Up High Performer

An opportunity to downsize and a shift in thinking has resulted in a little home on a steep hill, making a bold statement in smaller living.

 

Aaron Jones of Urban Function Architecture specialises in designing hillside homes. He has embraced the principles of small home living - which is essentially reducing the footprint of what are traditionally large New Zealand homes and investing those savings into the performance and quality of the house.

When Aaron's client started to question whether he really needed to replace his large 1980s earthquake damaged home 'like for like' as per his insurance policy, Aaron was able to provide clever solutions for the bedrock site on the steep lower slopes of Mt Pleasant in Christchurch that reduced its footprint.

'The client was realising a 260m2 replacement home far exceeded his requirements. We could achieve something more suitable for less cost. In addition, the client has a love of tramping and bushwalking so he wanted the home to have a connection with nature and to feel a bit like a cabin in the bush.'

The compact high performing home uses what are considered low cost materials in the trade - in beautiful ways. For example, the exterior is clad in knotty grade cedar which as well as being an appropriate response to the rustic 'back to nature' brief, has resulted in 50 per cent cost savings on the cladding. The rugged finish, which celebrates imperfections, stands out in what is becoming a sleek neighbourhood of rebuilt homes.  

For the floor, Aaron specified large span CLT - cross laminated timber floor panels. Installing CLT served to reduce piling requirements by 50 per cent, and gained considerable savings in time, labour and materials. Instead of covering the CLT floor, they chose to leave the pine finish exposed, applying extra coats of polyurethane for protection.

Aaron says working with a smaller space and the constraints of the site forced him to design differently and to search for light and space. 

'Large skylights pour light into the entry hallway and bathroom. Inside, everywhere you look there is a window. Whether it's a small floor window or a wide expansive view, it gives you a connection to the outside and to the sky. Smaller spaces aren't restrictive - good design can give the illusion of more space through bumping up the volume and allowing more light.'

Aaron feels encouraged that more New Zealanders are realising a big house is not necessarily better.

'I think it's coming about through necessity - the cost of land and the costs of construction rising, but also there's a shift in thinking: people are starting to understand the benefits of high performing houses and are more flexible around how they use space. 

'When we reduce a house's footprint we can spend more on the performance values of a house - increasing energy efficiency and making the most of smart technologies and clever construction techniques.'

Visit Aarons ADNZ profile for more examples of his work.