Matt Jolley’s Award Winning Austinmer Beech House

Descrete the cement of choice:

The project began soon after demolition of the previous residence was completed.

The first day of moving soil brought what was to become an all too familiar challenge over the following eighteen months- rain. When excavation began, a Sydney Water sewer main not identified on any previous documentation was revealed, requiring concrete encasing.

Another unexpected early challenge was the discovery of buried asbestos from a previous dwelling, demanding appropriate removal. Also, an error in the geotechnical report was exposed when piering began, leading to a substantial and costly engineering change.

Despite the costs of time and money these challenges presented, the greatest challenges in this project, however, were provided by the level of detail required by the architect’s design. Weekly Saturday morning meetings were held with the architect to ensure all aspects of the construction were carried out accurately. The nature of the design of the house pushed the building team to new levels. Challenges included the angled piers holding up the first floor, the complexity of detail in the recycled brickwork, the tight nature of the site and the general shape of the building.

The weekly meetings were also an opportunity to address sustainability aspects of the build. While sustainability was not of utmost importance to the owners, we aimed to incorporate as many cost effective and attractive sustainable alternatives as possible throughout construction.

The construction site was in a high profile location, bringing attention from many onlookers and several visits from WorkCover. These visits led to commendation from WorkCover on safe work practises and documentation. This location also meant that every delivery required traffic control.

Overall the project was a success due to the commitment of the architect, the interior designer, the builder and the owners. This commitment ensured solid professional relationships were sustained throughout the project and a high degree of satisfaction was attained for all involved.

Judge’s Comments include:

The dwelling is designed as a north facing thermal passive dwelling optimized for cross ventilation, and thermal mass for both heating in winter and cooling in summer.

This dwelling contains a 3.4kW Photovoltaic system for electric generation, a gas boosted solar hot water system for the domestic hot water, and a solar hot water system for the pool and spa. Although the house is designed to operate in passive thermal mode, additional active systems such as an in slab hydronic heating system and a hybrid mechanical exhaust system have been implemented to cope with peak weather conditions.

Recycling of construction waste for use at other sites and this site was implemented. Materials were selected for their recycled content, low embodied energy, impact on biodiversity and durability with the coastal environment. The brick and concrete foundations of the original house were crushed and returned to this site and used in place of aggregate for back filling behind retaining walls.

The concrete used for this construction is called Descrete and is claimed to have up-to 90% CO2 reduction compared with ordinary Portland Cement Concrete. All the concrete blocks have also been made using this same alternative cement mix.

Recycled bricks were used for the 2.4 metre high spine wall that provides the function requirements of public outdoor space, ground floor public space and entry passage.

The structural framing and cladding is made from PEFC certified timbers which ensures that the forests are sustainably managed. Joinery elements such as the black-butt stairs are recycled timbers and the landscaping is made out of recycled railway sleepers


Matt Jolley Awards News Article (PDF)