The BDAA National Design Awards, a presentation of the Building Designers Association of Australia, is proud to honour the inaugural winner of its Thermal Design Excellence Award: James Cross for his Little Albion design.

In 2020, BDAA expanded its ranks to form powerful alliances with Thermal Performance Assessors and other industry professionals. And this year, we extended to our new TPA members the first time ever offer to win a National Industry Award. We wanted to see ABSA accredited members receive amazing benefits and recognition for their skills; benefits they can receive only when they win a BDAA National Design Award.

This year’s Thermal Design Excellence Award honours the Little Albion by James Cross.


Thermal Design Excellence Award: James Cross “Little Albion”


Little Albion is the perfect blend between an emerging sustainable designer in Kyle Stacey of Stack Design and an energy assessor focused on thermal improvement and client engagement in James Cross of Northern Aspect Energy Consultants. The back and forth process was smooth and always involved open dialogue and Kyle is a pleasure to work with. The process of taking a house that was 5.3 stars on an existing narrow lot and creating a 7.4 star final design was not easy but with 2 minds bringing ideas to the table we managed to complete the process after months of preliminary design work. The result is a thermally comfortable home that did not need to compromise the architectural design features and was achieved on budget.

The project is in Cottesloe on one of the relatively narrow old cottage blocks. Stack Design’s clients were a farming family, having used the existing house for many years, decided it was time to retire the old home & create a home that better suited their lifestyle. Designed to create a bright, light filled space for their constant entertaining with neighbours, family & friends. The result is exactly that, a series of vibrant connected spaces, that encourages interaction between each.


Thermal Design Excellence Award: James Cross “Little Albion”


The main living space opens entirely to absorb the central courtyard, subtly recreating the sense the space they’re used to on the farm, surrounded by nature. With the timber battened doors expanding the courtyard into the carport & out to the street, the home manages an eloquent balance between privacy and a valued connection to the street. Without compromising the home in any way and through a blend of Design & Energy efficiency they managed to create the final 7.4 star design within budget, an increase from the original 5.3 stars.

This design posed some real difficulties with the front of the block facing North this meant having to deal with a lot of East facing glass. The biggest hurdle for this job was the roof deck that sat above the main living area below.

This reduced the space they had for insulation and initially meant they had a concrete ceiling with no insulation.

They worked multiple solutions and came up with the use of XPS insulation above the concrete ceiling and then raised the roof deck timber above this insulation. This overcame a huge hurdle to get this house past the minimum 6 stars.

From there it was a balance where they started working with single glazed Low-E and then worked their way up to use high performance double glazing doors to insulate the main Living area which ended up have a 56% glass to floor area ratio.

To keep within budget they have balanced the glazing throughout with some single clear to non essential areas, single low-E to louvres and then finally high performance double glazing in the main living area and also study/guest room.

The use of high performance glazing has allowed they to keep the feature concrete walls that were not insulated. This feature was key to the overall look and this is where Cross’ role as the energy assessors really applies, an assessor should be able to blend client wishes with thermal performance to find the perfect middle ground.


Thermal Design Excellence Award: James Cross “Little Albion”


The house was completed in Early 2021 and recently on a cold winter’s day in Perth where it was 11 degrees outside during the day, the client emailed the designer to comment on the beautiful study space that was sitting at 23 degrees without any added mechanical heating. This feedback is what makes the assessor/designer engagement process worthwhile.

James Cross is the owner and director of Northern Aspect Energy Consultants and a fully accredited ABSA assessor. Whilst he has worked in many areas of the building industry for more than 15 years, his business is just over 2 years old. Prior to that he was the Senior Assessor in a large firm that was involved in hundreds of assessments per week. He started his own business to focus on the client again and really provide a genuine consultancy business where the client comes first and 6 stars is the starting point, not the end point.

He is also an industry advocate in Western Australia and is doing his part to improve the standards of all assessors and regulations in WA.

“I am passionate about leaving a better footprint on the planet one thermally improved house at a time,” he said, “and hopefully one day my children will get to reap the rewards.”


Image source: James Cross