The award-winning Garden Bunkie

WINNER: The Garden Bunkie won the Sustainability category in this year's Houses Awards. Photos: Christopher Frederick-Jones.
WINNER: The Garden Bunkie won the Sustainability category in this year's Houses Awards. Photos: Christopher Frederick-Jones.

With an internal floor area of just 27 square metres, the Garden Bunkie proves once again that good things come in small packages.

The Brisbane dwelling designed by Queensland's Reddog Architects was the winner in the Sustainability category of this year's Houses Awards, the judges stating that "the light-filled building connects intimately to the garden, providing a flexible space that could be a quiet retreat for a new parent, an evening workspace or a guesthouse for extended family."

According to practice manager at Reddog Architects, Jo Hathaway, the Garden Bunkie adopts basic passive design principles in terms of cross ventilation and natural lighting.

COOL: The building adopts basic passive design principles in terms of cross ventilation and natural lighting.

COOL: The building adopts basic passive design principles in terms of cross ventilation and natural lighting.

NATURAL FEEL: Plenty of timber was used throughout the project, including the framing, cladding, screens and a the interior.

NATURAL FEEL: Plenty of timber was used throughout the project, including the framing, cladding, screens and a the interior.

"Natural materials have been specified throughout the project in terms of timber framing, sustainable timber cladding and screens, plywood interior and sandstone retaining walls. There is also a social sustainable aspect in terms of accommodating visitors from afar, a 'work from home' space and a possible second dwelling on the site."

While the notion of a "bunkie" might not be one that's familiar to many Australians, it was a known reference to one of the clients, recalling the humble Ontario guest cottages in her Canadian homeland.

Hathaway says conversations with the clients revealed their long-term aspirations to raise a family in their much-loved workers cottage, located on a small lot in suburban Brisbane. "Preferring not to extend the cottage, the approach taken was to consolidate the new program into a compact detached dwelling, carefully sited around established trees an under-utilised area of the garden.

"Specific brief aspirations stipulated that the room function as a quiet retreat for a new mother, an evening workspace, and as a guesthouse for extended family."

VERSATILE: The building acts as accommodation for visitor, a work from home space and possible second dwelling.

VERSATILE: The building acts as accommodation for visitor, a work from home space and possible second dwelling.

The interior material palette of whitewashed ply, plasterboard and white tiles is subdued and cost effective. Sliding screens and skylights allow privacy to be modulated and let natural light penetrate the secluded retreat.

A wrapping western wall hovers above the ground, preventing unwanted sight lines and sun penetration, while allowing a sense of spaciousness and the perception of the garden merging into the interior.

"The Bunkie provides those occupying it and inhabitants of the main home with a sense of autonomy, space and privacy that would never be afforded in a guest bedroom," says Hathaway. "It also allows the occupants of the home to have a separate work space from the main home, enabling them in a sense to leave home and 'go to the office'."

PRIVATE: Sliding screens and skylights allow privacy to be modulated and let natural light penetrate the secluded retreat.

PRIVATE: Sliding screens and skylights allow privacy to be modulated and let natural light penetrate the secluded retreat.

Challenges faced during the build included access to the site, budget constraints and minimising the building's footprint.

The site access challenge was addressed by using mega-anchor footings, lightweight materials and timber instead of steel, while budgetary constraints were addressed by collaborating with the builder on cost-effective solutions. Minimising the building's footprint meant ensuring the plan of the building was compact, using a post and beam-type construction, as opposed to a slab on the ground approach.

Hathaway says the clients were incredibly embracing and respectful of the solutions presented to them.

"A strong process of collaboration was adopted with the client, builder and consultants from the outset, which resulted in creative solutions and efficient methods of construction."