Wonderful Wood in New Zealand's Long Grass House

Rafe Maclean's almost Passive House is built on a tilt.

Long Grass House exterior

Rafe Maclean

The Long Grass House in New Zealand by architect Rafe Maclean won a small project award from the New Zealand Institute of Architects, which noted:

“There is a sense of fun in this design which carries through from outside to inside; it evokes a feeling of being on holiday in a house that is occupied the year round. The interiors are engaging, with an enjoyable volume of space, natural light, and material warmth.”
Kitchen and loft above

via Rafe Maclean Architects

It is the material warmth that I found so attractive—the use of inexpensive plywood in the interior and steel cladding on the exterior.

view from kitchen

via Rafe Maclean

The image above is the view looking from the kitchen through the lounge.

The jury explains its selection: “The design approach has been positively reductive, interrogating what is really needed in order to produce what is sufficient. It is clear that client and architect have become a complementary team, working together through design and construction."

Plan of house

Rafe Maclean

It's a simple plan for a not-so-big house—the garage seems bigger—and an interesting layout of the bathroom, laundry, and entrance. The stairway leads to a loft above the bathroom and laundry.

Skylight from outside

via Rafe Maclean

On Bowerbird, the architect describes how "a panoramic skylight runs near the length of the building and connects to a vertical window." You can see it from the inside in the kitchen photo above. It's about the only really fancy detail in the house, which is designed with "thrifty detailing with colourful trimmings, simple geometric shapes."

House leaning into wind

via Rafe Maclean

The angled ends are supposed to appear to be leaning into the prevailing wind, but it's really a clever energy-saving trick to create overhangs that shade the windows from the northern sun. The architect notes: "The form of the building is compact giving a low form factor, and with its compactness comes low energy demand. Passive House Energy calculations were used to drive design decisions – using current climate data and predicted future climate data."

Details of stair

via Rafe Maclean

There are some great examples of how to use inexpensive materials and get real value out of them. The architect tells Archipro:

"Every material and surface here is durable and will take some hard knocks—something that was central to all material decisions, including cladding. We wanted to ensure that every product we specified would stand the test of time in this harsh environment and be suitable for the family to live in with its changing needs for years to come.” 

Sloping bits on house

via Rafe Maclean

The house probably got a lot of attention for the sloping bits leaning into the wind, but the real story of this house is the simplicity and economy of the materials. Almost nothing is cheaper or more durable than steel siding for the exterior. If you can't bear drywall, there is not much that's cheaper than plywood. Lots to like here, for a long time to come.