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Breeze on in

Within the constraints of a narrow site, this distinctive, sustainably-built residence in Perth was designed to adapt to changes in the day and seasons.

Photos: Douglas Mark Black

Breeze on in

Within the constraints of a narrow site, this distinctive, sustainably-built residence in Perth was designed to adapt to changes in the day and seasons.

Photos: Douglas Mark Black
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It may seem strange to some that homeowners would request their new house to be built without airconditioning in Australia’s sunniest capital city, a place which regularly records temperatures over 30°C. But that was precisely the requirement a couple gave in their brief to Perth-based architects, Carrier and Postmus (CAPA), for their narrow elongated site located near one of the city’s ‘necklaced’ wetlands. 

When designing buildings, the integrated architecture and landscape design studio focuses heavily on the environment, and quite naturally took the landscape into account while responding to the brief. The residence was subsequently developed to maximise a connection with backyard native gardens and ponds, as well as an adjacent lake, ensuring its occupants could enjoy these aspects at various points from within the home. 

And, crucially, the architects followed a core design principle that allows the home to draw cooling breezes throughout to passively moderate its internal climate. Intriguingly, their cooling system uses vents in the roof and several cow troughs filled with water at the side of the property to keep the home naturally temperate.

With its patterned brickwork, bold off-form concrete and timber elements, the affectionately dubbed Red Zephyr Blue (RZB) House – named so for its solar passive design as well as for the red and blue dragonflies that have taken residence in the home’s many cooling garden ponds – is a distinctive addition to the suburban area.

Laura Valic

Editor

Patterned brickwork, bold off-form concrete and a custom steel frieze make for a striking street presence. Photo: Douglas Mark Black
The Red Zephyr Blue (RZB) House is named for its solar passive design as well as for the red and blue dragonflies that have taken residence in the home’s many cooling garden ponds. Photo: Douglas Mark Black

HIA member Weststyle was the building and design firm chosen to construct the project. Family run and operated since 1968, Weststyle predominantly works on custom-built homes and developments in metropolitan Perth. Managing Director Tony Ricciardello says while the business often works with external architects, developing an in-house architecture and interior design service gives Weststyle a decided ‘edge’ in Western Australia’s competitive and shifting residential building market. 

‘We offer an extremely personalised experience, and are committed to designing and building unique bespoke homes,’ he says. ‘It’s not about how large they are but the craftsmanship, and providing a high-quality finish. That’s what’s important to us.’ 

Weststyle’s team completes around 15 projects each year with the average build costing around $1–2 million. The business has built a solid reputation for ingenuity and innovative thinking, with a long tally of awards to show for it, including the 2019 HIA Perth Custom Built Home $1,200,000 – $1,800,000 and 2019 HIA WA GreenSmart Sustainable Home awards (to name a few) for the RZB House.

Tony says that despite its modest size, the home is highly detailed and cleverly designed. ‘There are lots of intricate moments that knit together to produce a beautifully crafted home,’ he says. ‘The custom face brick archways and metal frieze work are a couple of examples.’

This custom steel frieze outlining the gable roofline is a distinguishing external characteristic. Its white pattern (mirrored in black along the front yard fence) comes to life at night thanks to backlit lighting in the shape of an upside down V. The effect is simple yet powerful, offering an original, standout feature in the established streetscape.

A draping white Colorbond roof with concealed box gutters helps to reflect heat absorption and provides a neat, streamlined appearance, while a crafted ‘Flemish Bond’ entry wall adds visual interest as visitors approach. Once inside, dark-toned stone and masonry elements work harmoniously with ethically-sourced European and American Oak joinery, the neutral palette serving to exude a calming energy throughout the home. 

Tony explains that low-maintenance building products were carefully selected for the project. ‘By their nature the materials have a natural palette and the warm tones create a gentle environment to live in,’ he says. ‘Robust materials such as concrete, brickwork and anodised metals reduce the amount of repainting required for the external finishes of the house.’

Despite its modest size, the home is highly detailed and cleverly designed. Photo: Douglas Mark Black
The neutral palette serves to exude a calming energy throughout the home. Photo: Douglas Mark Black

Internally, an earthy-toned thick brickwork axis wall connects the main rooms on the ground floor, voided by brick basket woven lintel archways to adjacent rooms. Louvre bookends to the house and a thermal chimney – which aids ventilation – allow the homeowners to adjust to the time of day as well as the seasons. 

Each of the living spaces, including a delightful music room and library, were designed to capture natural light from the courtyard and bay windows. In particular, the centrally-based kitchen and dining room enjoys a pleasant outlook to the shaded courtyard and gazebo spaces, with striking black framed doors forming the transition between indoors and out. Above, sculpted ceilings mirror the morning and afternoon sunlight, and become awash with a warm glow from concealed uplighters at night.

As with any detailed build, there are usually a few challenges to overcome once construction gets underway, and Tony says in this case tight access was one of them. ‘The neighbouring properties were built to the boundaries so access was difficult with larger machinery,’ he explains. ‘Precise planning was required to achieve particular architectural details. Some materiality, like the brickwork and natural materials, required highly skilled craftsman, which takes time and preparation to ensure perfection.’

The living spaces, including a delightful music room and library, were designed to capture natural light. Photo: Douglas Mark Black
The kitchen and dining room enjoys a pleasant outlook to the shaded courtyard and gazebo spaces. Photo: Douglas Mark Black

The RZB House’s sustainability credentials were further improved by the inclusion of double glazing, a solar PV system and 22,000-litre rain water tanks which serve potable water to the entire home. According to the judges, these aspects combined with cross-ventilation methods, thermal breaks and non-mechanical passive evaporative cooling ‘illustrates the confidence in both the material selection and design’.

Tony says the Weststyle team were proud to collaborate with CAPA on the project to showcase how beautiful housing can be sustainable too. ‘The RZB House is a representation of the architect’s ambition of designing a crafted, connected and enduring house. With the right design, you can minimise ongoing utility costs, create healthier buildings, and reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.’

The architects followed a core design principle that allows the home to draw cooling breezes throughout to passively moderate its internal climate. Photo: Douglas Mark Black
The RZB House’s sustainability credentials include double glazing, a solar PV system and 22,000-litre rain water tanks which serve potable water to the entire home. Photo: Douglas Mark Black

RZB House at a glance

Builder

Weststyle

Architect

Carrier and Postmus Architects

Location

Perth

Materials:

Bricks: Austral Verti (feature face brick Austral Elements Zinc and Simmental Silver)
Roofing: Colorbond
Timber roof frame: Bunnings
Timber: 40mm round American Oak handrails; European Oak veneer cabinetry 
Flooring: Bernini ‘Grigio Ramses’ stone tiles
Kitchen: Bernini Honed cross cut Pantheon benchtop and splashback; custom fabricated stainless steel benchtops
Structured cabling and HIFI prewire: Gemtek
Window frames: Alspec McArthur Frame, Black Anodised
Sliding doors: Alspec McArthur Frame.