Multi-residential developments often get a bad rap, but when executed responsibly, these provide a valuable contribution to our expanding cities. Why? Because, simple put, there just isn’t room in our capital cities for everyone to own a big house with a garden anymore. With Australia’s population on the rise, we need to be designing thoughtful mid-sized multi-residential developments, to curb urban sprawl and keep people happily housed in central locations, at a slightly higher density.
Ruskin Elwood is one such development, which sees two houses replaced with four townhouses, designed with significant sustainability credentials. The project, designed by Fieldwork and delivered in collaboration between Ruskin Property Group and HIP V. HYPE not only seeks to enrich the lives of residents, but all those who walk past every day, along the adjacent Elwood Canal. ‘We were keen to demonstrate that well designed, high performance sustainable homes can increase density in our middle ring suburbs sensitively, and in doing so, enhance the quality of place for both the residents and the community’ says Liam Wallis, director of HIP V. HYPE.
The houses that previously sat on this site turned away from the canal, and one had no water frontage at all. By orienting the townhouses to face north, these new properties achieve better solar penetration, and also the opportunity to engage with the community. Quino Holland, director of Fieldwork says, ‘We really wanted to challenge the conventional design language in the area, which generally prescribes a tall palisade fence.’
The material palette of the townhouses is informed by existing trees, enhancing the project’s connection to the surrounding environment. Quino explains, ‘The clay brick, sourced locally from the Grampians, is intended to have a twofold effect: to visually extend the public canal embankment into the site – allowing the space to feel more akin to a pocket park – and also to gradate the building podium into the existing landscape, enabling the building to immediately appear well established on site.’
The Australian hardwood hit and miss timber battens on the facade are intended to silver over time, adding further depth to the project. ‘It is a real testament to the design talent of project architects, Fieldwork, who have managed to design a reasonably large building that is able to sit so comfortably in its setting and almost in a way retreats back into the landscape of the canal,’ Liam says.
Each of the three to four bedroom, three bath, two car residences in this project runs off 100 per cent renewable energy, and has 4.4 kWh of onsite solar panels and a 13.3 kWh Tesla Powerwall battery storage system, helping to significantly reduce their reliance on the grid.
The project is an example of how with considered design and construction, a sustainable, fossil fuel-free future is possible for Australian housing.