Located in an historic and tightly-held pocket of inner-city Melbourne, this recently completed townhouse development has just been shortlisted in both the Sustainability Awards and the ArchiTeam Awards. It features six bespoke urban residences, along with the award-winning transformation of a derelict Victorian heritage dwelling also located on site. The development balances a heritage setting with contemporary sustainable design, redefining typical urban townhouse design to hero connection with the landscape and surrounds, and to feature intriguing details.
Marking a significant departure from conventional townhouse typology, each dwelling offers multi-functional and spacious living in an otherwise tightly built-up urban area. Boasting a rare combination of light-filled internal spaces gathered around multiple outdoor spaces and rooftop terrace with city skyline views, each townhouse has over 20% more outdoor space than a typical solution, with the six different outdoor spaces designed for various activities and purposes.
A row-house design and strong contextual architectural response blends the development with its gritty inner-urban location; inside, the blurred indoor-outdoor zones achieve a private oasis tucked away in an urban setting, offering a vital connection to nature to facilitate well-being.
The project was recently awarded Building Design of the Year at the 2018 Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) Awards.
What was the project brief?
The original brief was to make a positive impact on the neighbourhood by providing individual, luxury residences that sensitively respond to their surrounds. High-level ESD (environmentally sustainable design) principles and design for longevity were key drivers of the brief, with the aim to provide a new benchmark that exceeds the average NatHERS 6 star rating for townhouses. The design team worked closely with the client to reach a 10 star NatHERS rating that enabled it to win the Building Designers Association of Victoria’s 10 Star Challenge award during design stages. While the final design scheme was adapted to suit the market, it’s astonishing how many of the ESD principles remain for a development of this kind.
A sensitive and individualised architectural approach balancing nature and urban living create a unique point of difference for the project.
What were the challenges of the project?
This project presented a number of challenges, including:
• A difficult site featuring an unusual battle-axe shape and heritage overlay, complete with a derelict heritage house requiring extensive renovation.
• A design that would respond appropriately to its unique inner-city location and built-up surrounds. The highly contextual design reflects not only the former shoe factory opposite and industrial past, but pays homage to the iconic Victorian terrace row houses nearby. The narrow laneway itself presented a challenging streetscape. Rather than being tucked away behind the heritage house at the front of the site, the design and scale of the development successfully sits within the street, its neighbouring buildings and wider surrounds.
• Overcoming strict commercial parameters, the design adheres to the original brief for a sustainable development achieving an average of 7 star NatHERS rating. In particular, reducing internal floor space makes way for an internal courtyard.
What was your solution?
The project works hard to achieve a lot for a small and difficult site. Each residence sits on approximately 230 square metres of land, and comprises three to four bedrooms and two bathrooms across multiple levels with a range of 200 to 230 square metres of internal space and approximately 100 to 120 square metres (including courtyards, decking and roof terrace) of outdoor space in each townhouse.
Set opposite a converted shoe factory, the design reflects the craftspersonship associated with the area’s industrial past. Situated three kilometres east of central Melbourne, Richmond has been known as a manufacturing hub since the mid-19th century. Gentrification has given way to a mix of Victorian architecture and warehouse conversions with industrial landmarks turned into luxury apartments and residential zones. The individualised facades, row-like form, choice of materials and scale are a clever response to site. A lasercut artwork with hidden motifs representing typical aspects of the local area - e.g. an abstract Vespa scooter on one , or Marilyn Monroe’s face on another - appear only on closer inspection and in the right light. The overall design beautifully complements the shoe factory, helping the residences become part of the urban fabric and sit comfortably within the typical proportions and heights of the area.
The sustainable brief and inspiration for the 10 star NatHERS rating provided the opportunity for innovative solutions and departures from the standard townhouse architecture. The drive for natural light and ventilation led to the design of an internal courtyard which provides a further solution to the challenges of providing quality private open space in small urban sites.
What are the sustainability features?
Designed in response to the Melbourne climate, each townhouse offers a holistic and contemporary approach to sustainable design and passive solar design principles. The concept design won the 2013 BDAV 10 Star Challenge in the Multi-Res Category (“Sustainable Inner City Living”) and the as-built achieved an average 7 Star NatHERS Rating across all townhouses.
The sustainable features include the use of natural, recycled and sustainable materials, many of them with supply chain certifications, thermally broken windows with double glazing, extra insulation, solar hot water, rainwater tanks and many more.
Each townhouse has north facing orientation to draw in natural light throughout the homes, “thermal chimneys” to evacuate heat through summer, and cross ventilation for fresh air year-round. Passive design systems (when applied correctly) ensure that the same benefits they provide today last throughout the life of the building.
One of the ambitions for this project was to seamlessly integrate these sustainability measures into the high-level design so they don’t appear as superfluous ‘green’ add-ons. For example, the rainwater tanks have been elegantly designed into a raised planter bench seat within the internal courtyard of each residence, providing rainwater storage of 14,000 litres across the project (including the heritage dwelling).
Key products used:
• Aluminco P/L - High Performance Windows (Thermally broken aluminium frames with double glazing)
• Big Ass Fans : Haiku Bamboo Ceiling Fans (This and other fans been used to reduce the need for artificial cooling)
• Cedarsales - FSC-Certified timber western red cedar cladding (Improved Green Star rating with FSC®, PEFCTM and GreenTag GreenRate Level A Certification)
• EC Group - 100% Pure NZ Wool Carpet (low VOC)
• Eco-Smart (Wignells) - Biofuel eco-smart fireplace
• Landscape Tanks - Concrete rainwater tanks with integrated planting
• Rinnai - Solar hot water system with gas booster
• Attila’s Stone - Natural Stones for kitchens & bathrooms
• Belle - Custom made double glazed skylights
• Bradford - Bradford Gold High Performance Batt wall insulation
• Boral - Certified timber spotted gum floor boards & decking boards (AFS Chain of Custody Certification)
• Cesarstone - Laundry bench tops (environmental commitment and indoor air certificaction
• Dulux - Low VOC paint
• DuPont - Corian bench top in bathrooms (Global GreenTag certi GreenGuard Certification)
• Fletcher Insulation - Insulboard and Pink Batts insulation
• Fujitsu - High efficiency ducted split system
• Miele - High efficiency kitchen appliances