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The Davison Collaborative: A Game-Changing New Housing Project In Melbourne (+ Home To Three Couples!)

Sustainable Homes

Pooling resources with friends to develop a commune is a dream for some, but very few take the plunge to actually make it happen… Okay, so this property isn’t actually a commune, but it is home to three couples, who came together to develop three sustainable homes on the one Brunswick block!

This project is the first to be created under the ‘Collaborative Development’ blueprint by HIP V. HYPE – a model that allows collaborators to join forces to create quality, more sustainable and financially accessible townhouse-style homes in urban locations. The directors of HIP V. HYPE, Liam Wallis and Katya Crema, are residents here, alongside project collaborators Peter Steele (co-founder of HIP V. HYPE’s sustainability consultancy and recently at GreenSync), Sarah Kearney and baby Mia; and Chris Gilbert (director of Archier, who designed the homes), Miranda Louey and their son Arthur. 

We asked them what’s involved in creating a new property development model, and how it is living next door to your good friends!

14th April, 2020

The Davison Collaborative collaborators and owners: Liam Wallis and Katya Crema (directors of HIP V. HYPE); Peter Steele (co-founder of HIP V. HYPE’s sustainability consultancy and recently at GreenSync) and Sarah Kearney with baby Mia; and Chris Gilbert (director of Archier) and Miranda Louey with their son Arthur. Photo – Tess Kelly

This project saw one post-war replaced with three sustainable, three-bedroom townhouses created under the Collaborative Development model by HIP V. HYPE . Photo – Tess Kelly

‘The site sits 500 metres from the Brunswick Brickworks so that naturally suggested a direction,’ says Chris Gilbert, director of Archier, of the project’s aesthetic. Photo – Tess Kelly

‘The project sits in a transition zone between an old industrial area and residential, hence the building reflects that character with a sawtooth to the laneway and a gable to the street,’ says Chris Gilbert. Photo – Tess Kelly

The houses have nearly identical floorplans except for some slight differences specific to their site. Photo – Tess Kelly

Simple, robust materials make up the interiors. Photo – Tess Kelly

The internal finishes and fixtures were personally selected by each owner.  Photo – Tess Kelly

Archier designed the homes to be timeless, drawing on nearby post-war houses in Melbourne’s inner-north for inspiration. Photo – Tess Kelly

Recycled timber features heavily indoors. Photo – Tess Kelly

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. Photo – Tess Kelly

One of the home’s warm and inviting front doors. Photo – Tess Kelly

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. Photo – Tess Kelly

The front yard of the Davison Collaborative is shared in order for the collaborators to best share in the value of the street frontage and come together. Photo – Tess Kelly

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 14th April 2020

‘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.’ – Liam Wallis

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.’ 

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net