Cool temperate passive solar barn house

The owners of this house are a lovely family of seven, who left their comfortable city living to farm under a big sky. The location is on the Dorrigo Plateau – rich soil, beautiful mountain scenery and sometimes real cold. They offered a photo of a European barn to show what the house should look like. The planning was about country living – a farm kitchen and spaces for the family to interact. TV is well down on the priority list. The house has to function efficiently with stand alone power, water & heating.

The design for passive solar  on the ground floor is by using insulated thermal mass. The timber frame is thickened using battens to allow for more insulation and in overlapping directions. This, as well as polystyrene slab edging, insulates thermal mass in the form of the concrete slab floor and brick internal walls. There is plenty of glass to heat the thermal mass, but with eaves designed for summer shade. A mud room serves as an air lock as well as storage and garden produce processing area.

Upstairs, using the staircase as an air lock, is the kids sleeping and rumpus area. Space is saved by using relatively small bedrooms that open out with concertina doors to a central rumpus. Sleeping is on platforms near the peak of the loft, the warmest part of the rooms. Two fireplaces are strategically positioned so that their heat is stored by internal brick walls on the ground floor and then re used as the flue (protected) passes through the loft rumpus and bath rooms.

The owners have created a tremendous sense of character by sourcing a creative range of doors, second hand windows, lights, furniture and ornaments. There is no plasterboard. It’s interesting that when it comes to slick and modern, they could do it if they want. They’ve lived like that for years. Instead, they’ve worked out that rustic and personalised is better.

You have to take your hat off to this family. It would have been much easier to stay in Brisbane doing the same old thing, but they’ve made health, happiness and family come first.