The Courtyard House by Kister Architects has been widely acclaimed for its ingenious, breathtaking design. Architect and owner Ilana Kister’s transformation of a heritage-listed bluestone Gothic Revival church in Collingwood into a comfortable modern home required a heating and cooling solution that complemented its high architectural standards while conforming to a strict heritage overlay.

The new home comprises the renovated church and a contemporary addition, and both are designed around passive energy principles, with internal living spaces opening to a north-facing circular courtyard. Kister stripped the church back to its structural elements, demolishing the apse and archways, and light now floods the voluminous interior. The contemporary addition has curved and glazed walls, waxed concrete floors and skylights throughout. Mod Cons’ solution needed to minimise temperature stratification, taking into account the high vaulted ceilings in the old church as well as the skylights in the new addition, which are a challenge due to the impact of direct sunlight at different times of day.


An Airsmart Compact Indoor Environment System fitted with inverter fans and refrigerated cooling was installed in the contemporary addition. It was chosen because of its excellent performance and because it requires less installation space compared to traditional systems, making it easier to satisfy heritage requirements. In-slab heating provides the primary heat source throughout the home, with ducted hydronic heating as a secondary source in the contemporary addition, topping up the heat balance for thermal comfort on very cold days.

Air is delivered via patented pressurised Smartflow ducting extending more than 50 metres through small cavities into unobtrusive linear slot finishing grills. In wet areas, these grilles also incorporate air extraction. “The heating and cooling is very hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for,” says Mod Cons design manager Jimi Rokose. And if the occupants don’t notice it visually, they rarely have to interact with it at all, thanks to Wi-Fi-enabled learning thermostat smart zones with occupancy sensors supporting a fully automated solution.

The Courtyard House set a new price record for Collingwood, selling for more than $6 million. It has been published in Grand Designs and Habitus and was shortlisted in the INDE Awards and 2017 Houses Awards, reflecting the aesthetic integrity of the architecture and its functional components.


Photography by Peter Bennett