Browsing the real estate listings on domain.com, house pictured above located in a Merewether caught my attention as it was a simple home that appears not to have been renovated in many years. As the real estate agents put it, it was “ripe for renovation”. Merewether is quite a sought after beachside suburb of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. The land sizes are typically generous and as you push south it begins to rise and offer some beautiful views of the city and the coastline. This Particular example is not as fortunate regarding views but, is situated on a 613m2 block of land and has the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of easterly afternoon sea breezes which will keep the temperatures down and provide opportunity for good cross ventilation.
A good example would typically have a northerly orientation to the rear. In this case front is orientated to the North, this is not ideal to gain good direct sunlight other then the front few rooms facing the street. The plan is typical of its time, but the bedrooms are on the smaller side. Generally though, the plan is well arranged for for the time it was built. The bedrooms and bathroom are clustered together and offer privacy from the open living areas. There is however only a small door with landing and stairs to offer access to the rear yard through the laundry.
The Renovation Challenge
The challenge to this renovation is to give the addition floor area to bring it up to a standard that a buyer in this market would expect without making it dark and having poor cross ventilation. Simply adding addition rooms to the back would make the floor plan very “Fat”. By this I mean, it would be very deep from front to back and is already 13m wide. A good floor plan is long and thin with the long side orientated to the North and South, thus allowing good sun penetration into the home. The Northern orientation likewise would provide an opportunity to easily control the direct sunlight throughout the year with sun shading or overhangs to the windows. This design addresses the situation by placing the additional living area and new kitchen away from the existing building (in this this case 5.5m) to create a courtyard or deck area. This allows both living areas to open to the internalised outdoor space.
The exercise began by following the existing layout of the home, keeping the living areas on the western side. As I explored this approach it become obvious that the deck needed to be on the eastern side, as this would not only give protection from the western sun in summer. but open the floor plan up to the North Easterly breezes. Given the location we can rely on the North Easterly breezes to cool from early afternoon in the summer, even on some of the hottest days. I can expect some careful thought in developing this scheme further, so that the need for air conditioning is negated.
In this proposed example the general organisation of the plan has kept all the bedrooms together on the western side of the home, giving every opportunity for the living areas to remain cool. The living areas are also able to be closed down from the remainder of the home. In winter the areas that need heated can been heated in isolation and not the whole home, consequently becoming more energy efficient. This is one point not seen in many in many “Open Plan” homes these days. So what we have is an open plan area, contained within zones that are easily heated and cooled. This also helps with managing the noise within the home. The last thing wanted is to boil the jug for a cup of tea and not able to hear the TV while sitting in the lounge.
This is a significant renovation proposed to this home, but the benefits are enormous. This home now is very different on paper when it comes to selling. It is now 4 bedrooms + Study (or 5 Bedrooms if you wish), 2 Bathroom, 2 living areas with great connection to outdoors living area all increasing the dollar value of the property. The real benefit day to day gives you somewhere you can entertain, lighter and brighter living areas, workspace and luxurious bedroom spaces. It also maintains good cross ventilation and easy to heat during the cooler months. Essentially creating a home, you want to live every day.
In the next part to this series we will explore more detail design elements that contribute to make this design work as a whole.
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