I have long attributed half my architectural education to the small residential projects I did while still at University. My weekends were often spent meeting with homeowners in Wollongong’s southern, working class, suburbs discussing how to squeeze much needed additional living or bedroom space onto a small, ex-housing commission house.
My ability to understand clients’ real needs was honed. I became skilled at negotiating with Council and testing the limits of the building code. This interest in ‘alts and adds’ continued with my thesis – an investigation into two socio-economic groups to understand the motivators and drivers leading people to alter and extend their homes.
The opportunity to participate in the University of Wollongong’s Illawarra Flame House, the retrofit of a fibro cottage, played to my personal passions and experience. The house went on to win the 2013 International Solar Decathlon. I have continued my involvement with the UOW Sustainable Building Research Centre (SBRC) as an Honorary Fellow having input into a number of key projects and supervision of PhD students.
This week it was announced that SBRC won funding from the Office of Environment and Heritage to undertake an extensive research assessing existing housing stock for greater sustainability. The project will take 18 months and has a regional perspective looking at dwellings across NSW.
The study will identify residential construction types and the retrofit strategies that are best suited to each archetype. It will also consider householder attitudes and capabilities in relation to upgrading, retrofitting or refurbishing their buildings. Ultimately, the research will facilitate ‘sustainable supply chain clusters’ focusing on sustainable buildings and building products.
SBRC Director, Professor Paul Cooper, supported by other academics, will lead the project. I’m delighted that I will have a role in guiding the Housing Typology component joined by fellow architect, Stephen Choi, and researcher, Daniel Daly.