"Natural Merge"

Published in Garden & Home Magazine, January 2016.

Text credit: Natalie Boruvka.

"By responding to the natural context of its site, a house in Joburg’s Meyersdal Eco Estate optimises its energy efficiency while respecting the aesthetics of its surrounds."

The architect: Hugo Hamity
The client: Gary and Teresa Cooper
The client’s brief: A single story open plan house designed to have as little impact on the site as possible featuring lots of wood, glass and a low-maintenance facebrick facade. 
The house: An elevated structure making use of passive design principles and defined by separate living and sleeping spaces connected by glazed corridors.

 Link: House Cooper

For nature-loving Jo’burg-based entrepreneurs Teresa and Gary Cooper the Meyersdal Eco Estate offered exactly what they were looking for in a living environment: the peacefulness of a bush escape combined with the convenience of living a stone’s throw from the city. “When we sit out on our deck soaking in the tranquility of the surrounds we quickly forget we’ve just spent the day in a busy office just 15 minutes way,” says Teresa. With less than 15 percent of the total 480h developed, the estate remains an unspoiled natural haven where building guidelines ensure the protection of the existing fauna and flora.
The Coopers half acre site posed a challenge. Densely populated with indigenous trees and plants, it comprised just a few areas where construction would have a minimal impact on the natural vegetation. “None of these suitable tracts however were large enough to accommodate the footprint of the home my clients had in mind,” says architect Hugo Hamity. “The design solution therefore involved establishing a network of spatial components organised across the available areas of land.” A slight drop towards the south-east street boundary which facilitated storm water drainage added to the complex nature of the site.
The brief called for a spacious open plan living area which would open up onto a deck and a landscaped garden so the largest area of open land was chosen to contain this space. In order to preserve an existing acacia tree part of the deck was set back creating a niche which that functions as a conservatory-like space. “We love that inside the home you often feel as though you are right outside in the beautiful natural surrounds and this blurring of boundaries is best experienced in our ‘green’ corridors,” says Teresa referring to the glass walkways that connect the main bedroom and the guest room wing to the open plan living space.
Hugo designed the entire structure to be slightly elevated with carefully-placed brick piers used to support prefabricated eco-slabs. The gap which ranges from 200mm above the ground to 500mm serves to retain as much of the site’s natural footprint as possible while accommodating the existing slope. “By eliminating the need to erect scaffolding and pour concrete during the building process any unnecessary damage to the site was avoided,” explains Gary. “The space enables low-lying shrub to grow under and around the home and it allows the squirrels and guinea fowls to roam free.” reason
From a sustainable perspective, House Cooper makes use of good design practice such as north orientation to optimise natural ventilation and lighting. A distinguishing feature of its passive design is its 2-section roof. “This arrangement enabled the placement of a ridge of windows which releases rising hot air in summer and invites natural light deeper into the home in winter,” explains Hugo. Wood takes the form of locally-sourced pine laminated on site and assembled into structural beams and columns by a master carpenter. “A CCA treatment to protect against sun and water deterioration and the application of meranti oil to achieve the desired hue meant we were able to answer the brief’s call for the extensive use of wood in a sustainable manner,” says Hugo.

Link: House Cooper


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