter the underfloor heating maintains a wonderful temperature throughout the house."

Done right: ''Capturing the outdoors and bringing it inside; the use of materials, the floor is so forgiving with kids, our youngest scooters around the house, she comes off second best to the walls; it's a very economical house to run.''

Done wrong: ''The kids would like a second storey so they could have stairs, I'd have a bigger pantry.''

Unexpected: ''The cost of doing the foundations, we had to dig down 1.5 metres to get solid ground, that was a big cost. But at the same time we elevated the house 800 cms to future-proof it if the sea level rises.''

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Recommend: ''Polished concrete floors, they're so easy with kids and double glazing. Also having the kids area separate so they have their own area apart from us for entertaining their friends.'' Next time: ''No, this is it, I don't see us doing all this again. Well, maybe building a holiday house in the city. But we built this to hand on to our children, so no next time in Whangamata.''

- © Fairfax NZ News

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