Five firsts for NP designer

Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
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Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
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Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
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Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
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Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.
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Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.

Five entries and five top awards. You can't do any better than that and New Plymouth architectural designer Tony Biesiek is rightly pleased with those results.

His success this year came in the 2011 Architectural Designers of New Zealand Resene Regional Design Awards, held at a formal function in the Southward Car Museum facility at Paraparumu.

Tony chose four of his Imagine Building Design projects to enter in five of the eight available awards and took first placing in each.

Tony Biesiek says he is pleased to be winning awards with projects that don't involve huge budgets.
Tony Biesiek says he is pleased to be winning awards with projects that don't involve huge budgets.

The entries and categories were:

Stewart-Darling House - Residential New Home up to 250sqm Design Award.

Pepper House, New Plymouth - Residential Alterations and Additions Design Award.

Bennett House, Oakura - Residential New Home over 250sqm Design Award.

Bennett House, Oakura - Residential Interiors Architectural Design Award.

Oakura Pump Station, Shearer Reserve, Oakura - Commercial/ Industrial Design Award.

"Last year, I was too busy to enter," Tony says. "I've made up for it with a stellar year this year . . . beyond all expectations.

"To pick up one award is really special," he adds. "To pick up one in each category and first place at that . . . "

The 2011 success tops his 2009 result at the annual awards, when he brought home three first places and a second place for two residential homes and a beauty salon. In 2008, his first year as an award entrant, he gained a first place and three finalist awards in the Lower North Island awards, with one of the finalist entries going on to win him a finalist award at national level.

Tony finds out at the end of next month if his entries this year gather in any more national accolades.

That's not a driver for his work - the clients and the referrals and repeat business associated with them provide that incentive. But Tony admits there are benefits to awards participation and recognition.

"I'm not one to blow my own trumpet, but I am passionate about design and in a competitive environment it's pleasing that other people have rated my work." The awards judges include architects, artists and designers, he says.

Awards recognition is also a feather in the cap for clients, he adds. "It says they made a good decision choosing me as their designer. And for prospective clients, knowing that the calibre of my work is quite high, we don't have to sell ourselves as much."

The entries each year all reflect the broad scope of his work.

"They are all quite different," Tony says. "I don't have a particular style. I design for the client, for their needs and what makes them happy."

When the client is happy, Tony is also happy. "Designing is not a vehicle for my personal enjoyment . . . I design the best looking building within those parameters, and the budget."

Tony Biesiek has been involved in the architectural industry for 19 years and set up Imagine Building Design in 2002. Rapid growth of the business came with issues, however.

"I had seven staff at one point," Tony says, "but I became a glorified manager - and I didn't like it."

He's now down to a team of two - Tony as principal designer and architectural technician Steven Dixon, who adds in 3D computer design expertise. "I've come full circle, almost," Tony admits with a smile.

The work Imagine Building Design completes each year covers plenty of residential projects, but also embraces a substantial amount of much more modest Government contract work - through the Ministry of Health and ACC. The Government contracts mostly involve wheelchair access and bathroom renovations.

This work may be modest but there's a distinct feel-good factor associated with it, according to Tony.

"We've just finished our 53rd bathroom renovation," he notes. "That's quite rewarding, helping someone with mobility issues. They are often in the tiniest little homes and putting in a modern bathroom can mean they can shower by themselves for the first time in years.

"To see them stoked about that is really cool."

The challenges in this year's awards entries variously involved budgets, site conditions, technology and aesthetics.

Tony says he is pleased to be winning awards with projects that don't involve huge budgets. "There's not a $2 million house in there."

Stewart-Darling Home

The $350,000 budget for a new four- bedroom home reflects value for money, Tony Biesiek says. "They have a custom-designed, architecturally award winning house. That shows you can get good design on a tight budget and anyone who says you can't is a lazy designer."

The clients had come to Imagine Building Design after talking to a number of franchise builders. "They were disheartened with the quotes and told us the maximum dollars they had and meant it," Tony recalls.

They wanted a courtyard design for their rural setting and Tony came up with a simple plan that provided 216sqm of lifestyle - an entry courtyard, dramatic views to both north and south, four bedrooms, two living areas, a computer nook, and double garage.

