Brunswick East Office

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The Brunswick East Sustainable office was designed and completed by Sunpower Design as their commercial premises above a residential dwelling in East Brunswick.

Location 23 Lanark St, Brunswick East, Victoria 3057
Country Australia
Type Commercial sustainable renovation
Building size Small
Contact Andreas and Judy Sederof (Directors)
Phone +61 3 9386 3700
Fax +61 3 9386 3043


[edit] The brief

The brief was to provide office accommodation for a growing sustainable building design practice as an addition to an existing Edwardian dwelling. As the clients were also the designers, this presented a unique opportunity to test new products and sustainable construction techniques in the rapidly expanding field of ESD design. A flexible open plan studio, meeting room, small private office, kitchenette, and bathroom facilities were required to offer a high level of staff amenity within a strict budget . Considerable care was also required in the design to allow the new office to be built while the existing residence remained habitable. While it was paramount for the new addition to explore contemporary forms and construction ideas, it also needed to be in sympathy with the existing Edwardian house and residential streetscape.

[edit] The solution

The solution provides an exciting and innovative example of the latest sustainable construction materials and practices. Materials were chosen for their low embodied energy and sustainability. The new materials incorporated included Easiboard panels, which are made from compressed straw and recycled paper and have a very low embodied energy. These panels were used in a load bearing capacity, which had not been done before. Cypress macrocarpa, a sustainable grown plantation timber, was used for the door and window joinery and external cladding. It was also chosen because it is harder and one third of the price of western red cedar. Recycled jarrah was used for the entry door, structural mullions, feature doors and decking. All windows are double glazed except the north east corner which uses 'Comfortone' glazing to achieve a butt jointed window and allows us to test a different glazing system. Western windows incorporate 'Azurelite' tinting with the double glazing to reduce the heat transmittal. Roof cladding removed from the existing house has been used to clad some external walls and part of the new roof. The floor system used engineered floor joists from sustainable sources - HJ beams from Colt Harvey. Flooring is made from CD grade pinus radiata laminated ply flooring. This floor became the roof structure to the existing residence during construction. The advantage of this was that the existing dwelling remained habitable throughout the building of the new office. A tinted tongue oil was used as the final floor finish, which covers the water stains on the ply flooring and provides a practical and stylish finish.

The designer's commitment to use sustainable materials was also taken through to the choice of internal finishes. They also wished to address the problems of off-gassing and internal air quality, by choosing products with low toxicity. Berger 'Breathe Easy' Paints were used on the main walls and Porters Limewash have been used on the feature walls. A timber veneer feature wall uses sustainable grown poplar figured by machine, available from New Age Veneers. The desks are constructed from laminated pine sealed with Bio-Paints clear varnish, which has zero toxicity.

[edit] Energy efficiency

The main energy efficiency strategies were to provide a highly insulated building envelope to reduce winter heating requirements, excellent ventilation for summer cooling and to limit the use of artificial lighting through window design. High levels of insulation were provided in the walls and roof (R2.5 in the walls and R3.5 in the roof). Extra care was taken to provide adequate sealing around window frames and sashes to further reduce heat loss. Astrofoil has been used instead of sisalation under the metal decking to provide excellent summer performance. The design of the concave roof over the main studio utilizes Bernoulli's Venturi theory to give extremely efficient natural cooling. Windows were designed to provide enough sunlight that no artificial lighting will be required during office hours.

  • Residents of Australia, (performing such insulation energy improvements) may be eligible to take advantage of the current Australian Government Insulation Grant program. Approved insulation installers can perform installation at a heavily subsidized cost.

[edit] Other design considerations

New attitudes to the workplace were also a consideration in the design of this office for a small building design firm. Traditional notions of work and home as separate spheres are challenged by the concept of a home office. This also eliminates the need for commuting to the work for the directors of the office, reducing the environmental impact and waste of time of commuting by car. However a home office need to be more than just a room tacked onto the end of an existing home. An environment where computers could be accommodated comfortably in terms of lighting and cooling requirements in summer was one consideration. More importantly the issue of staff comfort was paramount to the design. The main studio is a light spacious area, which has been thoughtfully designed as a comfortable and attractive workspace. Bathroom facilities with a shower were included as some staff cycle to work. For the all important lunch break, a staff kitchen, lounge area and deck overlooking the garden has been provided. The meeting room, which forms the central hub of the space, has a pyramidal ceiling and highlight windows to combine natural light with privacy.

[edit] Summary Statement

This office extension provides a cutting edge example of innovative design. Technology ranges from old technologies such as the strawboard which have been used in a new way, to satelite technology such as astrofoil, which was used in the roof. A stylish and comfortable working environment has been designed which explores, both through its form and materials, the latest ideas in ESD design. This was achieved within the constraints of a tight budget. Ultimately this office extension can be seen as a measure of what can be achieved when a building design practice is given the opportunity to explore their philosophies in built form.

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