Helen Bernard Architect
Unicorn Architecture and Construction are a team of skilled architects and builders with a passion for quality design. Established in 1992, we have set out to conceive and construct beautiful and comfortable built environments across Victoria and interstate that are energy efficient and respectful to the environment. Our design approach is to integrate the building with its site and to harmonize the elements of light and shade to create elegant structures that are warm in winter, cool in summer and don’t cost the earth to live in. We specialize in a range of residential work and small commercial work and are committed to enhancing environmental sustainability in our built environment.
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Mountain View House
Macedon Ranges, 2005
Set in a suburban sub-division alongside average, street-facing brick veneers, this chameleon-like home has the ability to fit in with the neighbours while deceptively enveloping an anything but average space. Designed for a family with a young child, the sculptural qualities of strawbale have been utilized here to create a playful and sensuous form that invites you to touch and feel. A curved entry atrium funnels you into an open living space to delight the senses. The centre of the room is a focal point from which you can view Mount Macedon in the distance, or the outdoor living deck to the north which connects via an operable wall of glass. A symphony of materials and textures penned by the architect was further enhanced with daring colours and furnishings dreamt up by the client, together creating an abode to truely excite and nurture one’s self at the same time.
Gum Tree Spring
Hepburn Shire, 2010
Gumtree Spring is a bush retreat just outside of Daylesford offering holiday accommodation. Unfortunately the original mudbrick house was destroyed by fire and the owners were keen to replace the building, however this time with more emphasis placed on energy efficiency and bushfire safety. In light of the revisions made to the Australian Standards in building in bushfire prone areas, the house was designed to meet very stringent levels of bushfire safety. The house is clad entirely in mudbrick and all exposed timbers are very dense fire resistant species. The wall construction departs significantly from the traditional method of mudbrick building. There is a structural stud frame with a veneer of mudbricks laid on edge, internally and externally. This allows insulation batts to be placed in the cavity and then forms an insulated building envelope with a layer of internal thermal mass. This kind of ‘reverse veneer’ construction is far superior in thermal performance than conventional brick veneer where the bricks on the outside effectively do little more than keep the rain out. Roof trusses over the living areas feature a raked ceiling which allow highlight windows to capture more sunlight from above the treetops, while still having ample room to place optimal amounts of insulation.
Moorabool Shire, 2006
The brief for the project was to design a resource efficient home on a modest budget; one which the clients would foresee living in on a long term basis. Low embodied energy in materials, low energy consumption in operation, and low water usage were the principal objectives of the brief. The choice of strawbale as a wall material provided a good solution to meet several of these objectives but instead of allowing the traditional use of this unconventional material to dictate the design, we wanted to use it in a modern way for a contemporary style house. Traditionally a favourite with owner builders and alternative life stylers, we wanted to expand the repertoire of this flexible material and use it within a contemporary style to show that strawbale building need not only be suitable for a small niche market, but can also serve the needs of modern lifestyles and address the ever increasing concerns of climate change. Strawbale is a highly renewable material. It’s a waste product from the grain harvest, whose abundant quantity can be regrown annually. As well as being of low embodied energy, it is also highly insulative with a conservative Firstrate R-value of 5 for this completely natural product, although an actual R-value of 10 is more widely accepted.