A Carbon-Neutral Concrete House Is an Exemplary Infill in Western Australia

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By Melissa Dalton
Australian firm Whispering Smith uses commercial materials in a limited footprint for a wabi-sabi effect.

"The brief was to take a 175-square-meter block under Perth’s single bedroom dwelling code and make an affordable and sustainable home," describe the architects at Whispering Smith, a feminist architecture firm based in South Fremantle, a suburb of Perth. 

The resulting 753-square-foot home, called House A, combines concrete and reclaimed brick with strategic tile and wood accents to fashion a carbon-neutral home that maximizes its small lot.

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Soft gray concrete, a polycarbonate screen, and metal roof bedeck the simple front facade of House A. Not immediately apparent? An underground water collection tank and solar panels. "We used a really high recycled content mix for our tilt-up concrete walls, which have 65-percent slag [a byproduct of steel production] instead of high-carbon emitting Portland cement," say the architects.

Soft gray concrete, a polycarbonate screen, and metal roof bedeck the simple front facade of House A. Not immediately apparent? An underground water collection tank and solar panels. "We used a really high recycled content mix for our tilt-up concrete walls, which have 65-percent slag [a byproduct of steel production] instead of high-carbon emitting Portland cement," say the architects.

Blackened, recycled wood slats define the front entry alcove. "The design of House A was originally intended to challenge the status quo of oversized and low-quality housing in Western Australia," say the architects.

Blackened, recycled wood slats define the front entry alcove. "The design of House A was originally intended to challenge the status quo of oversized and low-quality housing in Western Australia," say the architects.

In the main living area, large doors open to the backyard, while a built-in sofa and bench clad in tile are tucked under the mezzanine level, which hosts the bedroom and en-suite bathroom. Internal spaces are intended to flow easily into each other to maximize the floor plan.

In the main living area, large doors open to the backyard, while a built-in sofa and bench clad in tile are tucked under the mezzanine level, which hosts the bedroom and en-suite bathroom. Internal spaces are intended to flow easily into each other to maximize the floor plan.

Key to the design is a generous connection to the rear courtyard, which makes it possible to live outside for half of the year and also easily host parties with 30 guests.

Key to the design is a generous connection to the rear courtyard, which makes it possible to live outside for half of the year and also easily host parties with 30 guests.

Recycled bricks form a core wall and support the central staircase. A white metal railing is another layer of texture in the scheme. "The project relied heavily on craft, detailing, and a raw material or 'wabi-sabi' spec to provide amenity and delight in the small footprint," say the architects.

Recycled bricks form a core wall and support the central staircase. A white metal railing is another layer of texture in the scheme. "The project relied heavily on craft, detailing, and a raw material or 'wabi-sabi' spec to provide amenity and delight in the small footprint," say the architects.

The entrance to the galley kitchen, with the tile repeated below the built-in bench.

The entrance to the galley kitchen, with the tile repeated below the built-in bench.

In the kitchen, white concrete counters top white cabinetry and abut a tile accent wall. The streamlined palette of the house "originated from a desire to have a space to unwind in that wasn't over-saturated with trends or design features or glossy plastic finishes," say the architects.

In the kitchen, white concrete counters top white cabinetry and abut a tile accent wall. The streamlined palette of the house "originated from a desire to have a space to unwind in that wasn't over-saturated with trends or design features or glossy plastic finishes," say the architects.

The mezzanine level hosts the bedroom.

The mezzanine level hosts the bedroom.

According to the architects, the firm "merged spaces and volumes to achieve simultaneous privacy and openness without the need for doors and walls." An open closet adjoins the upper level ensuite bathroom and looks neat and tidy with detailed finishes that are consistent with the rest of the house.

According to the architects, the firm "merged spaces and volumes to achieve simultaneous privacy and openness without the need for doors and walls." An open closet adjoins the upper level ensuite bathroom and looks neat and tidy with detailed finishes that are consistent with the rest of the house.

A detail of the ensuite bathroom. "House A embodies our desire to build something relevant for our generation," say the architects. "A lot of younger people and downsizers don't have a lot of stuff or are having children much later, and we are using our homes for all kinds of things, from starting businesses or hosting a long table dinner for 20. We wanted to build a prototype house that did all of these things, while being affordable, sustainable and made from really beautiful, long lasting materials."

A detail of the ensuite bathroom. "House A embodies our desire to build something relevant for our generation," say the architects. "A lot of younger people and downsizers don't have a lot of stuff or are having children much later, and we are using our homes for all kinds of things, from starting businesses or hosting a long table dinner for 20. We wanted to build a prototype house that did all of these things, while being affordable, sustainable and made from really beautiful, long lasting materials."


Project Credits:

Architecture: Whispering Smith (@whisperingsmitharchitecture)

Construction: Talo Construction 

Landscaping: M&B Johnston Building and Landscapes 

Custom steel windows: Designed by Whispering Smith and made by Wilding Welding

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