There’s no better way to understand the problems and potential of a home than by living in it. If you’re studying architecture at the same time, you become part of a living design project.
Such was the case for Griffith University architecture graduate Pam Deasy as she led the transformation of her 1970s Broadbeach Waters home into a contemporary masterpiece.
“The goal was to edit the existing structure to create a more comfortable home where we could cook, entertain and engage with the outdoors while increasing thermal efficiency,” says Pam.
“The existing home was typical of early ’70s spec homes on the Gold Coast. It was like a time capsule – brick and tile, two bedrooms, one bathroom, no insulation and no ceiling fans. It was charming, but hardly functional. It had also been enjoyed by termites.”
For four years, Pam and her boyfriend, mum and three dogs lived in the house as the work took place around them. It was a case of learning on the job, although Pam was hardly a novice.
Having studied interior design and landscape design at QUT, Pam deferred to pursue a fashion career that ultimately took her across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Europe. She returned to study in 2010, after attending an information evening about a new architecture program at Griffith University.
“Once I learned that an architecture degree could be the starting point for so many different career trajectories, I felt more confident about enrolling. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” says Pam, who graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Design (Architecture) in 2012 and gained her Master of Architecture in 2014. She also received a Griffith Award for Academic Excellence.
Pam’s environmentally focused design sensibilities formed early. Growing up on acreage complemented an affinity with the landscape and this was enhanced through sustainability principles at Griffith.
Back at Broadbeach Waters, Pam’s studies informed her understanding of what did and didn’t work about the existing structure.
“I had resolved the proposed plans by the time I completed my masters and set out to find a builder my first year out of uni,” says Pam. “Alongside my studies, I had been working 3-4 days a week for a local building designer and had developed a small network of builders and consultants I could approach for advice. Being so new to the industry, my understanding of real-world costs was a bit naive and so our limited budget became the overarching driver of all decisions.”
“Managing and completing the project while working full-time was challenging, but I was lucky to have an understanding employer who allowed me to run our house project and who also assisted in my professional growth.”
Now working in a boutique architectural practice at Byron Bay, Pam will soon sit her registration exams to qualify as a registered architect. To that end, the Broadbeach Waters home is both a lovely setting for her study, and a positive reminder of her abilities.
“This house was a wonderful opportunity to experiment and apply my developing skills and creativity,” she says. “And while we are thoroughly enjoying living in our new home, I’d never pass up the opportunity to do it again.”
And she’s not on her own. Master Builders Queensland recently revealed there had been $155 million worth of renovation work approvals during 2016-17 across the Gold Coast, a 10 per cent increase on the previous year.
Top industry resource, realestate.com.au, also announced that Queensland homeowners had outlaid $1.35 billion for renovations across the state in the 12 months up to September 2017.