Erpingham is a prototype house, built by Eco Fusion Building, located in Hamilton Hill, 10 mins south of the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia. The brief was to create a compact, sustainable and easily replicable house form for Perth’s changing suburban environment.
Common materials, lightweight construction and passive solar design minimise the short and long term costs of the building. This puts the project within the reach of most people, making it a financial and environmentally sustainable alternative to the project home market.
Particularly suited to the increasing density of Perth, Erpingham has a base floor area of 150m2 which is easily adapted to suit different site situations and different client needs. Efficient planning provides generous living and sleeping areas without wasted space.
3 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms (80m2) sit over a semi-open plan kitchen, living & dining space (70m2). Corridors, walls and nooks are configured to absorb storage and laundry requirements as well as the dog. A separate studio sits opposite the deck for work or play.
This is an architect led development. It's designed with many users in mind... not just one. Everyone can see themselves in this house. It can be born as a shell or as a highly finished product.
The site was a vacant, mostly level 290m2 battle-axe block and we were inspired by a need. We wanted to create a product that respected the unique Western Australian aspects of place, culture, space, material, light, sound, air and time. To do this we needed to put our own money where our mouths were.
As we moved through the project we started to make the building do more of the work. The roof and first floor cantilever were used to shade the Northern facade. The bracing structures became the delineation of rooms and corridors. Cabinetwork served as a backdrop for the entrance. Corridors became wider to accommodate storage. These efficiencies freed up the major living and circulation spaces.
Half way through the build, we decided that I would move into the house for a couple of years with my wife. so that we could be test subjects. While there were no fundamental changes, my wife who is an interior designer by trade, did become a third client and added another layer of rigour to the design.
During construction we made a few minor changes once we saw the spaces coming together. For example, the upper floor ceiling was lifted on a rake to gain extra height and light. Because this was an architect led design, we were able to make these types of decisions quickly and without compromise because we saw how the results would outweigh any minor additional costs.
Our office dog Ouzo was probably the most excited to see the slab go down. He got the rips and spent a solid 5 minutes testing the cornering ability of the surface.
Seeing the second floor framing go on was a rewarding moment. It was the first chance we had to look at the view of Garden Island on the horizon and get a true sense of the scale of the building.
Although, getting the pre-fabricated wall frames onto site was hard work. When the truck turned up, we knew instantly that it wasn't going to get down the driveway. The truck was fine but the load was hanging off the edges and piled high. Sean, myself and the builder were the only people on site and we turned to each other in horror as we realised that we would have to schlep them all 20m from the street to the site. Most weren't too bad but we started cursing the architect's insistence on 3m to 4m LVL lintels on the upper floor windows. Damn they were heavy.
The project wasn't completed for us until the ground floor Northern glazing was cleaned. For the entire project it was covered in dust and protective tape. Once cleaned, the barrier between inside and outside disappeared and the building seemed to take on a crispness that wasn't present during construction.
We were also quite hands on with some of the work. Sean had a love of compacting and I discovered a few hidden talents with a cordless drill and a paint brush.
Keeping costs down was the most important challenge on this project. How do we do more with less? As the client, architect and developer, we were constantly balancing the needs of good design and good economics.
Erpingham is both environmentally and financially sustainable for our times. We believe the definition of sustainability is doing more with less. There is no point reducing your carbon footprint if your living footprint is dinosaur sized.
Erpingham is trimmed down to the essentials. In fact, a brave client would choose to trim it down even more. We struck a balance of comfort and leanness in order to appeal to a wider market. Everything we put in the building was considered in this way.
Erpingham implements strong passive solar design principals. Large eaves and a shallow floor plate eliminate direct sunlight in Summer and allows it to penetrate two thirds of the way into the spaces in Winter. The concrete floor on the ground soaks up the heat and radiates it back throughout the day. Windows are placed strategically to scoop in the sea breezes and channel them across the house. Large expanse of glass negate the need for artificial light during the day.
In time, the building will probably get solar power, grey water and other more traditional green products but not many clients are willing to pay these capital costs up front. That is why the base building needs to have more inherent principles of sustainability. A building that is highly liveable, highly adaptable and affordable.
Eco Fusion Buildings: Builder Sean Gorman: Design Director (MSG Architecture) Michael Gay: Practice Directos (MSG Architecture)