A water and energy efficient home with a design that acclimatises with the seasons

Modern home hidden by terrace facade

From the street the neat row of Victorian terraces in Redfern appears to remain a reflection of the era in which they were built.

But beyond the facade of this family home is a modern, open-air, sustainable design with sleek lines and rich timber tones.

When building a 'forever home', it's important to invest in a sustainable design that is climate responsive, while also versatile to suit an ever-evolving and ageing family.

That was the key brief for the Sky House designed by Marra + Yeh Architects.

A family of five were looking to consolidate adjoining terraces in Redfern, NSW, to create a contemporary, flexible family home that will accommodate their changing family for the next 20 or so years.

The family were particular about what they wanted to achieve with this renovation, making sure the building materials were sustainable, ensuring they knew where they had come from and how they had been processed.

The owners also envisioned a home that was both water and energy efficient, and a design that acclimatised with the seasons while maximising natural light.

"Inspiration always comes from the people who will inhabit the project and the place in which it is located," says Carol Marra, director of Marra + Yeh Architects.

"It's important that each home we create is a reflection of both the clients' personality and the character of the setting. The most satisfying aspect of any build is reaching the end and having the clients say they love their new home," she says.

"In this case, the whole design is an unusual feature, and the way the house is calibrated to climate and environment is not normally found in terrace houses.

This is showcased through the internal atrium and sky window, which opens the heart of the house to the outdoors and connects the occupants to nature."

Marra + Yeh's approach to sustainability for the Sky House project combined environmental performance, regenerative design and climatic adaptability.

In keeping with these objectives, the architects engaged Big River Group as its leading timber supplier in the use of Armourply, Armourtread, Armourpanel and Armourform throughout the home.

This range of decorative plywood products are manufactured using local, sustainable timbers that provide both structural and aesthetic attributes, and have the versatility and strength to be used for finishes, joinery and furniture.

"The family took great care in all materials being used for the creation of their dream home and this is why the use of Big River products was crucial in the process," Carol says.

Chosen in the spotted gum timber species, these strong, high quality plywoods have a tolerance to changes in ambient temperatures, and the durability and resilience of the hardwood veneers make them ideal for the extensive use of flooring, ceiling or wall linings in hard wearing areas.

"Using Big River timber products fits into this philosophy, as they are not only locally sourced but robust, and with a character that is uniquely Australian."

"Marra + Yeh Architects have been a valued partner of ours for over a decade now, and we were thrilled to be asked to work on such an innovative project as the Sky House," says Stuart McGonagle, national plywood and specialty manager, Big River Group.

"A significant advantage of using timber on a project like this is that it can be easily modified and adjusted on site, which is of particular importance when working within existing buildings.

A high level of detail and craftmanship can be achieved while also adjusting to unforeseen conditions and the products absolutely deliver on both budget and aesthetic goals," Stuart says.

Sky House transforms the Sydney terrace house typology into an experience of the seasons, welcoming in the clouds, the trees and the sky.

An aesthetically ambitious yet comfortable and functional family home.