Narrabundahaus | Envelope Architecture

Narrabundahaus | Envelope Architecture | Photographer: Benjamin King Photography

2023 National Architecture Awards Program

Narrabundahaus | Envelope Architecture

Traditional Land Owners

Australian Capital Territory

COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture
Residential Architecture – Houses (New)
Sustainable Architecture
Walmsley Building Solutions
Benjamin King Photography
Project summary

Narrabundahaus presents an innovative and well-considered floorplan as a model for contemporary and sustainable living and working. The long-life-loose-fit approach to planning provides a home office and multipurpose space that also functions as a guest bedroom. The attached greenhouse is a biophilic sanctuary that provides enhanced amenity for living and/or gardening throughout Canberra’s often extreme seasons.

The home has been designed and built to meet the stringent Passivhaus standard. Not only is it highly energy efficient, but it also provides best practice thermal comfort and indoor air quality. The reuse of recycled ‘Canberra Red’ bricks salvaged from the original cottage helps to further lower the carbon footprint, as well as delivering a contemporary design response to its suburban inner south context.

Narrabundahaus sets a high bar for design quality and sustainability, providing its occupants with flexibility to suit their changing requirements, and true long term climate resilience.

National Architecture Awards Accolades
Shortlist – Sustainable Architecture
ACT Architecture Awards Accolades
Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New)
COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture
The Derek Wrigley Award for Sustainable Architecture (ACT)
ACT Jury Citation

The Derek Wrigley Award for Sustainable Architecture

Narrabundahaus is a work of passion by the resident architect. This sustainable home takes actions at a global level by dramatically reducing CO2 emissions and at a site level by creating a plant filled greenhouse, doubling as an outdoor room in summer.

This project is one of a small number in Australia that has achieved the rigorous Passivhaus Certification. The building reduces its environmental footprint through several familiar strategies such as a compact floor plan, north facing living spaces, recycled brickwork and rainwater tanks. Less familiar tactics and technologies are also employed, more common to European homes and building codes. These include energy recovery ventilation, continuous insulation, triple glazed/low-e windows, rigorous airtightness and elimination of thermal bridging.

The building sits comfortably within its streetscape, demonstrating the architecture has not been dictated by the Passivhaus design requirements. The Jury was intrigued by the relatively small window area and few adjustable screens and layers, culturally understood as necessary for reducing summer heat gains. These challenges to architectural norms, where high-performance glazing and insulation stand in for more expressive architectural elements, should be embraced.
This charming house is an exemplary model of a genuine, evidence-based approach to sustainable futures in our suburbs.


Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New)

Narrabundahaus’ innovative resolution as a certified passivhaus challenges and balances both the traditional relationship between inside and outside as viewed by many in the Australian context, and the stringent and controlling constraints of a Passivhaus.

The home addresses the street with a contemporary yet traditional appeal. The architect’s use of recycled brick from the old cottage paired with a light metal cladding, contrast and complement each other while tying back into the established and prominent streetscape.

Behind the sympathetic form of the façade, the house reveals a contemporary, warm, light filled interior. Throughout the home a calm, earthy and textured palette invites you through with warm ply timber joinery and a full height sliding wall to assist in dividing function. This design offers flexibility of arrangement for multi-functional rooms, a concept in the process of reshaping new homes. The unique addition of an attached, conditioned greenhouse, directly accessible from kitchen and living space provides a biophilic retreat for the occupants.

The Narrabundahaus is an extremely comfortable home, that pushes the boundaries prescribed by the passivhaus model and is such a delight.


COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture

With a local presence to the street and scale, Narrabundahaus house expresses the elegance of COLORBOND® steel in a modest way that is in keeping with the significance of the site’s interface to the street and context.

The well-considered use of metal cladding to articulate the façade, complements the reclaimed red brick from the original cottage. The red brick incorporates an off-white mortar to tie into the Surfmist COLORBOND® cladding. Surfmist colored perforated steel conceals the garage/carport with complementary sunshades tying the project together.
The light color choice of Surfmist selected to not to only complement and contrast the red brick offers a low solar absorbance level particularly selected to the benefit of the highly energy efficient passivhaus model at the heart of this project.

Considerations were made to use the matt range of COLORBOND® to reduce reflectivity to surrounding neighbors and the selection of a traditional corrugated metal maintains a traditional language, paired with the striking matt Surfmist, blurring the line between the traditional and the contemporary.

I wanted our new home to be a place of sanctuary. It was really important for it to be quiet and calm and to promote a sense of well-being.

The design incorporates a climate controlled greenhouse which is an absolute delight and a key ‘green’ living space that can be enjoyed all year round. The layout is both practical and versatile in how we can use the home, both now and in the future.

Living in a comfortable and highly energy efficient home has made me worry less about the running costs of the home throughout the seasons.

Lisa Tolhurst

Project Consultant and Construction Team

ANH Consulting Engineers, Structural Engineer
Capital Certifiers, Building Surveyor

Connect with Envelope Architecture
Narrabundahaus | Envelope Architecture | Photographer: Benjamin King Photography

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