Set against the backdrop of a flourishing Oaktree, this dual-level residential treehouse in Berwick, is somewhat of a unicorn: it’s both intricately tailored to the daily rhythms of the multi-generational family that call it home, yet it moulds itself to the natural landscape, grounding people in place.
Planning, Architecture & Interior Design
Casey Design Excellence Awards
The clients sought a light, connected home that also catered for their two teenage children and visiting parents. They required a versatile design internally, that would nevertheless take a light touch to the landscape, both visually and sustainably.
Rather than resisting challenging elements, including obstacles presented by existing vegetation, we designed the house to be framed and defined by its surrounds. The home’s identity is crafted within passive design principles, which necessitated client commitment. Instead of maximising yield, we curated custom spaces that uniquely complement the residents’ day-to-day lives. Priority was not given to size of space, rather to quality of space, which resulted an intimate, cosy atmosphere. Collaborating with the builder at the earliest stage, navigating the site in a hands-on manner, was key to achieving a balance between site parameters, design intention and passive principles.
Although iconic in design, retaining existing vegetation ensured the project visually coalesced with the streetscape — enhancing but not overpowering it. The scale compliments those neighbouring, yet the set-back positioning sees natural flora take precedence from pedestrian view.
A meandering boardwalk-style path provides a sense of arrival. It hems the building’s perimeter, allowing infinite permeability between indoors and outdoors. Terraces and balconies cantilever off living spaces into treetops.
Internally, view lines instil natural connection, with planter boxes outside bedroom windows, offering views of lush greenery and mediating privacy. Visually, they create a graduating threshold between the built form and natural landscape.
With all existing vegetation retained, and a treehouse concept cultivated from the well-established oak on site, Tree House exemplifies design evocative of place through natural connection.
Beneficial to the residents and the environment, extensive collaboration with our Passive House consultant produced an enduring design, with measures employed both environmentally and economically efficient long-term. Insulated panelling and glazing create an envelope, securing temperate indoor conditions, negating need for additional heating or cooling. Insulated roofing panels deliberately protrude, providing additional shading.
The calculated density of the galvanised screens allows daylight to seep through, while shielding from extreme temperatures. Energy-efficient inclusions reduce the overall carbon footprint with only a gas cook-top and electric water impacting. This combination of accessible, yet innovatively applied, materials position Peel St as a benchmark. Uncommon in Australia, we have successfully passed initial phases of Passive House certification and are pursuing full certification.
The core methodology exemplifies accessible design elegance and sustainable excellence on a budget — though unique today in its passive design commitment and celebration of pre-existing natural assets, we hope in future this will become the norm.
Tree House has won Commendation at the inaugural Casey Design Excellence Awards.
We gratefully accept this acknowledgement of our approach, which prioritises humility in practice, sensitive to the unique requirements of a home. Read more about the awards here.