Finalist 2023

Dunlop Avenue, Ascot Vale - Big Housing Build

Hayball / Tract (Landscape Architect) / Homes Victoria

Dunlop Avenue provides 200 social and affordable homes and reflects a vision for an integrated, safe and accessible community.

With 200 new social and affordable homes, Dunlop Avenue reflects a vision for an integrated, safe and accessible community that prioritises resident amenity and social and environmental sustainability.

Spread across six buildings within an established landscaped environment, the new precinct’s homes are 'tenure blind', meaning they are arranged and designed to be indistinguishable from each other. Master planned to retain significant open space and celebrate the established trees on site, the project uses timeless and durable materials which are compatible with the surrounding residential context and contribute to a high-quality streetscape.

Design Brief:

As part of the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Build, this project involves the replacement of existing walk-up buildings. With a mix of social and affordable housing, Dunlop Avenue reflects a vision for an integrated, safe and accessible community. From the outset, social and environmental sustainability was a big priority as was a high level of amenity.

The brief prioritises high-quality outcomes that align with Homes Victoria’s (HV) design objectives and principles, including:

  • Meeting the Liveable Housing Australia Silver standard,
  • ESD targets of 5-star Green Star and 7-star NatHERS average rating,
  • Support positive community integration.
  • Respond to the needs and profile of Victorians in need of social and affordable housing, and
  • Support positive quality of life outcomes. This was an opportunity to rethink social and affordable housing to normalise development and make a positive contribution to the broader residential neighbourhood.

This project was developed by:

  • Hayball
  • Tract (Landscape Architect)
  • Homes Victoria

Design Process

The design process included extensive stakeholder engagement and community consultation. The opportunity to meet with the local residents and existing tenants enabled us to create a shared vision. This participatory approach means the design authentically embeds the character of Ascot Vale. E.g., Retaining the existing significant trees was a crucial element for the buildings to sit comfortably within the local area.

The clever use of ‘kit of parts’, a simple system of elements such as balustrades and façade finishes, has been applied in a nuanced way across the suite of buildings providing a sense of individual identity to each building while maintaining efficiency. This project followed a rigorous functional design review with HV’s property and maintenance teams and represented best practice through broad stakeholder involvement including early OVGA review with lessons learnt applied.

Critically, the strong collaboration between HV, the broader consultant team and builder is a key factor in accomplishing the project vision. Together, we exceeded the design brief by capitalising on the site’s unique attributes and the opportunities to provide a welcoming and connected place with unique character.

The project is managed via the appointed community housing providers—social housing is managed by Evolve Housing and NAH (National Affordable Housing) is leasing and managing the affordable housing.

Design Excellence

To replace the existing 80-old walk-up buildings, Hayball configured the site with six separate three-storey buildings to achieve high levels of amenity for all residents and break down the scale of forms so that the new buildings are embedded into the mature landscape. Subtle variety in architectural elements and material palettes such as feature brickwork reference the residential context and grain as well as differentiate the buildings and celebrate the ideas of ‘my home’, ‘my building’ and ‘my community’.

The key design features include:

  • Mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms designed to be liveable, sustainable and accessible to a diverse community (meeting the Liveable Housing Australia Silver standard),
  • Interiors feature durable finishes such as timber-like flooring providing continuity between the kitchen and living area enhancing the sense of space,
  • Storage opportunities are maximised with built-in-cupboards in the entry and living zone, built-in-robes in all bedrooms and generous storage in the laundry, kitchen and bathroom.
  • Every apartment has an aspect to the courtyard and outdoor spaces strengthening the connection with the outdoors.
  • Each building has the same access to communal amenities and private open spaces such as a BBQ, seating, covered areas, shared growing plots and shared basement car parking, bicycle storages and waste management with secured access, and
  • Integrated ESD features, achieving a 5-star Green Star rating and a 7-star NatHERS average rating.

