The Davison Collaborative is the story of three built environment professionals (an architect, sustainability consultant, and a developer/builder), each in the early stages of their careers, who saw an opportunity to create a better way of building and living. Rather than buying separate lots of land to create individual new houses, these three parties came together to form an entirely new way of developing property to benefit themselves and future generations.
In accordance with the principles of the property development model now known as ‘Collaborative Development’ by HIP V. HYPE, this group has transformed one post-war suburban dwelling in Melbourne’s Brunswick into three sustainable homes. The Collaborative Development model is a legal and financial structure, enabling collaborators to pool financial resources in order to break down the barriers of very high property prices. Its overarching goal is to create access to highly sustainable homes, in well-connected inner-city areas, in a transparent and considered way.
This particular project was a collaboration between Liam Wallis and Katya Crema, directors of HIP V. HYPE; Sarah Kearney and Peter Steele, co-founder of HIP V. HYPE’s sustainability consultancy and recently at GreenSync; and Miranda Louey and Chris Gilbert, director of Archier.
Archier designed the homes to be robust and timeless, drawing on nearby post-war houses in Melbourne’s inner-north for inspiration. ‘Increasingly we’re becoming bored of ‘modern architecture’ and the generic ‘Instagram aesthetic’,’ says Archier director, Chris Gilbert. ‘Lately we’ve been looking back towards the Victorian and post-war warehouse – we love the concrete lintels and brick detailing.’ The houses have nearly identical floorplans, except for some slight differences specific to their site, with internal finishes and fixtures personally selected by each owner.
The collaborators placed the utmost importance on integrating sustainable measures into the homes, such as solar panels that feed directly into a sonnenBatterie, double-glazed windows, and an energy recovery ventilation system. Electric heat pumps for hot water and hydronic heating further contribute to the homes achieving an 8+ out of 10 star NatHERS rating. ‘It was a balancing act between a financial reality and the desire to be ambitious and experimental. Ultimately, we biased environmental performance over all else, and we designed within that framework,’ says Chris.
Liam Wallis and Katya Crema are the first to admit this development model is not for the faint hearted, and involves its fair share of complexities and challenges. ‘We had difficulty convincing the council of the merits of the project through planning approvals, and the banking royal commission significantly increased the cost of finance for the build. Despite these cost increases, we have transformed one post-war family home with a concrete backyard into three brand new, highly sustainable three-bedroom family homes with green yards.’ HIP V. HYPE are currently working with council and state governments to make changes to the planning scheme required to encourage more of these low-density, inner-city, terrace-style projects.
It’s been one month since the Liam and Katya moved into their respective home in the Davison Collaborative project. While COVID-19 has unfortunately limited time spent in their shared front yard so far, they’ve have been appreciating the benefits their little community holds, such as connecting with neighbours when taking the bins out, or taking the dog for a walk.
Ultimately, the Davison Collaborative project is is a prototype for the future of home design, in Melbourne and beyond. As Liam says, ‘With increasing land prices and a growing population, combined with generally poor quality high density options in inner urban areas, we see very few compelling reasons as to why a typology like that of the Davison Collaborative should not be built on every block of land with a south facing laneway frontage within 10 kilometres of the CBD.’