Wanaka Haven Luxury Lodge

Wanaka Haven Luxury Lodge

This design for a combined residential property and 5-bed visitor accommodation was challenging despite having a large 4-hectare site. The dedicated platform was relatively small, poorly orientated and came with a 5-metre height restriction. A number of configurations were considered before settling on separate wings of private and guest accommodation that are joined by the living areas facing the North.

This gave priority of view and sunlight penetration to the guest bedrooms and both the guest and private living areas. The remaining Guest bedrooms face east and the private bedrooms face east through an internal courtyard.

The courtyard allows for breakout areas for both the private and guest areas away from the predominant Northwester and potential areas of shade in the summer months. Hedging will create outdoor rooms within the courtyard separating the entry from amenity spaces.

A limited combination of materials was used in the project with render and schist to Northern aspects receiving a lot of sun and wind, and natural timber (cedar, Douglas fir and Macrocarpa) to areas adjoining human activity and in shaded verandahs or Southern facing areas. This added warmth to the exterior while minimising maintenance.

The warmth of timber is carried into the interior with the use of double timber doors into the main entry and timber floors throughout the living and bedroom areas. Circulation areas are tiled and are generous in size to avoid damage from suitcases and bags. There is a drying room for ski gear to minimse gear inside the guest rooms.

 The 15 degree pitch allows the skillion ceilings to give a sense of spaciousness without feeling too lofty and keeping the building within the height restriction. A minimum 2.7m stud was employed to maintain a sense of space and ensure that mountain tops were not cut out of view.

The total floor area of the project is 560m2 so energy costs were a key consideration. It was decided that the guest and private living areas would have a wood-burner each for visual comfort and any power outages but the remainder of the heating would be meet with a geothermal (ground to water) heat exchanger that runs under-floor heating (UFH) throughout the house. This simplified the heating and domestic hot water systems providing low maintenance and highly efficient use of energy.

To keep heat loss to a minimum the perimeter included 600mm deep polystyrene block foundation walls and continuous XPS insulation under the slab.

The walls received a 100mm layer of batt insulation between 150mm studs and 100mm noggins and a second layer of 50mm rigid insulation continuous over the noggins. The ceiling received similar treatment with 200mm batts between the rafters and 50mm rigid insulation between the purlins on edge. This criss-cross of insulation minimizes cold bridging through the structure.

To stabilize internal temperatures and to provide good acoustic privacy between the rooms, 140mm masonry block work was used internally to enclose all bedrooms and living areas.

The use of PVC windows from NK Windows in Christchurch added to the thermal efficiency of the enclosure and allowed flexibility with tilt/turn or tilt/slide functionality.

All bathrooms were treated as wet rooms and finished with quality Grohe and Villeroy and Boch sanitaryware.

Each guest room has its own external sitting area that creates a private zone while providing shade from the summer sun while allowing the low winter sun to penetrate into the rooms.

As a rural site on site septic disposal was required. Two Biolytix Biopods were utilised using worms and other organisms to convert sewage into garden irrigation water. The driplines where designed to irrigate the lawn directly to the North of the building while making allowance for a future swimming pool and spa pool. Both of these shall be heated using the existing geothermal heat exchanger.

The clients are busy establishing productive planting on site with an orchid already providing fresh berries for the guests. It will be interesting to see the landscaping grow and further define spaces extending beyond the house.

Photography : Larsson Photography and Chris Norman Architecture Ltd.

Situation Vacant

Architecture Graduate or Registered Architect

I have filled this position with the appointment of Duncan Barron a graduate from Victoria University of Wellington. Duncan not only has great computer presentation skills but brings a sense of build-ability to his creative ideas. Many graduates presented great imagery but often with little sense of structure and construction. It is great to think outside the square but it is also important to be able to progress these ideas into physical reality. Equally important as a commercial employer is to progress these ideas into a economic and functional reality.

Duncan also brings in interesting ideas from his thesis on Suburban Infill for Wellington that are equally applicable to all suburban areas of New Zealand; see an extract below;

Since widespread private car ownership became the norm, low density detached housing has become embedded in a New Zealand culture that reveres the traditional suburban home. However, as the population of New Zealand’s major cities continue to grow and experience demographical shifts, it is realised that the current trend in low density detached housing does not provide a sustainable solution to meet our future housing needs. My thesis explored how row housing can be integrated into a suburban context to meet the demographical needs and suburban amenity associated to the traditional detached home. Row housing has provided the needs for dense residential habitation across the world for many centuries. Despite this, row housing is a relatively new form of housing to New Zealand, with very few Wellington developments located in suburbia. Medium density housing developments are becoming increasingly important as an alternative housing type to intensify existing areas and contain the proliferation of suburban sprawl.

