Out of the WOODS

An Auck­land cou­ple are build­ing spec­tac­u­lar log cab­ins in the high hills above the Manukau Har­bour.

Element - - Architecture - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

The frame fits into a stan­dard ship­ping con­tainer, takes only about three days to erect, and costs about $115,000.

The idea of liv­ing in a log cabin ap­peals to many. They can be built sus­tain­ably and rel­a­tively sim­ply, and come com­plete with builtin Griz­zly Adams/heidi rus­tic charm. But they can also con­jure up images of dusty floors, dark in­te­ri­ors and sleep­ing with the spi­ders.

Visit a new eco-de­vel­op­ment in the small west Auck­land set­tle­ment of Huia, how­ever, and these mis­giv­ings will al­most cer­tainly fall away. Here on a site with spec­tac­u­lar views over the Manukau Har­bour, John Dono­van and his part­ner Sharon are help­ing to bring log home build­ing into the 21st cen­tury.

The first thing you no­tice when vis­it­ing the de­vel­op­ment’s show home nes­tled among young Kauri at the rear of the site is that they may be rel­a­tively sim­ple, but these Twin Peak homes are any­thing but hum­ble abodes. From about $350,000 up­wards, de­pend­ing on the fin­ish you go for and how much work you put in your­self, you get an aw­ful lot of wow fac­tor and 200m2 of well-lit, airy liv­ing space. The key to their iconic look, as well as the strength and flex­i­bil­ity of the de­sign, is the homes’ spa­cious log frame. This is con­structed from in­di­vid­u­ally se­lected Dou­glas Fir logs, se­lec­tively felled just south of Ro­torua. The logs are used un­sea­soned and whole, with their bark stripped with drawknives, cre­at­ing an in­cred­i­bly strong and visu­ally stun­ning nat­u­ral struc­ture.

To avoid con­tact with mois­ture that would even­tu­ally dam­age the beams, the frame rests on a multi-lay­ered con­crete pad, with the homes’ unique ‘wing beams’ sup­ported by their own 3m deep con­crete foot­ings. The pad also of­fers the op­por­tu­nity for pas­sive so­lar heat gain through the homes’ glass frontage, where heat from the sun dur­ing the day is ab­sorbed and re­leased slowly to main­tain an even tem­per­a­ture when things cool down.

Although it’s stylish looks means it fits nicely into a de­vel­op­ment of the lat­est con­ven­tional home designs, the re­sult­ing house is in­cred­i­bly sim­ple and flex­i­ble. The frame fits into a stan­dard ship­ping con­tainer, takes only about three days to erect, and costs about $115,000. Put a roof on it, and build­ing con­sent per­mit­ting, you can then spend what­ever time and money you have on cre­at­ing the rooms and fa­cil­i­ties you want in­side. There’s eas­ily room up­stairs for a spa­cious mas­ter be­d­room plus two oth­ers, or four smaller bed­rooms with a lit­tle mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

The show home sports low VOC paint, Kauri board­ing to the ex­te­rior, en­gi­neered Euro­pean oak floors, and Euro­pean style turn and tilt dou­ble-glaz­ing with western red cedar join­ery from Heir­loom Join­ery in Takou Bay. It’s also fully wired for data, light and sound. This adds to the lux­ury feel, but the key is that each owner can choose what­ever they like, and what­ever they have bud­get for. John is par­tic­u­larly keen to try a more rus­tic ap­proach next time around, which would come in at the lower end of the price range.

He says: “We had no prob­lems at all with get­ting con­sent for this. The in­spec­tors seemed to re­ally en­joy see­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. We looked at a lot of other meth­ods, in­clud­ing straw bale and rammed earth, but then this came up and it just seemed to re­ally fit this lo­ca­tion. This de­sign sat beau­ti­fully, al­most mag­i­cally in this space.”

John and Sharon came to buy the land af­ter re­turn­ing from many years of over­seas travel with a de­sire to set­tle near fam­ily and friends and “own a lit­tle bit of this par­adise”. The site has been sub­di­vided, with at least two of the new own­ers ex­press­ing an in­ter­est in hav­ing Twin Peaks homes built for them. The cou­ple spent three years per­fect­ing the de­sign with ex­pert ad­vice and com­pleted a short log-build­ing course to nut out the finer de­tails of the craft. But, as first time de­vel­op­ers, it seems that a large part of the process was pure in­spi­ra­tion cou­pled with a kind of joy­ful de­ter­mi­na­tion.

John says: “We are green, but not pedan­ti­cally so, more prag­mat­i­cally. The house has an aes­thetic that is quite as­pi­ra­tional. Peo­ple see it and get in­spired. It lifts the senses. We are re­ally ex­cited to build some more.”

Visit tehuia.co.nz for more in­for­ma­tion or to ar­range a viewing.

Pho­tos: Ted Baghurst

Idyl­lic: log homes in the Waitak­eres.

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