Wehbe Consulting Engineers
For many of us, a home is all about family. For John and Fay Mosses, this was taken a step further when their architect son, Adam, designed their new home and his brother, Joseph, built it!
John has a background in the building industry, having worked as a builder, survey draftsman and project manager (as well as a TAFE teacher and locksmith, but that’s another story).
He insisted on brickwork but Adam was determined to deliver no ordinary brickwork and no ordinary home.And there was no ordinary purpose informing the design: John had a stroke five years ago and the new house needed a pool to aid his physical therapy and as few level changes as possible.
Adam completed an undergraduate degree in design and arts before doing a Masters in architecture.After six years with BVN, he now operates as a sole practitioner, mostly on residential projects, with a specialisation in 3D visualisation. He also works as an independent artist in mixed media and photography.
Concord in Sydney’s inner west has been dubbed the ‘parkland suburb’.Although it has many large homes, this site is a more modest 400 square metres.The two-level, four-bedroom house has a footprint of about 225 square metres.
Adam describes the architectural design as “Modernist with an industrial feel,” thanks to its linear design and the use of ‘engineering’ materials such as steel, bricks and concrete. “As the elements were exposed rather than concealed, we kept a sense of truth to the materials chosen,” he contends.
The interior of the lower level is comprehensively linked to the outdoors. The living area is flanked by a Japanese garden to the west and an eastfacing garden terrace, both accessed by folding doors. An internal courtyard leads to the pool, while the back lawn and deck are directly accessed from the dining and rumpus rooms respectively.
The western elevation is a solid blade wall to block the low afternoon sun. Like most of the masonry walling on both levels of this house, it is constructed in cavity brickwork, aka double brick, a common construction form in Sydney. “Dad was adamant on using double brick construction with a 50mm cavity, mainly for thermal reasons, but also aesthetically as he grew up in brick homes,” says Adam.
He describes the lower level as “like a huge platform that opens up but also encloses for privacy and warmth,” contrasting this with many conventional houses that are largely disconnected from their external spaces. The requirement for broad access to the garden and courtyard areas prompted the use of a substantial steel frame which supports cavity brickwork above.
The use of an engineered structure to support upper-level brickwork is unusual but readily achievable, extending the thermal and aesthetic values of brickwork (not to mention its low maintenance requirements).
The first response of Adam’s builder-brother, Joseph, to the proposed design was “How am I going to build this thing!” The brothers met many times to sort out issues before engaging trades. “Being able to see that end result with Adam’s 3D visualisations images made it a lot easier for me to construct,” says Joseph.
“Setting up the flashing details where the brickwork met the beams at the first floor slab level was a bit of a challenge,” he admits, adding that in the end “we didn’t have any issues, it was all planned out well.”
The house is built on a concrete slab underpinned by a gravel layer, with a suspended slab at the first floor. The insulated cavity brickwork further enhances the thermal massing. The open design also allows excellent crossflow ventilation, an often overlooked component of passive design.
The rear of the house faces north, allowing the low winter sun to penetrate over the pool and through the internal courtyard into the living space. Hard flooring throughout the lower level substantially enhances thermal absorption into the slab.
The external face of the brickwork features Bowral Blue dry-pressed bricks, a popular choice from Bowral Bricks renowned range of premium architectural bricks. The inner leaf of the cavity walls and the single-skin internal walls were constructed with Austral Bricks purpose-made commons – mostly Standard 76mm and 119mm high, but with a scattering of Maxi and Through Wall commons – and sheeted in plasterboard. There are no stud walls.
Joseph is used to building in cavity brick and prefers its quality.“Timber [framing] is good,” he says, “but for a house that you may want to keep for the rest of your life, double brick is the way to go.”
We asked Adam what it’s like having your parents as the client and your brother as the builder. He admits the design was “really challenging” for John and Fay but the 3D visuals “helped them get a better grasp of what was going on.”
The sibling rivalry of the brothers’ childhood has been replaced with a mutual respect. “Joe and I worked well together and we are definitely considering doing more projects in the future,” says Adam. “Adam has a very creative mind,” Joseph commends, adding that “it was definitely a challenge but it was a great result in the end.”
The project came in close to budget, one of the advantages of keeping it in the family. “We worked for minimum wages,” Adam says laughing, “so our parents saved a lot of money which is good. It’s the least we could do for them after all they have done for us.”
The crisp edges and deep, earthy colours of Bowral dry-pressed bricks blend style and function to present a clean, modern aesthetic. These premium quality bricks are available across Australia in standard 76 mm thickness and in a slim 50 mm format.
Colour: Bowral Blue
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