Finalist 2022

Terrace House

Austin Maynard Architects / Kapitol Group / Armitage Jones / Adams Engineering / Openwork / BCA Engineers

Beautifully designed, fossil-fuel free, with 8.1 star energy rating, Terrace House seeks to be a positive example of good urbanism.

Terrace House is beautifully-designed, highly sustainable multi-residential building in Melbourne. Comprising of 20 residences, with 55 bike parks and a rooftop 'backyard', Terrace House is a re-imagining of a former inner-city suburban life, where rows of workers cottages generated and nurtured close community. These are not apartments but terrace houses, stacked six storeys high. Fossil-fuel-free, with 8.1 star energy rating, Terrace House seeks to be a positive example of good urbanism. Working together with residents to create community-focused homes that are equitable, cost-effective, robust and resilient in the face of the growing climate crisis.

Design Brief:

Terrace House is an evolution of apartment living. As architect and developer, it offered Austin Maynard Architects a way to create ethical, sustainable, cost-effective housing, while also allowing the community to craft an outcome that suits their needs and wants. Terrace House is an exemplar of triple bottom line development, founded on three principals of Environmental, Financial and Social Sustainability. All given equal weight. Financially Terrace House apartments were sold lower than market value. The cost of the apartment was based on the cost of the procurement of the building and a modest return on investment to those providing start-up capital. In this way, many residents who could't afford the area or a suitably sized, affordable, property, could become home owners, setting them up for a financially sustainable path.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

In June 2016, we made available a survey to potential purchasers, the results of which strongly informed the design of Terrace House. Everyone was concerned about climate change and wanted a highly sustainable and resilient development. The vast majority of respondents wanted a car free home as almost everyone commutes via public transport, bicycles, walking and Uber. Brunswick is an eclectic and multi-cultural suburb with a rich and diverse heritage that remains to this day.

Terrace House is a love letter to Brunswick and specifically its often undervalued Mediterranean-Australian built history. Terrace House borrows from the plethora of unique arches of various types and epochs along Sydney Road, in a respectful and playful way. We studied these facades and have created a modern interpretation of the context, yet using light, utilitarian materials on the eastern and western facades that reflect Brunswick’s industrial past. Although we are very fond of the masonry arch balconies of neighbouring buildings, the lack of natural light provides poor amenity to the inhabitants, compared to the metal mesh and gardens established at Terrace House.

Design Excellence

The average Australian home measures 233m2 and is, typically poorly designed, high maintenance and inefficient in terms of space and energy. By contrast, small inner-city apartment buildings seek to maximise returns, using saddlebacks, compromising bedrooms and facing homes inward, towards each other.

Austin Maynard Architects believe homes should have an aspect out from the site, into the surroundings, and to the sky. Responding to this unique site (a long block measuring 10m x 57m) we took the opportunity to emulate traditional terrace house plans. Homes with big external outlooks, a front verandah, a study and a shared ‘backyard' on the roof. Terrace House fills a much needed gap in the Australian housing market. Relatively affordable, good quality homes, in an engaged community, close to the city, with super-low running costs, and without the constant demands for maintenance and poor thermal performance of a typical terrace house.

Design Innovation

Though the sustainability targets for Terrace House were reached and exceeded, Austin Maynard Architects aimed for even higher goals. Budgetary restrictions were the biggest challenge in achieving even more stellar targets. To balance the endeavours of providing sustainable houses, below market value, certain difficult decisions were made to keep the overall costs of the residences low, rather than achieving higher sustainability outcomes. Ideally the building would have achieved passiv haus certification. It does however come close, with high air tightness, carefully managed wall to window ratios, an ERV system within each apartment, high levels of insulation and high performance glazing but budget restrictions meant that certification was not quite achieved.

The project utilises recycled brick & recycled content concrete but, if the budget could have allowed it, Terrace House would have been a timber framed building: Designed to be fabricated from CLT (timber structure) to reduce concrete use and to be constructed with a material that sequesters carbon. Terrace House has many sustainability features that were not a challenge to adopt. All decisions made were weighted towards a sustainable outcome, as with all our projects.

Design Impact

Terrace House sets a benchmark for innovation in Architecture through the highly focused environmentally sustainable design approach to apartment buildings. Rather than meeting the minimum requirements to satisfy the building regulation and planning scheme, as the majority of developed led apartment buildings do, Terrace House aimed, from the very outset, to design a building that would be as efficient and ethically procured as possible.

Terrace House stands as an example of how apartment building should be approached; aiming for the maximum rather than scraping by on the minimum. There is always an option to make decisions that weigh heavily on the side of a Sustainable outcome, though this has always been a fundamental principle of our practice.

“One of us is a public servant, the other is a school teacher. In our income bracket options for home ownership are limited to cookie-cutter suburban sprawl with a lengthy commute to work, or an inner city shoebox not suited to raising children. Terrace House has given us peace of mind that we can live car-free and carefree in a 20 minute neighbourhood, close to all the amenities we need, and that we will be able to raise our children in a stable community of owner-occupiers that, like us, values equitable outcomes, environmental sustainability and great design.” Paula, resident Terrace House.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Terrace House was designed and built with Environmental and Social Sustainability at its core. The building is fossil fuel free and adopts the principals of Passiv Haus to create a super air-tight and highly insulated building envelope to reduce reliance on heating and cooling systems to almost negligent amount. Terrace House has an embedded energy network throughout the building providing 100% Green Electricity. Solar generated power is distributed to all homes, harvested water irrigates all garden beds and planters around the building.

As many recycled and ethically sourced building materials as possible were used. There is no car parking within the building, instead there are 55 bike racks in the entry for ease of use and storage, to encourage cycling as a mode of transport. A green roof acts as a social meeting place for the residents as well as reducing the heat effect of the upper level apartments. It contains green space and an electric BBQ. All homes within the building are highly sealed thermally, to create a stable temperature throughout, reducing heating and cooling requirements with each having an ERV unit to maintain fresh air flow. In the fossil fuel free building residents are supplied with hot water from a highly efficient heat pump system, power from a shared solar panel array and 100% green energy through an embedded energy network.

Technologies adopted in the building are all focused on efficiency in terms of reducing environmental impact and reducing carbon at construction stage and ongoing throughout the life of the building. Materials were selected on their sustainability and ethical characteristics such as recycled brick, recycled content and 100% recycled water within the concrete. Terrace House has a 8.1 star NatHERS rating, equivalent to a 6-star Green Star rating (considered world leading) and ‘Platinum’ LEED and BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ classification.

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