David Barr Architects has taken out 47 contenders to win Landcorp’s Step Up housing competition.

The competition was part of a strategy to fill Western Australia’s “missing middle” with affordable, sustainable, medium-density housing. Currently, Western Australia is struggling to keep up with the rest of the country as far as medium-density housing is concerned. While the national average is a 50 percent approval rate for medium-density offerings, Western Australia has an approval rate of just 19 percent.

David Barr’s winning design – an as-yet unnamed project that will now be constructed as the first stage of the Cockburn Coast Redevelopment – is a pre-fabricated, passive house block of medium-density housing that will produce more energy than it consumes. When completed, it is set to be the first multi-residential project in the state to achieve a 9-star NatHERS rating.

Sustainability features of the completed project will include low-e double glazing, solar panels, efficient fixtures, and an underground rain tank to service all apartments. As for construction, plans allow for pre-fabricated wall panels to be built off-site and then craned into place. This not only reduces on-site building time, but also minimises labour and material costs.

 “The winning design delivers a cost-effective build process, but also addresses the ongoing cost of living in the home through sustainability measures and shared facilities,” the jury commented.

“The project will use a pre-fabricated ‘passive haus’ construction system, the first of its kind in Western Australia, which allows a rapid build process and significant savings on construction costs.

“A PV system supported by 42kWh of energy storage will allow energy generated on-site to be used on-site, reducing peak demand by 30%.

“A shared underground rainwater tank and above-code water efficiency measures are expected to reduce average water use by 60% and cut household water bills by up to $180 a year.

“Construction waste is dramatically reduced as a result of the prefabricated ‘passive haus’ system, and any waste created during the build will be recycled. The project includes space for green waste composting and a ‘swap space’, [which will allow] residents to offer items they no longer need, but which may be useful to someone else.”

Once completed, the project will contain a series of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. However, these configurations are by no means rigid; rather, they are designed to adapt over time to residents’ changing needs.

David Barr’s design was selected by a jury panel following a rigorous three-stage judging process. The practice will now receive $20,000 in cash plus an $80,000 marketing package to promote their winning design. Construction for the project is slated to begin this year.