Award Winning Construction and Design Innovation

The Builders Choice Magazine

26 March 2018

Natural Harmony

Award-Winning Construction and Design Innovation in West Perth

The challenges in completing this outstanding residential project were daunting on several key fronts. Not only was the working space tight but access for construction was also complicated, requiring meticulous traffic management and trade coordination – and even a live sewerage redirection. 

In the end the project in West Perth was a resounding success, eventually being honoured with an MBA award in the category of “Innovative Construction for Small Lots”.

“It was an intensely programmed project,” recalls Adrian Gagiero, Director of Mercedes Construction. “Full trade coordination was required during the build due to catering for the small work areas and heavy traffic. Deliveries had to be well timed and scheduled, which meant the building program was constantly updated to ensure the project was kept on track, and coordination of deliveries was considered with the local residents, taking into account the room on site and subcontractors’ requirements.”

Architect Barry Baltinas substantiates these difficulties. “The space that we had to work with was extremely tight and access for construction was challenging. The design responds to the site’s unique connection to the water elements of the Swan River, the earth elements of Kings Park and the air elements of the space and views. The home’s vertical conceptual framework responds to these whilst being constrained by its block size and topography.”

Several applications were made to the council for permanent work zones and temporary road closures. “Prior to any road closures, pamphlet drops to residents were essential,” notes Mr. Gagiero, “to assist with the overall communication of the street access arrangements.” 

A live sewerage redirection was also required on site, which meant a temporary system for a period of two months. “We had to re-organise the job around the sewer to ensure there was no inconvenience to the residents and broader community. Refurbishment of the existing sewer line was part of the overall house build, and was completed in stages when the project progressed around those works.”

Design Connections with Earth Elements

The 168 square metre lot is located in a cul-de-sac and the house is built on six levels comprising a basement, split-level floors one to four, and a rooftop area with pool. 

“This verticality required an ordered sequence of zoning as you travel up the home,” explains Mr. Baltinas. “The home was prioritised accordingly, with living zones on the higher levels to take advantage of the views and outlook whilst the bedrooms were on the lower levels, providing a more serene tree-lined outlook. This ordering was also a direct response to acoustics.”

At the street front there is a living green wall façade creating a natural connection to the public domain. This provided inspiration for the built form, according to Mr. Baltinas, “a context where Kings Park meets the city, through the leafy green Mount Street. Architecture here extends itself vertically through its folding walls, creating an origami effect both inside and outside the home. Expanding and contracting similar to our breath – which connects us to life.”

The external fabric of the home comprises exposed and washed aggregate concrete walls whose individual textures and colours draw inspiration from the colours and aggregate found in Kings Park. This natural texture continues into the home, encompassing the six-level central light void. “As you move throughout the building,” says Mr. Baltinas, “you continually have that connection to this earth element from both within and out.”

The central light-filled spine that runs up the vertical void within the home also contains an open glass lift and stairs, with this glass-surrounded circulation space providing a continual connection to the external elements.

The dining room is built in a mezzanine style above the living area and sits directly under the glass-bottom rooftop pool, “creating a play of light and colour through the reflection of the water elements whilst taking its visual cues from the Swan River beyond”.

The angled glass skin that encapsulates the living and dining room creates a waterfall effect when rainfall navigates its way down the glass façade. The glass-bottom pool features its own glass face wall cantilevered out toward the Swan River, and this rooftop space links directly to a kitchenette and living and relaxation area. “A location where the freedom to express subtle sculptural form in architecture links itself to this unique and rare setting,” says Mr. Baltinas.

Innovative Building Techniques 

Exposed aggregate precast building materials were used as the external façade. According to Mr. Gagiero, “A high level of coordination was required to ensure that all the angles and connection points worked without any damage occurring. All panels were inspected by the builder for quality and consistency before being transported to the site. Both site supervision and strong rigging expertise were required to ensure the success of this vital element.”

AFS panels were used in the basement structure, allowing the project to get out of the ground and up to street level in a compressed time-frame. Foundations were based on a screw piles design due to the existing main sewerage lines and the need to work around essential infrastructure in the area. 

Due to the nature of the site location, limited access and lay-down areas, a tower crane was required. This necessitated a structural upgrade and design coordination with services to provide sufficient room for the crane base. 

One of the other main building challenges related to the difficult site conditions was the requirement for a combination of ground stabilisation techniques (screw piling and micro-fine grouting) to ensure the steep benched configuration of the land was suitable for the building.

A public thoroughfare used by pedestrians, tourists, and exercise personnel was subject to extensive traffic management to ensure the safety of the public while allowing the work program and deliveries to be completed, including semi-trailers transporting precast panels down a narrow and steep street and the complicated logistics of delivering and dispersing more than 100 tonnes of marble. 

Other key issues that had to be resolved included the installation of more than 126 six-metre deep 220kN screw piles, completed in three stages as site access was tight due to limited work space and adjoining structures. The installing machine size was limited to a 13-tonne excavator to provide the operator with maximum manoeuvrability around the site.  

Granite tiles and washed aggregate panels were chosen to take advantage of their high thermal resistance, thus improving liveability and decreasing energy expenditure to suit a comfortable environment. 

The house was designed to take advantage of the outstanding views. Aneeta windows with no centre transom were used for optimum results, and this philosophy was also applied to the balustrade walls and swimming pool, which were glazed for clear views of the river. To add to the creative feel of the house a glass floor panel was inserted in the pool base – visible from the third and fourth floors. 

Energy efficiency was an important element in the design. Solar panels were used to provide a different power source to run the house during daylight hours; and the glazed façade incorporates double-glazing and motorised louvers to assist in obtaining a high energy efficiency rating. 

In conclusion, for Adrian Gagiero, in addition to the project’s MBA award and its high-quality finishes throughout, other aspects that gave the team a special sense of satisfaction and achievement were “dealing with clients, neighbours and authorities to ensure we minimised the impact of our works while allowing the construction processes to proceed: the innovative building techniques and materials used to accommodate a unique design; and a construction program meticulously created to ensure seamless delivery and work processes for materials and trades”.


“As you move throughout the building you continually have that connection to this earth element from both within and out”

“This creates a play of light and colour through the reflection of the water elements whilst taking its visual cues from the Swan River beyond”

“The construction program was meticulously created to ensure seamless delivery and work processes for materials and trades” 


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