Director of FMD Architects Fiona Dunin has long been interested in CLT (cross laminated timber) as a sustainable, strong and attractive building material. In fact, she’s been exploring this material for over 10 years, and finally had the chance to use it in this recently completed home on the Mornington Peninsula.
Back when this project began, CLT was gaining popularity in Europe, but the material was yet to reach Australia’s mainstream market. ‘It was difficult to access as it was all imported, and specialist engineers who were familiar with the product were limited,’ Fiona says.
With the support of her clients, builder, and Vistek Structural Engineers, the architect patiently waited for CLT’s wider introduction to the Australian market, while researching the material further to ensure a highly considered outcome. ‘As time has progressed, both the consultant’s and our knowledge of CLT developed significantly. The material is now being manufactured in Australia and New Zealand’ Fiona says.
Vistek have been a driving force behind the local uptake of this new construction material in Australia, educating local architects and builders about its advantages including impressive thermal properties, certified timber harvesting practices, and carbon sequestering qualities.
Despite its contemporary look, this house in fact isn’t a new home, but an update and extension of a 1970s property. The project includes the reconfiguration of the existing house, alongside a new upper-floor addition with distinctive sawtooth style roofline facilitating extensive solar panelling externally, while internally capturing changing light throughout the day. These roof peaks also feature motorised ventilation slots to release excess heat in summer.
FMD Architects have taken CLT to a new level in this project, having made the material a distinctive feature of the interiors. Used on walls, ceiling and floors throughout with screw connections left exposed, the home has the feeling of a contemporary tree house! Bookshelves, pivot doors and bar units are also made from the material, and lighting is integrated into the ceiling beams and walls as not to detract from the aesthetic. ‘I really think we tried to be the inventors here with CLT to showcase what you can achieve with this material,’ Fiona says.
The structure was installed in just four days – an incredibly rapid outcome due to CLT’s custom manufacturing process. Buildings are first computer modelled, then created as panels in a factory to a very high accuracy to be assembled onsite. ‘This allows architects and clients to explore complex geometries beyond the reach of most conventional building approaches,’ says Robbie Svars, general manager at Vistek. ‘It is like designing a whole house as one big, beautiful piece of shaker furniture.’