With the majority of Wellingtonians choosing to reside in the suburbs, the comparative nature of increased dwelling density in row housing goes against the tradition and ethos of low density detached home ownership. As a result, there is a strong conflict with the integration of row housing, compounded by public resistance and market aversion to this housing type. When considered in context, it is acknowledged that row housing invariably involves a degree of compromise in seeking to identify with local traditions of low density detached housing. Three key interconnected design issues are identified: the accommodation of internal garaging and car access, the relationship between internal living space and outdoor space and the degree of individuality expressed to each house.

Queensbury Hill House: Project Update

Queensbury Hill House: Project Update

The Queensberry Hills house is now under construction and first impressions are more than we had wished for. As a stand-alone object in the environment it feels well connected to the landscape with the precast concrete panels similar in tone to the local rock outcrops. The decision was made to eliminate the cantilevered walls on the downslope side of the house in order for the house to rise out of the ground while simplifying load paths due earthquake loading in combination with the high snow loading found at the 560 metre elevation. To minimize earthquake loads we have also decided to use a schist chip wearing-layer over the membrane roofing in lieu of the tussock & earth covered roof.

The robustness of the panel walls is symbolic that the house is designed for a windspeed of 216km/ hour which will lift grit to effectively sandblast the exterior. The openings in the panels now frame particular viewpoints which were previously lost in the immense landscape panorama. There is particular focus on features like the Clutha River, Lake Hawea, the Saint Bathans and Pisa mountain ranges.

Oversized conduits have been passed under the walls allowing for flexibility of services and heating options. The primary heat source is a ‘Earth Tube’ ground to air heat exchanger which will feed into a high spec Energy Recovery ‘Air to Air’ heat exchanger.  The Earth Tube comprises of a 225mm diameter corrugated pipe that is run through a 140 metre long service trench from the site boundary. It is estimated that if the outside temperature is -5o C and the ground temperature is at 10oC we should be able to deliver the air at 7oC to the house.  This incoming air will then pass through a Counter Flow Energy Recovery Heat exchanger that will be preheated by the transfer of energy from the stale exhaust air that is to be vented to the outside. Modern ERV systems such as the Zehnder Comfosystem that is being offered by Fantech in NZ offer up to 95% heat recovery of the exhaust air. As a physical feature the client is looking at a sculptural Cheminee woodburner that will be direct vented to avoid drawing preheated fresh air up the chimney.

Given the large area of the site the client is still considering a ground loop ‘Ground to Water’ heat exchanger to heat the domestic hot water. We originally considered this as a heat source for under-floor heating but we are moving away from the idea of this given the high level of insulation air tightness and efficiency of Energy Recovery ventilation systems. In simplifying the heating system the floor slab may provide potential for thermal mass and temperature stabilization through the employment of Phase Change Materials being incorporated into the slab. This technology is relatively new and may be difficult to source products for the floor within NZ.  This technology is available as a proprietary product in Germany with Doerken offering a product called Delta Cool 24 which is available as a panel product with 20mm of Delta Cool 24 offering the equivalent heat capacity storage as 240mm of concrete.

The project has been designed so that it will be constructed as a weathertight structure with a free spanning roof structure allowing the interiors and services to be completed in a manner similar to a commercial fitout. The advantage of this is that the client can confirm the interior layout within a physical space, adjustments to the fit-out budget can be made after monitoring the ‘lock-in’ costs and the design can respond to changes in technology and product availability in the time it takes to get the necessary building consents and to construct the building enclosure.



Old School

My family and I took a holiday over Christmas and most of January visiting the Hawkes Bay and Gisborne region. It was interesting to see how the regional architecture responded to the climate and local built environment. Staying in Taradale the urban fabric was tightly knit but with large trees which helped give character where there was no view and shade from the hot Hawkes Bay climate. In some respects the architecture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s responded to excessive summer heat by using smaller openings, large overhangs, and small courtyards in a similar manner that we are employing here in Wanaka to deal both with excessive summer heat and to deal with heat loss, frosts and winds in the Winter.  We are inspired by overseas architecture that looks great in the coffee table books and magazines, but even here in young NZ there are many lessons to be learnt from the past that we need to keep reviewing as we are presented with new technologies and patterns of living. Although advances in construction present new opportunities, are these always appropriate to the local issues?

Another example of looking to the past seen on our trip was the evidence in the 1931 Napier earthquake and the Art Deco rebuild of this city. Many issues like collapsed brick parapets & ornamental features where all well documented in 1931 and we have seen a disastrous repeat of that in the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, we are aware of this but what action will the rst of NZ take?

Napier responded to immediate needs with a ‘pop up’ retail mall in a city park which we have again seen in Christchurch. I also imagine we are going to see a similar response of low scale simplified buildings that are built out of a desperate need for space and built during tough economic times.

Another example of missing or perhaps ignoring the clues of the past is the issue of flood waters from Lake Wanaka. The two remaining residential properties within the township of Wanaka (one now remaining since January 2012) were both elevated from the existing ground level by at least 1 metre. Town developed around these buildings but with no respect to the historical clues that these two earlier buildings had. Now the township is in a difficult position where some buildings have considered flood levels and others have not and it is nearly impossible to rectify this with ad hoc development so we have to deal with the consequences whereas we could have designed around this.

