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Granite expectations

Photography: Greenbuild

Granite expectations

Photography: Greenbuild
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With its sleek curves and crisply articulated detailing, the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian People’s Choice Home of the Year showcases what’s possible with planning, perseverance and perfectionism.

Gabrielle Chariton

Content Writer

A sculptural monument of concrete and glass, The Ridge is a multi-award-winning home located on a steep escarpment high above Nelson Bay on the NSW coast. At once bold and sympathetic, the home emerges from the hillside in an intriguing series of elegantly drawn layers. 

You’d never know by looking at it now, but as a project, The Ridge got off to a rocky start – both figuratively and literally. The owners purchased the land several years ago, had plans for a luxury holiday home drawn up, and engaged HIA members, Greenbuild Constructions, to build it. Kain Bliss, Managing Director of Greenbuild, says they were thrilled to be involved: for a company that thrives on a challenge, it was a chance to ‘showcase what we can do from a construction perspective’. 

The 2023 HIA-CSR Australian People's Choice Home of the Year

The team arrived onsite in October 2019. But as soon as they started ‘scratching around’ with their excavators, they discovered an extensive granite rock shelf beneath the surface.

‘It quickly became apparent that some major structural changes and design tweaks were going to be needed,’ Kain says. Greenbuild – specialists in high-end design and build – took the project back to the drawing board. 

Working with the steep topography of the site, they reconfigured the design to streamline construction processes and maximise function, flow and floorspace within the home. ‘The clients said they wish they’d found us earlier in the journey, it would have saved a lot of pain and heartache.’ 

By early 2020, the team were back onsite and spent the first four weeks hammering into the dense granite. ‘We ended up burning out a few of our equipment and machinery. But in the end, we just made it work.’ Kain says that the location and gradient of the access road also added a layer of complexity. 

Architectural elements are picked out in a crisp mix of sandstone, timber and Knotwood battens
‘The ultimate reward is the sense of accomplishment…being able to stand back and marvel at it’. Photo: Muse

‘We couldn’t get semi-trailers in taking materials up and down that hill was very labour intensive. There was a lot of manual handling and careful co-ordination involved.’ 

Spanning three levels connected by a vast central stairwell, the seven-bedroom home is a stunning composition of brick, gleaming off-form concrete and glass, playing out in a combination of refined curves and bold angles. 

With no strip foundations, the building sits directly on the rock shelf. ‘The brickwork comes straight up off the rock…with suspended concrete slabs to the second and third level.’ 

The decision to expose the concrete on ceilings, soffits and floors tested the skill and patience of the Greenbuild team. ‘That meant ensuring the formwork was done really professionally, it was a Class 1 form, so we didn’t have any defects in the formwork that left ugly marks,’ Kain says. Prior to the pour, every detail was meticulously planned and co-ordinated. 

‘When working on a project of this calibre you need to have everyone collaborating,’ says Kain Bliss
The seven-bedroom home is a stunning composition of brick, off-form concrete and glass. Photo: Muse

‘Everything had to be set out. Even the joins in the sheets for the formwork had to be set out in the right area to give us the right pattern and alignment to things like downlights. There really is no room for forgiveness or tolerance for errors in this kind of construction. Everything has to be millimetre perfect.’

The burnished concrete floors and off-form ceilings underpin the moody, sophisticated aesthetic of the interior palette. This quiet glamour is perfectly offset by three-metre high glazed bifolds running the length of the living spaces, framing the ocean views, flooding the interiors with light, and blurring the boundary between indoors and out. 

Architectural elements are picked out in a crisp mixture of sandstone, timber and Knotwood battens – their distinctive shadowlines a signature throughout the home – all evoking the colours of the surrounding bushland. 

Three-metre high glazed bifolds run the length of the living spaces, framing the ocean views
Kain Bliss, Managing Director of Greenbuild Constructions, an HIA member

The pool, an azure gem that laps at the edges of the central level living space, is a designer piece in its own right, with a curved concrete base cantilevering off the rear of the building. 

Kain says the pool, and the exterior spiral staircase that curls down from the upper living areas, are two of his favourite elements of the finished home – partly because they proved among the most challenging.

‘That staircase was a bit of a vision we had right from the start,’ he says. ‘Designing, detailing and executing that was another element we had no forgiveness on. We had to have everything formed up and prepped, and poured in one hit, so there were no cold joins in the slab. Curved spiral staircases are a helical design…geometry like that is extremely difficult to work out.’ 

With finesse and precision required at the macro and micro level, this unusually demanding build spanned two arduous years. ‘A project like this will test you mentally and physically,’ Kain says. ‘You have to try to stay positive because there is light at the end of the tunnel; you will come through it with perseverance and planning.’ 

The swimming pool is an azure gem that laps at the edges of the central level living space
With a curved concrete base, the pool cantilevers off the rear of the building

Kain credits the success of The Ridge to a strong client-builder relationship and teamwork: ‘When working on a project of this calibre you need to have everyone collaborating together to come up with the best result,’ he says. 

‘We’re very fortunate to have such a talented team, who genuinely care, and share the vision and passion for quality construction.’ 

The Ridge has won a total of nine HIA awards, including the 2023 HIA Australian Bathroom of the Year and the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian People’s Choice Home of the Year. Kain is thrilled with the industry recognition, describing it as the ‘cherry on top’. 

‘For us the true motivation is trying to get the best outcome for the client.’ And the ultimate reward is the sense of accomplishment…being able to ‘stand back and marvel at it’. 

The burnished concrete floors and off-form ceilings underpin the moody aesthetic of the interior palette
Utilising contemporary materials, the main bathroom won the 2023 HIA Australian Bathroom of the Year

Builder and designer

Greenbuild Constructions

Partner

CSR

Awards

2023 HIA-CSR Australian People's Choice Home of the Year and 2023 HIA Australian Bathroom of the Year

Location

Nelson Bay, NSW

Materials:

‘A project like this will test you mentally and physically,’ Kain says. ‘You have to try to stay positive because there is light at the end of the tunnel.’

First published on 31 May 2023

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