What began as an old abandoned 12,000sqm bus repair shed at Northcote, located in Wurundjeri Country in Victoria, has developed into a site hosting 74 diverse, flexible townhouses that boast an 8 star overall NatHERS rating.
A benchmark in sustainable community living, Northcote Place combines indigenous flora and fauna with the modern, sustainable premises of modern architecture, complementing local regeneration initiatives in the process.
Northcote Place was born of a collaboration between Metro, Akas Landscape Architecture, SDC (Sustainable Development Consultants) and ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects, a carbon-neutral practice.
Centred around shared public and private spaces, community gardens and widespread street furniture are cornerstones of the community. There is also a central mews for pedestrians and cyclists that provides a missing link between local bike paths, the popular Merri Creek Trail, and the new footbridge to CERES Community Environmental Park.
The design was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but reflects many of the characteristics of post-pandemic design, with plenty of green, socially friendly areas, readymade for a society that will continue to work from home.
“Eight stars is a tangible measure of energy efficiency that’s resonating with Northcote buyers because they’re ESD-focussed,” says David Steele, managing director at Metro.
“But beyond stars we wanted to create the most well-rounded sustainable townhouse living in Australia, and we were open about how to achieve that on this site. Darebin Council’s City Designer was hugely supportive of our intentions, especially incorporating a mews instead of a road, and really encouraged our links and interactions with the broader neighbourhood.”
The new development boasts high energy ratings, a communal vegetable garden and high energy ratings. Rainwater tanks are connected to both laundries and toilets, and residents have the option of going ‘electric-only’ in their households, as opposed to gas mains which are also connected to houses. There is also a solar car charging battery storage device installed within the garage of every property.
SDC director Ben De Waard says the companies have tried to look at doing more as opposed to less for the Northcote Place community in terms of elite sustainable living.
“What’s a first here is the scale and the number of different sustainability elements Northcote Place brings together. With a lot of clients it’s ‘what’s the minimum we need to provide?’ but with Metro it’s been, ‘what else can we do?’ or ‘how much further can we push it?’”
De Waard goes on to say the precinct is conceived as habitat not just for flora and fauna but for residents and neighbours.
“We’ve designed these homes, gardens and shared spaces as a micro community that reflects local values, connects local ecology and bike paths, gets better with age, and creates an exemplar of contemporary community design.”
The high-performing townhouses include thermal breaks at each floor level and triple- and double-glazed thermally broken windows carefully placed for maximum effect. ClarkeHopkinsClarke Associate Janice Tan says it was a necessity to include these features to ensure the utmost in energy efficiency.
“We’ve also used robust materials with high ESD values, north-facing living areas, cross ventilation, ceiling fans in all bedrooms and living areas, large eaves, solar power, rainwater tanks, large terraces, gardens and shared outdoor spaces that are designed as habitat, not decoration,” she says.
Providing flexible living for residents as their arrangements change, the townhouses are designed in a way in which their floorplans can be altered between 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms, as families evolve. ClarkeHopkinsClarke Interiors Associate Michelle Cavicchiolo says this is a deliberate move by the practice to ensure families don’t have to look towards leaving the community due to not having enough space to accommodate more children.
“We designed in all this flexibility pre pandemic because we knew this project would appeal to such a wide variety of people. We delved deep with materials selection too, assessing everything from provenance to wastage, supplier credibility and environmental performance ratings.”
Akas, tasked with designing the landscape of the precinct, went about their business by looking to only enhance the sustainable environment the architects and designers had already went about creating, says co-director Anthony Sharples.
“The architecture is clean, modern and sleek, so we wanted to offer a counter to that using a landscape with a real sense of wild. We’ve achieved that with careful plant selection and placement. We’ve used an 80% indigenous plant palette and meshed that in with 10% natives, 10% exotics and local rock to reflect the local ecology and invite native fauna and flora into the site.
“Often new developments don’t have enough space for that mass and diversity of planting. Here we have ample space for sweeping four-metre-wide garden beds throughout and along the central pedestrian street, and a community garden where people can grow their own food and create a sociable space for community building. These aspects are really key to the future of community design.”
Northcote Place is now taking registrations for those interested in living within the sustainable community. To register, head to northcoteplace.com.au or call Richard Rose on 0419 446 688.