A Home To Enjoy...Not Maintain

A retirement home for a Wellington couple presented our architectural team with an opportunity to develop a special solution for a challenging site. The client brief was to provide them with a home that was in harmony with their rural site. The house should be flexible enough to comfortably accommodate the couple and yet have room to expand when friends and family visit. Their expectation was to remain in this home for the long term and therefore the house needed to accommodate any future change in mobility. Minimising ongoing maintenance was another important factor. They preferred to spend their time enjoying their home, not wielding the paintbrush! 
Hamish Davies, now with Avery Team Architecture Ltd, initially led the design team. With his move overseas, Jane Kelly, now a director with Bell Kelly Beaumont Team Architecture Ltd took over the project at the documentation stage.
The semi-rural site is located on the lower reaches of the Tararua Ranges, north of Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. The lower extent of the site is swampy, inhabited by pukeko, and is bounded by the main trunk line and State Highway 1. A thick pine plantation occupies the middle third of the site with a collection of gum trees dispersed across the remainder. 

The environmental considerations including the noise, orientation and wind conditions directly dictated the location, form and finish of the new house. The upper third of the site was chosen as the best place for the home. A careful selection and removal of gum trees was sufficient to allow a building platform and courtyard to be cut into the slope. This maximised the sun and views as well as allowing the pine plantation to become a screen to shield the house from traffic noise and the prevailing northerly. The approach to the house is from the east down a long drive from the road above, which has become a journey through a well planted landscape.  The first view of the house, a collection of simple buildings, is when you turn the corner at the bottom of the drive.  Even at this point a sense of privacy is maintained as the buildings face west away from the entry courtyard. The glass front door is the only glimpse of the light and airy interior of the house and beyond to the trees. The dark grey aluminium framed door contrasts the solid ochre plaster wall that forms the western edge of the courtyard and the back spine of the house. This protective spine is the barrier between the public and private spaces. It contains the passage and service rooms and links the living spaces that spread out in a line opening up to the north-west to catch the sun and views.

Kapiti is renowned for long, hot, dry summers, therefore at an early stage the effective management of the interior environment was critical.  The collection and storage of large quantities of rainwater and the provision of shading and summer cooling while capturing the winter sun were important drivers of the design. The large simple roof form allowed rainwater to be harvested and stored for use in the house while the north west facing garage roof became the obvious place for solar collectors. The freestanding boat shed roof provided a further means of collecting water, this time for garden use. The mono-pitch roof and the use of double glazing on the west wall draws the sun deep into the living spaces in winter. Heat is stored in the polished concrete floors for release as the sun goes down. In summer, louvres along the west face limit the sun penetration.Temperatures are further controlled by high level opening windows allowing the hot air to escape. Louvres along the back corridor allow cool air to be drawn in to the house while security is maintained.  
The desire to capture and use effectively as much of the solar potential of this site prompted the installation of solar panels on the garage roof. These feed the hot water cylinder that supplies the northern end of the house. The separate bathroom and two guest bedrooms at the southern end of the house is designed to be shut off from the remainder of the house. With it’s own supply of hot water it is necessary to only service these areas when visitors are due. The environmental considerations extended to the most appropriate disposal of household waste water. An anaerobic and aerobic treatment system is used to produce odourless high quality treated water from the household waste water.  This is then dispersed in the pine plantation.

Responding to our clients brief for the use of maintenance free and environmentally sensitive materials for the house was another important factor in the design. The strategy used was to avoid, where possible, the need to access high level areas. This led to the decision to wrap the north, west and southern facades and roof in Zincalume®. The Zincalume® was continued over the high roof fascias and barge boards. Pre-finished soffit lining also meant that undertaking maintenance at high level is almost eliminated. Gutters that need checking and cleaning regularly because of the close proximity of trees were kept low and wide to the courtyard side of the house where access is easier. 

The result is a home that incorporates the best elements of modern architecture and the functionality of considered environmental design. Through summer and winter the house is comfortable and temperate to live in and is well suited to the busy life style that retirement brings for an active couple. The client reports that even the concrete floors require little work and are forgiving of muddy paw prints! 

Bell Kelly Beaumont Team Architecture.
The practice functions as a collaboration of the diverse skills of Warwick Bell, Jane Kelly and Peter Beaumont. They, along with a team of talented young designers and technicians, are committed to excellence and innovation in the design and management of construction projects.

The Directors have a strong base of residential work, including both new homes and alterations to existing houses amongst their work history.  This is complemented by a diverse range of commercial projects from retail and hospitality fitouts to the development of aged care facilities and industrial projects. The common thread through all these projects is the care taken by Bell Kelly Beaumont to ensure that each project is handled as a unique set of conditions, with the client requirements and site potential considered as a fresh challenge requiring an original and innovative solution.

Kelly Bell
Kelly Beaumont Team Architecture Ltd.
Telephone: 04-499-6123,

Roofing / Cladding manufacturer:
New Zealand Steel
Corrugate Zincalume®

Roofing / Cladding installer:
John Clutterbuck Roofing,
Telephone: 04 298 8799