He selected horizontal Coloursteel corrugated iron as a cladding to meet the budget. "The detailing makes it more . . . if you do it the right way, it works nicely. We gained visual relief with the shade pergolas."

The steel cladding and locally milled macrocarpa in the pergolas were part of a focus on sustainability in his designs. "I've always done that; it should be integral . . . that's a no- brainer," he emphasises. "It's sensible design."

Sloped plywood ceilings in the main living area are another aspect of that sustainability, as is the thermal mass of the ground polished concrete floor slab. The high stud allows windows up the north face of the home to let plenty of sun in to warm that slab.

Pepper House

This New Plymouth renovation project had an even stronger emphasis on sustainability, Tony points out, with features such as bamboo flooring, eucalyptus deck and sarking, locally milled timber and locally run steel cladding, solar panels generating electricity for the network grid and a solar hot water system.

The brief was to alter and extend the existing suburban cottage to create a modern family home with good outdoor living, and the enhancement of sea and bush views from the valley- edge setting.

Three quarters of the original wall framing and subfloor was retained in the project, while new materials choices were made carefully with a view to the future, he says.

"The insulation is made from 100 per cent recyclable polyester. It's a lot more user-friendly than itchy fibreglass."

Energy use was well controlled with the installation of inverter heat pumps and eco and LED lighting.

The 254sqm home is a "fantastic" house to be in, he says.

Bennett House

This project began with the clients subdividing their existing property - to gain a section that had its issues. "It was a tricky site and no standard plan worked for it," Tony says.

A flat area on the middle portion of the sloping ground had fill too deep to build on, but the challenge appealed to Tony.

"We benched back into good clay and hugged the home back into the slope. That left the fill area as recreational space and lawn."

Another tight budget constrained the development - as did the clients' preferences. "They liked the cube shape, but their favourite magazine photo had a gable roof."

Tony's solution was a creative blend of both. "I gave them a big black box 'crashing' through a gabled form."

Black metal cladding was a cost- control approach, but a number of structural details, such as timber slats, were added to balance the design. The design rises up three levels and the floor area totals 257sqm.

A significant amount of effort was spent beneath the visible structure of the home, Tony says. "It has fully engineered foundations and a premium waterproofing system is another part of the underground detail. The clients understood they could do that cheaper, but that had the risk of future failure."

Extra interior work on this home earned Imagine Building Design its two awards. "We designed the kitchen, selected the timbers, and came up with special features such as the glazed wall to the office/ lounge as well as the glass and steel stairs," Tony explains.

The timber kitchen is a different look to the current trends, he says. "The interior was a cool grey decor, so the beautiful Eucalypt timber kitchen, built by Newton Gordge, adds a warm glow."

Dark Tasmanian oak was used for shelves in the living areas, on the stairs, and in the feature glazed wall of the office.

The living areas on the middle level (entry foyer and garaging/workshop is at ground level) are modern and sleek, but the master bedroom above is "an old-fashioned retreat", Tony says. It features the detail of tongue-and-groove ceilings and the clients' existing timber bed frame was refurbished and painted to complement the new interior.

Sustainable design touches in this project include the thermal mass of the polished floor again, extensive use of LED lights, and the sourcing of interior timber from sustainable plantations.

Tony also provided the full site supervision and project management for the development of this property.

Oakura Pump Station

The suggestion of a grey concrete bunker for the premium green environment of Oakura's Shearer Reserve did not go down well in the North Taranaki township and the New Plymouth District Council commissioned Imagine Building Design to come up with an "exciting" alternative for the setting.

The structure required was to be a functional cap to the larger underground pumping facility, enclosing "ugly" engineering components, Tony says.

He came up with a concept that used a thin roof to appear to 'float' over a solid plinth. A band of black back-painted glass separates the roof and the concrete blocks of the base. A roof hatch is regularly used, so the roof had to act as a floor as well.

All sorts of ducts had to be accommodated in the design, and a special feature was the design of the acoustic doors that control the sound from the interior of the building, while still allowing the necessary airflow.

Tony's particularly pleased with the success of this awards entry. "This was a fun project . . . it doesn't fit the mould, and I thought it might do alright in the awards this year."

More than 400 projects have been completed by Imagine Building Design to date, about a fifth of them commercial in nature, the rest residential.

Taranaki Daily News