Recycled timber brings history to new home

By James Russell

This home boasts beautiful views of Ambury Regional Park and the Manukau Harbour. Photo: James Russell
This home boasts beautiful views of Ambury Regional Park and the Manukau Harbour. Photo: James Russell

Architecture & design: Perched on the edge of the Manukau Harbour, this Mangere Bridge home features cutting-edge eco features and a thoroughly modern look, but recycled timbers give it style and softness.

When Joe and Peta Davy turn their mind to building new things, they first think about how they can incorporate old materials. So it is with their brand new Mangere Bridge home, which makes use of recycled and recovered timbers with interesting origins.Joe and Peta bought the property - complete with an existing home - as an investment, but fell in love with the location; to the north, just a hop over the stile, are the rocky, undulating fields of Ambury Regional Park complete with ancient middens and kumara pits. To the west the farm land slopes down to the Manukau Harbour, dotted here and there with sheep and the odd pukeko.The couple decided to remove the existing house and build their dream home according to the principles of Sthapatya Veda - the Hindu version of Feng Shui - a tradition that has been in Joe's family for a long time. A set of architectural and planning principles based on ancient Sanskrit texts, the practice has strict rules governing the orientation, proportions and green building materials of the building.

Happily, those rules dictate that the building must face exactly north, and the flaring north end of the building lets in the maximum quotient of winter sun.

At the winter solstice the midday sun reaches exactly to the back of the polished concrete slab, providing maximum passive solar warming. In summer the slab is sun-free, and excess heat in the building escapes via what Peta calls the 'school louvers' high in the north wall. ?The sun's warmth is also utilised to heat the home's hot water through rooftop solar panels, and on cold, cloudy days the wood burner's wetback makes up the shortfall. "We turned off our hot water tank three months ago," says Joe.

Other energy features include low energy LED lighting throughout and, most obviously, the building's small size, at just 160 square metres. "Houses are getting so big these days - it's common to hear of 350-square-metre homes for a family of three or four. If a home is designed well there is no need to have such a big building," says Peta, a designer at interior design firm Yellowfox. These energy efficiency features all show up most obviously in the couple's power bill - around $70 per month.

Now back to that wood. The fact that Joe's father started the timber recovery business Kauri Warehouse - which Joe now manages - means he had better access to, and more inclination to use, recycled timbers than most. The floor and sliding bedroom and bathroom doors in the house are all built using recycled tawa from an old state house in Remuera.

The kitchen bench is made from timber milled from retired Auckland power poles - having served one purpose bringing energy to the city's homes, it now brings a vibrant golden energy to the kitchen. The same power-pole timber has been used on the exterior of the house in a purely aesthetic fashion.

An Australian hardwood variety, it brings a warmth and softness to the look of the home and marries well with the natural surroundings. Encircling the house - also a part of Sthapatya Veda - is a low wooden fence. The timber for the fence - felled and stockpiled on the side of a forestry road in the central north island over 60 years ago while two generations of pine forests grew and were cleared around it - was eventually rescued by Joe's father who saw its value.

The western side of Mount Mangere is a windy place, exposed to the south westerlies that come screaming across the harbour, but the orientation and small 'wings' on the northern, living end of the house provide an oasis. It nicely sums up the feel of the home - city living that feels like more like rural, thoroughly modern design, but softened with the timber of ages past.

Built in
Recycled timber is:
Sustainable - no need to cut down fresh trees.
Available - some species are very hard to get or are no longer available new.
Economical - in NZ recycled timber is usually cheaper than the new equivalent.
Attractive - in new builds using recycled timber gives instant character. Every piece is unique. For renovations using recycled timber can be the only way to match the new extension with the existing structure.
Local - sourced locally.
Encourages recycling - even now lots of very good native timber ends up as chip or in landfills. If there was a greater demand maybe more would be saved.

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