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    Treehouse-style Defence Housing apartments by Bates Smart emerge gracefully from Bushland setting

    Geraldine Chua

    The Defence Housing Australia (DHA), established in 1988 as a statutory authority, is a commercially funded organisation that looks after the housing needs of Defence members and their families. It develops homes and communities, and has projects from Townsville in Queensland to Adelaide in South Australia.

    One of the projects the organisation has recently completed is Tubbs View + Hamilton Corner, its flagship apartment project in Sydney located on the grounds of the Sulman Award-winning UTS campus in Lindfield. Designed by Bates Smart, the project celebrates its bushland setting with tree house-style apartments suspended over sandstone cuttings, and single-storey apartments floating within the trees.

    Hamilton Corner is a two-storey building accommodating seven terraces and 16 apartments organised around a communal yard. Two lobbies form the gateway of the single-storey apartments, while the terraces have direct street access.

    The 70-unit Tubbs View, on the other hand, comprises two, four-storey apartments that follow the existing contours of the land on a sloping site. A mix of single storey and dual-level tree house apartments here – the former with wide balconies fronting the bushland and the latter suspended over the main pedestrian-way – are connected by a network of paths and communal gardens. Clad in timber, they seem to float among trees.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “We aimed to design a development that has a unique relationship with the bushland context with minimal impact on the landscape,” said Bates Smart Director, Guy Lake.

    “We selected robust natural materials such as unpainted concrete and timber that sit well within the bush and are low maintenance. However, it was important that the end result was still warm and welcoming — it feels like a comfortable, appealing family home.”

    The design aims to establish a new integrated community with bushland trails that connect the development to site-wide community facilities, transport nodes and the wider bushland setting. Interconnected communal spaces, linked by pathways along cuttings and elevated walkways, provide landscapes for communal gathering and outlook, all of which promote community interaction and wellbeing.

    ^Natural ‘off-form’ materials such as concrete, masonry and FC were left unpainted to age gracefully. The existing large sandstone rubble retaining walls were dismantled and reused, and sandstone was quarried and reused on the development.

    <Timber is also used extensively, with spotted gum cladding featured on vertical surfaces and in bushfire zones for its graceful weathering characteristics and fire-retardant properties. Plywood is used on overhanging eaves where weathering is less problematic.

     

     

    Functionality was another design driver for the project, and the use of multiple lifts and entry points for both Tubbs View and Hamilton Corner reduced the need for internal corridors, while increasing the number of apartments with a dual aspect.

    “This in turn, gives residents a better outlook, and increases daylight penetration and cross ventilation,” explained David Tordoff, Project Leader and Associate Director at Bates Smart.

    ^Approximately 80 per cent of the apartments have a dual aspect, including those in Hamilton Corner, which have access to private open space surrounded on two sides by living and dining areas to create outdoor spaces integral to the living areas. Combined with careful internal planning, dual aspects create good daylight and cross ventilation amenity, so all apartments have two hours or more sun in the mid of winter.

    At the same time, shading is provided via overhangs and screens, while privacy is maintained via level changes, buffer planting, metalwork palisade balustrades and screening elements which negates the need for high fencing.

    Tubbs View + Hamilton Corner is one of the first residential developments in New South Wales to undertake formal EnviroDevelopment accreditation, and has achieved the highest 6 Leaves rating. The buildings are less reliant on artificial heating and cooling than traditional developments, with daylight provision, cross ventilation and solar shading strategies combining with the use of alternate energy sources such as solar power and high efficiency appliances to reduce CO2 production and water consumption by up to 60 per cent as compared to the average requirements.

    The development also promoted the use of recycled, reused, renewable, non-toxic and locally sourced materials, including: recycled steelwork; specification of low emission products; formal monitoring to ensure waste from material packaging was minimised and recycled, with preference given to local manufacturers and suppliers; and reusing over 60 per cent of demolition and civil works materials for cladding and paving finishes.

    Strategies for ongoing waste reduction, such as end use education to encourage recycling and composting, have also been implemented. The landscape design was also notable, and included farming indigenous seeds from the site, and cultivating and reintegrating them into the design. This resulted in over 90 per cent of indigenous species being used, majority of which are locally occurring.

    According to Peter Howman, Managing Director, DHA, a respectful consideration of the local landscape through Tubbs View’s structural and building palette, as well as the integrated sandstone wall, allowed DHA to construct buildings up to 25 metres high, rather than the standard 16 metres. The stepped building design was also an innovative response to a complex site.

    “We are immensely proud of the development,” said Howman. “It is proof that historically significant and challenging sites can be transformed into thriving and liveable spaces effectively and respectfully through design, innovation and teamwork.”

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