Sustainable Architecture by Lambourne Architects: Solar hot water, Double glazing, Heat pump. Tony and Jean Bacon owned a section 300 metres above sea-level in the Waitakere Ranges, west of Auckland, for many years before deciding to build on it. They wanted a light, sunny house for easy living, a practical home office, and workrooms for their creative endeavours.
Solar hot water
Tony and Jean Bacon owned a section 300 metres above sea-level in the Waitakere Ranges, west of Auckland, for many years before deciding to build on it. They wanted a light, sunny house for easy living, a practical home office, and workrooms for their creative endeavours.
Designed by Lambourne Architects
The section has stunning views over Auckland, but drops away steeply on either side.
Pole foundations and a three-level house were the best solution. Their brief called for a comfortable energy-efficient home. Since a concrete slab on the ground was out of the question we incorporated some suspended concrete slab, good insulation, plenty of north and north-west glazing, and a multiple-outlet heat pump system for energy-efficient heating (and cooling).
All the roof water is collected in a tank, filtered and UV-treated. The sewage system is a new "biolytic filter" system, which treats effluent to a high standard so that it can be drip-irrigated into the bush. The process depends on special worms which are seeded into the tank. These are no ordinary worms though: if the conditions in the tank vary too much from the ideal, the worms email their maintenance manager to complain.
Having worked in IT for 35 years, Tony wanted to future-proof the new house. An Auckland company "smart-wired" the house for lighting, telecommunications, entertainment and security. The light switches can be programmed to perform a number of functions, including preset mood lighting combinations, automatic sensor switching and setting the alarm system.
Tony and Jean are very happy with most aspects of their new home. They have been impressed with the heat pump system, and the solar hot water system.
"It supplies all our hot water over summer. We switch the power off in November, and on again in March" says Tony. "Our typical power use on a summer day is 21 kilowatt-hours, on a winter day, 58 kilowatt-hours"
"It's a lovely light, airy house" says Jean. My downstairs workroom gets very warm in the morning, and the stairwell windows capture all the afternoon warmth in the winter".
In the pursuit of energy-efficiency Tony and Jean decided to install a heat recovery coil that reclaims heat from the warm water in the shower drain. While this system works well in commercial situations, they feel it was not cost-effective for them as the hot water is mostly solar-heated anyway.
Their experience with "smart-wiring" has not been all good:
"Although the couple love the technology, they've not been entirely happy with the experience of smart-wiring their house. Tony says they have suffered their fair share of software bugs, hardware problems and also promises of technological capabilities that weren't a reality. The main problem, he says, is that there are few industry standards, meaning he relies on the company that installed the system to maintain it." (Consumer, May 2005).
Building a new house is a big commitment of both time and energy. For me, as an architect, the best reward is to have clients who are happy with the result, so it's always a pleasure to visit Tony and Jean in their new house.