Watson Case Study
Design and performance of Strine eHouse a winning combination
‘We spend a lot of time in this house—my husband is a stay at home dad and I work part time. It is just a fantastic place to hang out. It is by far the best house we’ve lived in because it is so well thought out, so thermally stable and well proportioned.’
Back in 2006, Stefanie Pidcock and her husband were looking for a house to buy in Canberra but were unimpressed with what they had seen.
‘We wanted to buy so we were looking and looked at quite a few houses around Canberra and this one was striking in its loveliness.’
Stefanie said she had been ‘particularly struck by how poorly traditional Canberra houses are designed for the climate. They are really hot in summer and really cold in winter and leak like sieves when you try to heat or cool them.’ She said that quite apart from their new home having to be efficient, comfort was also a priority.
They went to look at three houses built by ActewAGL in Watson to showcase sustainable design. All three were built next to each other, had different architects and combined different sustainability characteristics. On display to the public for a year, at the end of that period they were auctioned. For Stefanie, the choice was clear.
‘We chose Strine’s eHouse because it was the most interesting design, it was very different to standard looking houses and I liked the industrial look and the large proportions of the house. Also, the people managing the demonstration properties I spoke to confirmed this house had performed the best in terms of temperature regulation.
‘We chose Strine because of the design and performance,’ said Stefanie. ‘This was the only house of the three I was interested in.’
In early 2007, Stefanie and her husband were the proud new owners of a Strine eHouse and they haven’t looked back.
Consistent temperature throughout the year
‘In summer this house is just magnificent. We use it according to Ric’s instructions, which means at night we open the solar chimney and let warm air out. When we had several days of 40 ºC outside over summer , inside we did not get above 26 ºC. We had the ceiling fans on the lowest setting just to move air around, but the ambient temperature didn’t get above 26 ºC.’
In winter Stefanie said ‘even when it’s freezing outside it is gloriously warm inside and we need no heating whatsoever—it’s an absolute dream. During the day it’s comfortably toasty and t-shirt weather.
‘In fact there have been times when I’ve been sitting on the couch in sunshine in winter and it’s only single digits outside and I’ve been too hot to move out of the sun.’
Stefanie said that while the house holds its heat to above 16 ºC on a winter’s night, she feels the need for supplementary heating in the evening and first thing in the morning, ‘just to take the chill off’.
Disliking gas as she feels it sucks the oxygen out of the air, Stefanie chose to install hydronic heating, which along with a cavity sliding door between the master bedroom and garden room, were the only functional changes she made to the original specifications.
She said that even with the advent of two young children—now aged six and three—the house was a ‘perfect size’ and they ‘didn’t need to change anything at all’. She said the house was ‘flexible enough, big enough and importantly, adaptable’.
A house with the ‘wow’ factor
‘I really love the big central room with its vaulted ceiling, which gives a good sense of space and light and is unusual. Everyone comments on it. The proportions of the room are very appealing. It lets in lots of light and is very open.’
Stefanie said her family does ‘most of our living’ in this big central room. ‘It’s a very social space because it is home to the kitchen, dining and living area. We can pretty much exist in the central room.’
Stefanie also loves the north-facing windows as ‘you don’t need to use any lights during the day and all the lovely light floods in’, as well as the vine-covered pergola on the northern side of the house, which the central room opens directly onto. ‘It’s a very nice spot to go and sit under the vines in summer.’
Both Stefanie and her husband also love the quietness of the house.
‘My husband absolutely loves the fact the house is so quiet and you can be doing something in one room and you won’t be heard in another. So if he gets up in the morning and starts making school lunches or we have a cup of tea in the evening in the garden room, we know the kids can’t hear us.’
This awareness of being isolated from noise generated inside and outside the house is thanks to the highly insulated precast concrete sandwich panels manufactured by Strine. They provide an acoustic privacy that benefits psychological wellbeing.
‘People walk in and go “wow”, what a fabulous house. That is pretty much universally the comment people will make when they come in. And I think a lot of it has to do with the proportions of the house’ said Stefanie.
‘In summer they’ll definitely notice how cool it is, and in winter how warm it is. It’s a house that is instantly appealing to people.’