The Ben Ōhau House creates an opportunity for a family of four to hunker down together and tune out from everyday life on a 40-acre site overlooking the Ōhau Canal in the foothills of the Ben Ōhau Mountain range near Twizel.
Set within an open landscape of big skies and big mountains, the house balances a sensitive interaction with its environment while grounding itself firmly within the landscape.
Simplicity of form was the desired aesthetic to create a relaxed informality with easy going functionality and simplicity of life; however, intricacy was required for the thermal performance and structural resilience to respond to the extreme climatic conditions of the Mackenzie Basin where windspeeds are known to get above 60m/s, heavy snowfall is common, and the summer heat is unrelenting.
Durability, Resilience and Thermal Performance were at the forefront of this robust construction. With wind speeds often exceeding 200km/hour, a collaborative approach with the structural engineers (Engco Ltd) and the product suppliers was necessary to achieve specifically engineered design, detailing, and documentation for the structure, roofing, cladding and glazing.
SIPs panels provide structural rigidity to the extreme winds, and their high thermal performance provides a comfortable interior environment year-round. The panels on the walls are coupled with an airtightness membrane on the ceiling to create an airtight construction. This avoids any moisture-laden air penetrating into the structure which would otherwise cause issues in this environment of temperature extremes. The result is a robust and comfortable home, despite being subject to battering’s from the external environment.
A palette of bold yet simple materials was selected with longevity in mind and the anticipation that the home will weather gracefully, and overtime, become embedded within its surrounding environment.
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Photographer: Andrew Urquhart