Construction on the biggest living laboratory project ever to be undertaken in Australia is well underway and has just had a new German-style cooperative housing complex added to its ranks.

Speaking at the recent CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) Participants Annual Forum in Sydney, Curtin University’s Josh Byrne, better known as the name and face behind the Josh’s House project in Fremantle, announced that the final plot of land at the White Gum Valley residential estate in Western Australia will be developed into Australia’s first high-density ‘baugruppen’ apartment complex.

Baugruppen is German for 'building groups' and, much like the Australian-born Nightingale model, enables likeminded individuals to come together in a co-op format to develop their own sustainable multi-unit housing without the constraints and compromise associated with traditional bottom line-driven developments.

The apartments will be designed by Spaceagency Architects, the winner of the highest honour for Multiple Housing at the 2016 National Architecture Awards, and will add an extra layer of experimentation and monitoring to the WGV precinct which is to be the focus of a four year 'living laboratory' research program with the CRCLCL.

The WGV living laboratory, says Byrne, will follow the same trajectory of his now famous Josh’s House project, in that it will be fit with an intense integrated monitoring system that will assess the performance of thousands of design features and technologies in place within the precinct and then relay the information back to the community through online portals and digital displays.

As is the case with all living laboratories around the world, the data deriving from WGV will also be shared with the industry, research institutions and government agencies so that we can collectively improve and better understand of the strengths and weaknesses of the latest building technologies and designs. 

The Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project by WA architect David Barr

So far, apart from a number of public domain spaces, only the community stormwater bore at WGV is complete and undergoing performance monitoring, but construction at the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project (pictured above), a collection of small and affordable apartments designed by David Barr, is well underway and will be the precinct’s big source of information and research.

Over 60 per cent of WGV’s other multi-res projects are also sold, including 12 affordable rental dwellings designed by Donaldson + Warn, 24 Apartments by Harris Architects and a range of townhouses and apartments by MGS Architects, which means, according to Byrne, that development on these buildings are “good to go”.


Josh Byrne’s new television series Density by Design will hit screens in 2017 and visit places like Adelaide’s Christie Walk cooperative housing complex (pictured) 

The 60 per cent sales landmark seemed to be particularly heartening for Byrne who rounded out his presentation at the CRCLCL’s forum with a sneak peak at his new documentary series, Density by Design, which will the internet in early 2017.

The series will visit innovative housing and community projects all around the country in a bid to celebrate the efforts being made by Australian designers, developers and the public in general to reduce their carbon footprint and shakeup traditional development models. 

The series will visit Adelaide’s iconic Christie Walk cooperative housing complex by Paul Downton and Melbourne’s The Commons by Breathe Architecture. It will also review Sydney’s Central Park precinct and the Bowden community development in Adelaide, and many more. 


While the White Gum Valley may end up building the first Australian baugruppe project, another is also already in the works and will also be in Fremantle. The City of Fremantle recently began an expression of interest process for a Baugruppen-inspired housing project on a council-owned site at 7 Quarry Street in Fremantle’s east end.

The council is also encouraging interested parties to share ideas and connect with one another before submitting your expression of interest and has set up an online collaboration forum and general discussion forum.