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What is Engineered Timber?
Engineered timber is a whole industry of structural timber manufactured for a variety of purposes. Engineered timber comes in many forms from prefabricated stud walls, to flat plate floors and walls, cassette systems, CLT (cross laminated timber), LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beams, as well as a variety of other composite systems.

Can you explain some of these systems in detail?
Flat plate systems include CLT (cross laminated timber), which are timber planks stacked perpendicular, one on top of the other and held in place by glue. This forms a structural plate from multiple horizontally spanning layers. The system can be used to form walls and floors and a whole building can then be stacked up like a house of cards, which means very quick construction times. The other type of flat plate engineered timber is LVL (laminated veneer lumber) which uses plywood running in cross directions to build up thickness. Flat plate systems replace concrete slabs and in walls can replace load bearing precast concrete or blockwork.

1:(L) CLT (Cross laminated Timber) section. 2:(R) A CLT building under construction 

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In the show ‘The Streets of Your Town’ that aired on ABC, Tim Ross looks at residential architectural trends in Australia. He looks at the modernist movement as well as the evolution in housing design that has resulted in the contemporary proliferation of the ‘McMansion.’ Ross describes how the early modernists had a drive in the way they were thinking about homes. During the modernist era, the general public had a much higher opinion of architects than they typically do now. People were excited by advancements in housing designs that fostered new types of living. Australian Architect Robin Boyd even sold plans in the newspaper, so anyone interested could have access to good home designs that allowed for ‘future living’ as he saw it.

During the modernist movement, cities were seen as dark, dirty places while large sprawling suburbs such as those found in Canberra were more attractive. During this period, a house would take up a third of its site. Within more modern suburbs where development was initiated say ten or fifteen years ago, houses just about consume the whole property. The shift in housing size reflects the change in lifestyle present in modern culture. On the show, an interviewed real estate agent explains, “The dream before was playing cricket in the backyard, whereas now, everything is inside.”

An image capture from ‘The Streets of Your Town’ showing an estate of McMansions

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There are plenty of ways to go about a building project. As a firm we find that the role of the architect is often misunderstood or not entirely clear. Often people aren’t aware of the role architects have in a project. Fuelled by budget restraints, many people in Australia opt to buy a project home or to go to a draftsperson. The reality is, architects do charge a considerable amount of money and design a lot of high end buildings. The stereotype is essentially an egocentric turtle neck wearer and people understandably fear engaging in a design process where they fundamentally want to be heard.


Liam Neeson sporting his turtleneck as architect Daniel in the film Love Actually

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The Processes Involved and Services Available
Our interior design services are most often engaged in conjunction with our architectural services. Though other circumstances may involve client’s purchasing a new house where they want to adjust interiors to allow an infusion of their own style. Quite often, if clients have lived in a house for a long time but have entered a different life phase (a growing family, older children moving out, retirement etc.), rather than opting for a total renovation or moving to something smaller or larger, a refurbishment of interiors can be a great way to respond to changed needs, especially when a client is working with a lower budget. In other projects, clients have contacted us when the finishes in their home feel a bit dated or worn. Adjusting some key elements in the interior of these client’s homes can allow a house to be refreshed, increasing the usability of spaces and the joy in inhabiting them.

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Passive Systems
For this project, just as in all of our projects, a range of passive solar design practices were applied to the scheme. When considered in the initial design phase, they can be quite straightforward. The large expanse of glazing is facing north toward the sun. An overhang at 63 degrees shades the glazing to let the winter sun in while blocking out summer sun. A pergola structure snakes around the side of the building. It becomes larger on the western side to shade lower western sun. The form of the sun shading reflects how you’d naturally use the space at different times of the day. Where the overhang widens, a shadier, cool spot is created that can be used in warmer weather.

RG927c_0037Above: The North facing glazing screen by the pergola structure

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Maximising Space Efficiency
More often than not, the thing that drives budget is building area. The cheapest scheme always involves less building. Being smart about the planning, means reusing repurposed space in a simple way to allow for less building area. The other driver is the complexity of construction. The chosen scheme did more in less building and encompassed quite a simple structure over the top with the amount of external walls limited i.e. not too many ‘ins and outs.’ We didn’t really change the main fabric of the existing house. We treated the old and new as two distinct areas. Budget-wise, this was an important approach.

201504_WEBSITE PLANS_170419Above: The finalised plan. The area to the east is the existing cottage with a new bathroom, laundry and ensuite extension. To the west is the new area with kitchen, dining, living and study areas connecting to the north facing garden.

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The Clients
The clients for this project were a couple living in Brunswick with their two young children. Originally, their issue was that they had relatively modest requirements, partly due to money, but also because they wanted to be sustainable. They saw the benefit in opting for a small footprint. The clients had previously worked on an initial design with a different architect that didn’t provide a satisfactory outcome. The other architect had designed quite a large, two-storey renovation which, by the time it was priced, was twice their budget. The clients were really disappointed and so the first discussion with us was – “Well, it may be a nice design, but we really don’t want to build something that’s twice our budget.”

RG927c_0029Above: The front yard of the Allan Street Cottage
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