The Step House, winner of the LandCorp Gen Y comp. Image: Craig Kinder F22 Photography.

9 April 2014 — LandCorp has announced David Barr as winner of a competition that asked Western Australia’s young architects to design a sustainable home specifically targeted towards prospective “Generation Y” home buyers.

Mr Barr, a 34-year-old South Fremantle architect who runs his own firm David Barr Architects, won the competition with his “The Step House” entry, netting $5000 and, more importantly, having the project built as a demonstration home at the White Gum Valley infill development in Fremantle.

So what does a Gen Y’s house look like, exactly? Probably the same as their parent’s house we at The Fifth Estate imagine, because that’s precisely where a large percentage of Australian Gen Ys now reside, having been priced out of the housing and even rental markets.

“It is clear from the outstanding entries that affordability is the major factor facing generation Y when they enter the housing market,” WA Lands Minister Terry Redman said.

“Through innovative small lot design, adaptable living spaces and creative thinking, these architects have come up with a range of ideas which we can use to better understand and assist young people become homeowners.”

The competition asked architects under 38 to design a home that appealed to young buyers looking for elements not typically part of traditional property – a home for Gen Y by Gen Y. It had to be environmentally sensitive and accommodate four adults living with each other on 250 square metres, a style of living becoming increasingly popular as friends and siblings band together to try to crack the housing market.

David Barr

Mr Barr’s “The Step House” featured three clearly delineated and separately buyable individual apartments fitting onto a standard block.

“It’s aptly named [The Step House] as a way to deal with affordability, which we see as the main issue with the housing project,” Mr Barr said.

“The affordability aspect comes though by having a raw but highly liveable shell so you can incrementally add layers when time and money permits. These layers can be paint, cornices, skirting, built-in furniture and maybe enclosing the carport structure so it becomes a garage, workshop or studio.”

The challenge for Mr Barr was creating a space that created independence as well as interdependence for the four adults.

“The approach we took was to have three separate dwellings,” he said.

“Each dwelling is small but each of them has a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living/dining and outdoor courtyards with small water-wise gardens.

“The design also provides for growing families, in that two units can easily be amalgamated into one.”

The judging panel unanimously agreed the design had the potential to be an effective stand-alone commercial proposition that could be replicated in the current WA market.

Concepts that would appeal to the Gen Y market the judges looked for included adaptable living spaces that took into account trends of shared housing and multiple owners, sustainable water, waste and energy technologies, and cost-effective design elements.

Other shortlisted entrants included ABSA’s Sid Thoo and Alex Raynes-Goldie of Sid Thoo Architect; Andrew Boyne of ATB Architect; Lisa McGann, Greg James, Jenni Star, Johannes Lupolo Chan and Miriam Jeffreys of Gresley Abas; Mitchell Hill and Sally-Ann Weerts of Matthews McDonald Architects; and Thomas Hobbs of VittinoAshe.

The competition was endorsed by the City of Fremantle, the Australian Institute of Architects and the Office of the Government Architect as a catalyst for the delivery of more innovative, sustainable and adaptable living options.

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  1. David Barr,
    well done and a great concept. Next will be a product delivery model and funding.
    What are your plans here as i have been discussing the challenges facing residential home builders over the next 10 years at constructionedge. I believe that multi-unit dwellings or 3 to 5 levels will need to be the new mainstream market for volume housing. This will need to be inter-generation focused.
    good luck with your idea,