'Alkira' The Stamp House
• The project re-introduces the surrounding native wetland environment
• Massive cantilevers mitigate impact from potential flooding and cyclones
• Materials are chosen for long life cycle efficiency and properties to deal with the harsh, corrosive wet tropical environment
• “Off the grid” and carbon neutral in operation
Location: Daintree, QLD, Australia
Year completed: 2013
‘Alkira’ the Stamp House is particular to our client, a stamp dealer among other things including property developer, who had purchased 26 hectares of beach front land in the Daintree. The clients had a strong desire to develop a sustainable and robust estate which would ideally operate as carbon neutral in its off-grid location. They had concerns regarding the annual cyclone season and associated events such as storm surge associated with king tides. They also wanted to enhance the site’s natural wetland environment.
A safe and secure off-grid structure, carbon neutral in operation, Stamp House is a luxury retreat and sanctuary – an enigmatic bunker. A new tropical architecture of resilience, both brutal and elegant. We liked the idea that the concrete over time will age well and feature a ‘patina’ further enhancing its sense of place in the sited environment.
Awards: 2014 AIA Far North Queensland House of the Year;
2014 AIA Queensland House of the Year
PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT
Integration of allied disciplines was critical to the successful delivery of the vision, in particular the hydraulic and structural engineering which not only facilitated the advanced sustainability initiatives but also the practical requirements for withstanding annual cyclonic weather events.
The leading edge hydraulic services engineering design enabled practical and cost effective solutions by understanding the potentials and constraints of designing in a tropical environment.
The building sits in an engineered water ecosystem which was the result of lengthy liaison and collaboration with National Parks, Environmental Agencies, State and Local Government.
The project was developed and procured through an intensive value management process, resulting in a highly cost-effective solution specific to the client’s requirements.
The home is situated on land that adjoins the Daintree National Park. The Daintree is a vast area of tropical rainforest wilderness in Far North Queensland, Australia. This rainforest is of immense biological value to the wider scientific community due to its incredible biodiversity and high levels of concentration of plant and animal species that are found nowhere else on the planet. Daintree National Park houses the oldest rainforest on the planet – the closest living counterpart to the forests that once covered the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland. (http://www.daintreerainforestinformation.com/About_Daintree.html)
In the Daintree region, the rainforest meets the sea and this property is situated on land that has a beachfront and behind it a natural low wet-land. The project re-introduces the surrounding native wetland environment through the newly engineered water ecosystem.
The building envelope is designed to extend out six fingers using massive cantilevers to also mitigate impact from potential flooding and king tide inundation associated with cyclonic activity. The home is category 5 cyclone proof and therefore classed as a cyclone shelter.
The building is literally reflected in the lake and the cantilevers dramatically increase the vibrancy of the form and shape of the home.
Critical to the design approach is developing new ways of living in the tropical latitude. The design provides secure yet flexible open areas for all functions including living, entertaining, dining, recreation and swimming. These spaces are completely naturally ventilated and further enhanced by integrated building systems.
The flexible main living areas oscillate around the featured central pool that is shaped like the ‘One Pound Jimmy’ stamp. The landscaped courtyard is complemented by the cascading waterfall features. The water features give off an evaporative cooling effect in the drier months.
Natural light abounds as the design gives each room and external wall with windows and large door openings. Some of the windows are portholes which casts perforated light into the property reminiscent of stamp edges.
Bedrooms are designed so that each has a particular character by virtue of its orientation and unique aspect at the same time providing privacy. The under-croft of the house has utility areas for plant equipment.
The home has an innovative combination of in-situ and precast concrete. The concrete structure is considered ideal for this home in this location due to its inherent long life cycle efficiency and material properties to deal with the harsh, corrosive wet tropical environment.
The concrete has been engineered and insulated to reduce its thermal mass and capacity to retain heat. This achieves a constant cooler and more comfortable ambient temperature year-round.
The roof is shielded from the sun as its total surface is solar panels.
Stamp House is ‘off the grid’ and stands alone with no mains connected electrical power. It is Carbon Neutral in operation. The renewable energy system harvests solar energy via the large photovoltaic array on the roof of the house. This system incorporates batteries for energy storage and re-use. There are no fossil fuel based generators.
The renewable energy generation powers efficient air-conditioning systems that are rarely used as the house is passively designed to maintain cooler temperatures. The design also enables a high level of natural light to all parts of the home during the day and energy efficient LED lighting is used only at night.
The focus on managing energy for its conservation is controlled using a building automation system (CBUS).
WATER AND WASTE
The entire roof area harvests rainwater. It is collected into a 250,000 litre in-ground water tank and integrated with the plumbing/ hydraulic systems. The grey water is recycled and there is also an on on-site Advanced Tertiary Sewerage treatment plant.
“In all of our work, we strive for innovation and new solutions to the problems of living with climate change in the 21st Century. This home is an exciting working example of a new sustainable tropical housing prototype for off-grid coastal locations.” Charles Wright
“This house is an extraordinary response to a very personal and adventurous brief for a new type of tropical house in a remnant paddock in the rainforest. The concrete fabric chosen for permanence, robustness and thermal mass is placed on a man-made lake and shaped and patterned around its quirky personal spaces to somehow make its other worldly presence take its place in the world's oldest and most pristine landscape.” AIA Far North Queensland 2014 Awards, Jury citation.
Base building architect/ designer: Charles Wright Architects
Other architect/ designer: Landscape Architect: Andrew Prowse
Civil engineer (Site and traffic): McPherson MacLean Wargon Chapman
Structural engineer: G&A Consultants Pty Ltd
Services engineer (mechanical electrical, hydraulic, fire): Gilboy Hydraulic Solutions, MGF Consultants
Builder: PD Builders
Photographs courtesy of Patrick Bingham Hall and The Cairns Post newspaper.