Design Ambassador's Choice - Charlotte House
A home for all seasons.
Design Ambassador Carolyn McFarland chose Charlotte House as her first featured Light Home because “it really shows that using lightweight materials gives you different options.”
McFarland says that Charlotte House, built in the hinterland of the New South Wales Mid North Coast, is a great example of a light home that uses thermal mass to combat the frequently changing weather conditions often found in coastal areas.
“The house is in a moderate climate. It’s very hot and humid in the summertime, but in winter the nights can be quite cool,” she says. “Thermal mass was an important feature for the inside of the house because it helps stabilize the temperature.”
For the uninitiated, thermal mass is used as a way of controlling the internal climate of a house without air conditioning or heaters, through the use of lightweight cladding on the outside of a home instead of brick.
“Bricks on the outside re-radiate any heat captured and transfer it outside, so in winter the house heats up during the day but gets cold very quickly at night,” says McFarland.
“What you need to do is use materials that heat up during the day and keep the heat inside in the winter, but in the summer help the house stay cool. That’s why it’s so important to use thermal mass on the inside, not the outside.”
Make the most of nature
McFarland recommends taking time and care to position the home, windows and eaves where they can make the most out of the natural elements.
“You need to have your thermal mass in the correct position so that it captures the sun in winter and not in summer, so it can be warmed up and kept cool when you want it,” she says.
Charlotte house has several unique design elements that help achieve this aim. The living area features a loft with large windows at the top, which help create a breeze through the home and draw out hot air during the summer months. A concrete slab has been placed at the front of the home to take advantage of incoming winter sun, while the positioning of large eaves towards the north limits exposure to the sun in summer.
Light is right
McFarland believes that Charlotte house “really is a good example of the different types of materials you can use in a lightweight structure, and shows that using lightweight materials means flexibility and different options.”
Lightweight materials were used throughout Charlotte house in a variety of ways. The longer elevations are clad in a mixture of fibre cement cladding and metal sheeting, which made way for larger window openings in the home.
“Using lightweight materials also meant we could get a lot of insulation in the walls, which retains the heat in the house when you need it,” she says.
However, lightweight materials weren’t the only cost-effective and environmentally friendly measures taken in this home design.
“The architect actually took the time to collect recycled materials to put inside the house,” says McFarland.
Running costs of the home are much lower overall than a traditional floor plan, with solar panels and solar hot water cutting operating costs significantly over the long term.
And what does McFarland think of the final product?
“The architects (Ian Surkin and Kate McLean) have put a lot of texture and warmth in to the home,” she says.
“It’s comfortable, sustainable and cost effectively done, and is a really good example of a warm and well-designed lightweight structure.”
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