Dunlop Avenue, Ascot Vale is one of the first projects to be completed under the Big Housing Build, it serves as an exemplary model for the future of social and affordable housing in Victoria. This site delivers 200 of the 7,500 homes that are currently being delivered or under construction through the Victorian Labor Government’s Big Housing Build, set to deliver more than 12,000 new homes by 2026.

Design Innovation

HV set high expectations from the outset. The brief prioritised sustainability, accessibility and liveability —setting a new benchmark for social and affordable housing and demonstrating how it can be delivered to improve lives.

Our approach challenges the norm, proving that social and affordable housing can achieve great design outcomes within a set budget. Cost-efficiencies were achieved through the careful specification of durable materials and layout planning process to deliver homes that accommodate different modes of living regardless of age, mobility and family dynamics. We strongly believe that everyone deserves a home they can be proud of, and our project is dedicated to making that a reality.

Importantly, this project reflects best practice thinking to build ‘tenure’ blind residences. Our project is designed to challenge the stigma associated with social housing estates and the prevailing issue of segregated communities. We applied the following strategies:

  • Buildings alternate between social and affordable housing and the outward-facing street frontages deliberately blend in with the surrounding neighbourhood,
  • Communal facilities are strategically positioned to encourage social interaction between residents and encourage integration with the broader community and neighbourhood, and
  • Eliminated physical boundaries such as fences to foster a sense of belonging and promote inclusiveness.

Further, five of the apartments are designed to meet full Disability Accessibility Accreditation standards. Integrated features such as step-free entries and circulation paths (wheelchair-friendly), a workbench with knee clearance space, shelves appliances and power points are installed at an accessible height. These interventions allow residents with mobility challenges to live safely and independently, improving their quality of life.

Our emphasis on social and urban integration prioritises positive interactions and connections among all residents. We are dedicated to reshaping the narrative around social housing, working towards the construction of a more inclusive society where everyone can thrive.

Design Impact

The buildings provide external spaces which are accessible to all residents and are designed to break down barriers between social and affordable residents. These spaces also create positive and welcoming arrival experiences from the street. With the balanced mix of social and affordable housing, Dunlop Avenue reflects a vision for an integrated, safe and accessible community.

This project is reflective of any quality private housing development that would be found in this location and within the development no distinction exists between different tenure types.

We intend to conduct a formal post-occupancy evaluation process undertaken with residents over the next 12 months. This will form part of a series of pilot projects that Hayball is using to measure ‘social value’; we are partnering with Australian Social Value Bank to establish a framework for ‘measuring what matters’.

So far nearly 30% of previous renters have returned or have indicated they are interested in returning to the new homes at Dunlop Avenue. Homes Victoria has provided us with testimonials from Stella, a returning renter to Dunlop Avenue, Ascot Vale.

“I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with my new home.”

There are so many little improvements to everyday life that Stella has noticed since moving in:

“I now have a separate laundry and a modern cooktop that’s much easier to clean.” “I have a lot of storage with the two built-in robes in my bedroom.”

She was so excited to hear about the sustainable design elements and the difference this will make to her life:

“I love my 7 star home. The architect explained to me that the heating and cooling will be cheaper to run.”

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Dunlop Avenue showcases aspirational environmentally sustainable design acknowledging pressures that will be faced by future renters. The development achieves a 5-star Green Star rating and a 7-star NatHERS average rating and embeds Homes Victoria’s ESD priorities, including:

  • Well-insulated facades and thermally broke and double-glazed windows,
  • Energy efficient wall lights and air conditioning units reduce power consumption,
  • Window openings maximise solar access and views,
  • Rooftop solar hot water and photovoltaic panels provide renewable energy sources, and
  • Rainwater collection from each building roof supports landscape irrigation and toilet flushing.

Overall, the building achieves a high level of insulation and air tightness balanced by an energy recovery ventilation system which delivers clean fresh air and promotes the wellbeing of residents. Importantly, these ESD features reduce the cost of utilities which makes it more affordable for the tenants.

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