Stand 47 at Monaghan Farm

PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Klara van Wyngaarden WORDS Lisa Johnston

Design maverick, art gallery owner and architecture aficionado Gavin Rooke has turned property developer with a new Monaghan Farm house that is a case study for how design and engineering can meet at the sweet spot of eco-friendly beauty. 

A row of eucalyptus trees echoes the long horizontal lines of Stand 47 – a contemporary home set amid green and amber veld grasses on Monaghan Farm just north of Lanseria Airport, Johannesburg. It sets the perfect stage for the house itself, which is a prototype for a new vernacular architecture that uses high-end engineering and design, but manages to integrate this efficiency with environmental and aesthetic appeal.

“No one builds like this,” says property developer Gavin Rooke, referring to the considered approach to every aspect of the design and materials – resulting in the house being built quickly, with excellent acoustics, cool in summer, warm in winter and easy to heat,  together adding up to a lower carbon footprint. “We set an efficiency mandate: get the most out of everything we put in.”

The team, including architect Karlien Thomashoff, has designed the house around a light steel frame using External Thermal Insulation Composite Systems (ETICS) for the walls. The only exception is a stone feature wall that, together with parquet flooring, add visual warmth to the interior. The design needed to make the best possible use of the materials to increase energy efficiency, but keep waste and costs down.

It also needed to turn traditional notions of a home’s requirements on its head, by adapting to the owners’ needs over time. For example, two of the three bedrooms can be used either as a bedroom, guest room or an office, making the house suitable for a young couple working from home, a small family or an older couple whose children have left home, but may still visit. The bathroom works in a similar way. The shower, bathroom and toilet are in separate but inter-leading rooms, which can be closed off or opened up, depending on how many people are using them at a given time.

The design has also taken ease of renovation into consideration. Since the house is built around a steel frame, interior changes won’t compromise the structure of the building in any way. The flooring was laid in a continuous sheet throughout the length of the house before the interior walls were established, which means that if the owners decide to change the layout of the interior they won’t need to replace the flooring.

In terms of its environmental impact, Stand 47 has shifted the focus from “green building” in terms of biodegradable products, to overall durability and efficiency. In addition, the majority of power is generated through 40 solar panels on the roof, water is heated by means of a heat pump and there are three large tanks for rainwater harvesting.

“I wanted to show that you could build a home at the top end of the scale that was highly comfortable and appealing, but that performs better,” says Gavin. “This isn’t about getting off the grid for the sake of getting off the grid, this is about building a state-of-the-art house using contemporary materials and design… This is a machine for living.”

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