Three couples have pooled their sustainability, construction and architecture skills to transform a single family home in Brunswick, Melbourne, into three ultra sustainable townhouses with a semi-shared front yard.
The Davison Collaborative project will aim for an 8 star average NatHERS rating and will be 100 per cent powered by electric green power.
The new collaborative housing project by sustainability consultancy HIP V. HYPE and Archier architects will put sustainability on show, according to founder of HIP V. HYPE Liam Wallis, who will live in one of the three-bedroom homes with his partner Katya.
Co founder of the business, Peter Steele, will also live in development with his partner Sarah (he’s recently left the business to join global energy-tech company Greensync). Director of Archier Chris Gilbert will live in the third townhouse with his partner Miranda.
Wallis told The Fifth Estate that before deciding on the collaborative development model after looking at different models for making housing and mixed use buildings that are affordable, better quality and more sustainable.
This brought the team to codevelopment, which is essentially going through the design process, bank financing requirements and the construction as a collective, drawing on the unique skillsets of the team.
This saves money in a couple of ways, according to Wallis. Firstly, there’s no profits going to a third party, which reduces the costs for the residents. There’s also the efficiencies of scale achieved through the construction of three homes at once.
Finally, Wallis says it’s easier to keep costs down when “you’re only building what we need and not what someone else thinks we need.”
“You don’t need to use fancy stone because some real estate agent told the developers they need the fancy stone to sell the house.”
“It’s a more cost effective way to build.”
He says they’ve managed to pull off a premium product that thanks to its high performance and low ongoing operational costs, would be cost comparable to a typical design optimised solution.
As a sustainability business the plan is to continue analysing the ongoing costs of the project carefully.
“We want to be able to put it in front of a sceptical person and say here’s the conventional cost and here’s the difference.”
“In sustainability, seeing is sometimes believing. So we decided to try bringing all our skills together, take some risks, and pull it together to show other people what can be done.”
Passive design and all electric fitout
The site lent itself to a sustainable outcome and passive design, according to Wallis. The laneway on the site meant the townhouses could be pulled back to get northern exposure. The homes also get “nice street frontage”.
The use of structural insulated panels, which are essentially timber composite panels with foam sandwiched inside, allow for a low waste airtight build.
The homes will be gas-free and 100 per cent electric, with electric cooktops, hydronic heating and heat recovery systems.
Homes will also be equipped with Coroma smart showers and taps, “tilt and turn, lift and slide high performance windows” and 4.5 kW rooftop solar photovoltaic panels plus a 7.5 kWh battery each, provided by global battery manufacturer sonnen.
Wallis says the payback on the solar and battery kit will be around five to seven years.
Although the financial case for batteries is getting better, Wallis says it’s a bit counterintuitive at the moment because the less energy efficient homes have a quicker payback on batteries.
The group plan to partner with RMIT to run some post occupancy tests. “The results will be published openly – we want everyone to have access to this data that will give us more info on paybacks and on energy usage so that we can calculate paybacks much more accurately.”
Fostering a sense of community
In a usual townhouse project only the front home gets access to the front yard, so in this project it’s been split so each townhouse has access to a third as a communal front yard.
That way families in the town house can chat to their neighbours on the weekend while attending to the veggie garden
“We believe if houses aren’t blocked off from community it creates stronger community interactions.”
The homes are due for completion in November.