design for
The Subtropical Home is a special place with a unique character:
• The Subtropical Home encourages an informal and relaxed lifestyle.
• The Subtropical Home responds to the local weather patterns
• The Subtropical Home utilises local resources sustainably.
• The Subtropical Home connects us with our landscape and outdoor
• The Subtropical Home contributes to the character of the
• The Subtropical Home respects the importance of water in our
• The Subtropical Home benefits from vegetation.
Introduction 3
Summary Principles 9
February 2005
This material was produced with funding from the Centre for Subtropical Design, a partnership between Brisbane City
Council and the Queensland University of Technology.
This Report is provided for information only. The authors, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane City Council,
The Centre for Subtropical Design at QUT (the publishers) do not accept liability to any person for the information or
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In nature we encounter experiences that stretch across generations, and such experience is shaped by its historical,
environmental and cultural fabric.
This project is about the identification of our unique subtropical character and the values inherent in the siting, experiences,
memory, structure and materials that make up the architecture of the detached dwellings many of us live in. It is about
incorporating this character and these values that not only define a place, but also provide experiences that have united
generations into the fabric of our South East Queensland homes.
More fundamentally, when entering SEQ, the merging of architecture and landscape announces an encounter with a
special, unique place. We need to balance the suburban sameness by and large produced by the project home market
with a human-scale, sustainable architecture that will fold into its subtropical surrounds.
In seeking to identify key elements for a subtropical home it is important to realise that communities are supported
by places and recurrent landscape elements that clearly speak their identity. These may be derived from the historic
responses to the natural setting, patterns of land use and social activity that over time have shaped the area’s lifestyle
and form. The character of a subtropical home is distinct and sometimes subtle, yet immediately recognisable as a special
place by residents and visitors alike.
Subtropical South East Queensland provides a place for rich contact with natural systems and distinctive settings. If SEQ
grows in a form responsive to this setting, we will add meaning, as we become aware of the presence and beauty of the
area in our daily activities. To make this happen, design principles and guidelines may help to give direction to the region’s
development. On a regional and neighbourhood level, scenic landmarks and views must be preserved and created, and
natural connections must be enhanced. On a more intimate scale, places must take shape that enhance and integrate into
the landscape. Most importantly, ecological connections must be maintained to protect natural systems and human scale
connections must be designed to create places that sustain the environment and foster community.
The Centre for Subtropical Design, a joint partnership between QUT and BCC, and the architectural firm of Bligh Voller
Nield have collaborated in the production of this document.
The illustrations focus on the concept and design of the Brisbane Sustainable Home, a demonstation project by the
Australian Green Development Forum, supported by the BCC. The project team for the Brisbane Sustainable Home have
therefore also contributed to this document:
• Architect - Bligh Voller Nield
• Landscape and Ecology Consultants - Yurrah
• Civil and Hydraulic Engineers - Bligh Tanner
• Services and Thermal Engineers - Lincolne Scott
• Builder - Natural Lifestyle Homes
• Project Managers - Urban Blueprint
The Subtropical Home encourages an informal and relaxed lifestyle
• Seamless indoor/outdoor living: large verandahs, shaded decks
• Home raised up off the ground: suits hilly terrain, less susceptible to floods, better protected from pests and catches the
• Open plan living: cross ventilation essential for relief from heat and humidity
The Subtropical Home responds to the local weather patterns appropriately
• Orientation takes advantage of solar access, prevailing breeze, and views
• Large openings catch the cool breezes in summer
• Shaded windows and walls protect from summer sun and rain
• Construction details for a cooler house: high ventilated roof, wide eaves, insulation, lightweight, masonry only if fully
shaded, light coloured roof and walls
• Spaces are illuminated with abundant natural light
• Capture sun’s warmth during winter
The Subtropical Home utilises local resources sustainably
• Design the home for standard sizes to minimise waste materials
• Consider using locally produced materials
• Select appropriate sustainable building materials and resources
• Choose building materials with low embodied energy
• Use durable products and materials
• Incorporate recycled materials
The Subtropical Home connects us with our landscape and outdoor activities
• Subtropical landscapes contribute to the character of subtropical living spaces
• The garden is part of the house: focus of living and outdoor activities
Olivia Martin-McGuire
The Subtropical Home contributes to the character of the neighbourhood
• The front garden is a shady place for chats, greetings, or just watching the world go by
• Existing trees, native gardens and views enhance natural connections with the surrounds
• Celebrate the diversity and style of form of our subtropical streetscape
Olivia Martin-McGuire
The Subtropical Home respects the importance of water in our community
• Roofs collect our limited and precious water resources in tanks for reuse
• Water features create habitats for native wildlife
• Irrigation is minimised: water wise garden, controllers, drip irrigation
• Water management strategies are integral
The Subtropical Home benefits from vegetation
• Areas surrounding the home are climate responsive: shady, sheltering, cooling
• A biodiverse garden supports habitats for native wildlife
• Soil is conserved: vegetation, erosion control, terracing
• Food producing landscapes are very rewarding
• Distinctly Queensland gardens may use the character of past gardens as a stepping off point to create gardens for the future
• Protects and restores the natural ecosystem
• Celebrates the senses - sound, sight, smell, taste
Olivia Martin-McGuire