I recently acquired a series of Renovation books on Villas; Bungalows; Art Deco; 1940-1960s and 1970s produced by BRANZ which detail the development of various residential styles and their method and materials of construction.  Many of the details of these styles of building have been superseded by new aesthetic requirements but the practicalities and functionality of some of these details should not be forgotten and the limitations of their construction can constantly be reviewed in light of new material developments. Part of my review process comes about from living in new houses and realising the limitations of details that have now become commonplace. I question my old default response of level thresholds and slabs on grade, while these may be the right solution in some cases, some of the older architecture may provide clues on why for alternative detailing may be appropriate.

At the recent NZIA conference in Auckland a slide was shown of some graffiti stating ‘’Question Everything’’ with a second scribble below responding ’’WHY’’

The study and influence of context

The study and influence of context

As chairperson of the Wanaka Urban Design Panel, it is frustrating to see proposals come past the panel that are designed as stand alone buildings without proper consideration of its neighbours let alone looking slightly further afield and responding to the character, scale and rhythm of the streetscape. I do not see how designers can start to design without examining the conditions that their proposals will sit among.  I am not suggesting that designers should copy their neighbour but some logic can be derived by the surrounding conditions. The shape and size of a tree in a forest will be influenced by the tree adjoining; the wind and availability of sunlight, it may not even be the same species to its neighbours but it will share some common influence and look part of the whole.

This is not limited to urban situations with suburban and rural sites needing to consider a much wider context. Natural influences such as wind sun topography and views can have more influence than the surrounding built forms. I continue to be involved in a design review service for local housing companies which is a great opportunity to examine the context and make the investment of a house much more than merely checking off a wish list of 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, open plan living and so on. Capturing a certain view, achieving privacy from the neighbours  or providing outdoor access to a sheltered court may not necessarily cost any more but make living in that building so much more enjoyable.

A recent example of this is a house built by Stonewood Homes of Wanaka. The result may not be highbrow architecture, but the spaces work well because we took the time to consider where the furniture would go and there is easy connection to an outdoor area that is private with great views, sun and shade from the west. The most pleasing aspect of this is that we managed to achieve this while maintaining the views of the ridgeline from Mt Roy back along Mt Alpha. The clients are happy that they have been delivered a well built house on budget and are happy they were prepared to take a little extra time to refine the proportions of the house and to consider how the plan worked internally and in the greater context.

Western Shade

Mt Alpha View

If the Italians had colonised Wanaka

I read in the Otago Daily Times that the Upper Clutha Environmental Society are appealing against a residential platform in Dublin Bay proposed by Annabel Langbein and Ted Hewetson.  While I applaud the efforts made by the Society to provide a check against unbridled development across the region, I do question the impact on amenity that this residence will have as there is already existing residential development and human activity is clearly etched into the landscape.  Personally I think Dublin Bay would be a great spot for further intensification into a compact village that enjoys the lakeside amenity while having little impact from other positions either around or on the Lake.

This raises the question ‘have we got the District Plan and Wanaka Structure Plan correct?’ The Structure Plan clearly defines Wanaka’s urban spread within the confines of the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers down to Hill End and up to Rippon. Any land outside of this area is zoned Rural, however residential activity in the guise of Lifestyle blocks is already peppering this landscape in a similar way that has occurred in the Wakatipu Basin. I doubt that either the Wakatipu or Upper Clutha basins will provide more than minor agricultural benefit to our communities within the next 20 years, a great loss of rich productive land.

If the Italians had settled the area they would not have allowed this to happen! They would cluster their urban centres around transport hubs such as rivers and lakes providing potable water and additional food source as well as providing amenity for social and leisure activities. Alternatively they would have settled on the foothills of the mountains, either way the land outside of these localised communities would remain productive.

A good example of this can be seen in the foothills of the Italian Alps around Lake Garda where the lake edge is dotted with clusters of communities that neither detract from the amenity of the lake nor the surrounding mountains. Other great examples can be seen throughout the coastline of Croatia, with fantastic dense communities such as Hvar and Korcula providing a beautiful social hub on the water edge and you only have to walk less than 5 minutes and you are in productive rural areas.

Lakes Wanaka and Hawea present many opportunities for clusters of communities around the waters edge that are visually separated from each other leaving a sense of openness within an natural landscape. If we intensified the original communities of Lake Hawea; Johns Creek; Hawea Flat; Alberttown; Lake Wanaka and Tarras along with new intensified communities at Dublin Bay, Glendu Bay and dare I say it Damper Bay, we could all enjoy the Lakes and Rivers, utilise the productive flat land while enjoying the rural amenity instead of living in a suburban blanket of individual landlocked plots.

If we all had a lake view and access to the waters edge within 5 minutes walk would we need to have a quarter acre private realm with green grass that requires mowing and irrigation?