Zone Housing

Our households and family structure are continually evolving, but often this is not reflected in the homes we live in. Consequently issues arise when the family home outgrows those living in it, or a change in circumstance results in a desire for more space. In both circumstances the issue rests on the perceived inability to have flexibility within our homes.

CODA has a specific interest in issues related to housing and endeavours to find solutions to the growing pressures that stem from our increasing population and changing living arrangements. As a result, a number of our projects delve into the realm of housing prototypes and the concept of elasticity within the home. Broome North, a set of guidelines for housing in the Kimberley town of Broome, looks at this in relationship to a transient and demographically diverse population. Design strategies for the Town of Cambridge propose housing typologies that will allow the Council to reach their density targets as set out by the document Directions 2031. Whilst projects in the Pilbara consider how homes may have a greater level of flexibility to accommodate the fly-in-fly-out population and the possibility of whole families relocating to communities that exist almost entirely as a result of the resource industry.

The concept of ‘zone housing’ is a notable outcome across all of these projects and provides a solution to the lack of flexibility inherent in most housing. Essentially, the concept of zone housing is the incorporation of two independent houses within one single dwelling ‘shell’ to accommodate smaller households. Feasible in larger residences, the zone home can be re-converted into one larger home, as needs change, or when the household grows. This concept can be incorporated into existing homes and is increasingly important in the design of new homes, as is the case within Broome and the communities of the Pilbara. Consideration should be made towards the likeliness of a changing population and how housing could respond in the near future.

Within the Town of Cambridge single houses make up the majority of housing stock, representing around 74% of all housing. Population forecasts show an increase in lone-person and smaller households, whilst at the same time there is a growing tendency for adult children to remain at home for longer. This current combination of changes in household structures must in turn be reflected within new built form. In the Town of Cambridge there is an opportunity to make use of the existing housing stock and large land plots that typify the area. For a smaller household these large blocks are often high maintenance and costly. With its well-established character and attractive streetscape, there is a natural resistance in the Town to change within the established built form. Residents are protective of their environment and reluctant to move away into smaller residences.

Within the housing pamphlet compiled for the Town of Cambridge, CODA considers these factors and proposes a Zone Home option as one of the specific dwelling typologies relevant to the area. This approach would suit much of the housing stock within the Town, most notably within the suburbs of Floreat and City Beach. An important outcome of the zone home is the provision of a portion of the home for rental accommodation, providing the owners with an income source whilst also being able to remain in their homes.

Within Broome and the Pilbara, the driving forces behind the need for a change in residential typologies rests in the diversity of population and influxes in population. Towns within the Pilbara are predicted to experience large increases in population. Port and South Hedland, for example, are expected to experience a 300% increase by 2035, with towns such as Newman, Karratha and Dampier all anticipated to experience population growth in excess of 200%. In Broome the most recent census found that families made up 69.5% of households and that the cultural fabric of the town is particularly diverse. In both instances the driving force for a change in the way we think about new housing lay in the common lack of affordable and appropriate housing. This, in combination with a lack of labour, brings about high rental costs and a dominance of freestanding, single lot homes unsuited to a considerable proportion of the population.

All of these factors, in combination with the substantial demand for housing appropriate for low-income earners, are remedied within the zone home typology. The Broome Housing Guide makes reference to the term, ‘elasticity’, a concept that suggests the stretching and contraction of dwellings to meet the need for both adaptable homes and smaller, more affordable residences. In one instance, a standard 3-bedroom family home may be converted into a 2 bedroom shared house with the additional room forming an independent living space for additional occupants. The same house could be converted to suit a live/work environment or to accommodate extended family within a tight time frame. Homes in the Pilbara are often too expensive to either purchase or rent for those who work in supplementary industries such as retail, hospitality and community services. An increased provision of zone homes, amongst other smaller residences and housing typologies, would be beneficial for these sectors of the population and would provide a better response to population diversity.

Zone homes are a concept that is specifically suited to the broader Australian context, which typically favours larger houses and excessive block sizes. These may be suitable at particular points in our lives but in time households change and the requirement for a large home is often unnecessary, and, in some instances becomes unaffordable. The conversion, or design of a zone home provides the owner with elasticity of living arrangements into the future, as well as the potential for an income from rent whilst providing a greater level of smaller housing stock for those seeking affordable rental properties. It is a relatively simple application that can be incorporated into both new builds and through retrofitting existing homes. Elasticity is something that must be considered as a credible application within our built environment, particularly as we move towards a denser population both in the urban realm and in regional communities.


Western Australian Regional Cities Alliance. (accessed 8 September 2011).

Pilbara Planning and Infrastructure Framework, 2011. Australian Bureau of Statistics

ReHOUSING Conference

Following our success in winning first prize for the national competition “Building for Diversity”, we presented our mixed-use development project at the 2006 ReHOUSING Conference in Melbourne.

The competition sought to “provide an opportunity for architects to generate and test ideas for an affordable mixed-use development… (comprising) a variety of accommodation types, together with retail and commercial premises.”

As this was a one-stage ideas competition we worked quickly as a studio to develop the big idea and the visual language of the project.  In the absence of schemes of a similar type having been completed within the office, we relied on a kind of ‘conversational collage’ technique to describe the project to one another – like a hybrid of well known projects draped and inserted over the site.

We saw this conference as an opportunity to reflect on the references that were used as visual and verbal cues during the project and produce a secondary set of collages for discussion.

The site was located on the corner of Newcastle St and Zempilas Lane in Northbridge, Western Australia. An advertising campaign and large billboard on the site enthusiastically reports that “every corner of Northbridge is changing”! – although, to date, there has not been a lot of action on this or the adjoining sites.

It is worth noting that Northbridge has a certain mythology attached to it – as a vibrant multicultural centre , providing culture, entertainment and nightlife to Perth.  In reality this cosmopolitan quality is quite “patchy”. More recently large high end apartments have appeared and there is relatively little density or diversity on the street throughout most of the week. The competition brief asked that the project engender diversity and sustainability through the housing it provided.

Our scheme sought to address this perceived lack of diversity through  the provision of housing that allowed for a live/work model and the addition of communal and commercial spaces at street level. We attempted to attract a mix of creative and culturally diverse residents through these loose fit apartments.  This strategy can be broken down into 3 key moves: Parking and Garden, Tower and Apartments. It also addressed three themes of sustainability: economic, environmental and social/community.

Although we started with density as a strategy, we feel that the urban experience is not a simple by-product of density but that it is created by the arrangement of experiences. The proximity and intensity of public, private and semi public spaces can, for us, create an “urban” experience in as much as it affects how people interact, pass by and engage with one another.

For a full copy of the paper presented at the 2006 ReHousing Conference, please contact us at

Think Brick

In 2009 CODA won the national About Face Award, an invitation-only, researched based competition run as part of the Think Brick Awards.

We believe that architects are uniquely placed to tackle the issues of homelessness, social housing and community inclusiveness by proposing large scale planning responses in combination with smaller scale, considered architecture and landscape.

The selected site for our scheme is located at the fringe of Mandurah, an hour from Perth. The scheme addressed the region’s growing need for affordable housing and supported hostel accommodation, and integrated it into a community driven mixed-use development. Social housing, affordable housing, commercial and retails space and community facilities mingle around a grove of existing mature Tuart trees. There are community garden allotments, basketball courts on parking lots, vegetable gardens for the communal kitchens, playing fields, playgrounds and spaces for sitting, reading and relaxing.

The Hostel Building contains multiple programs within the building form. Using the Foyer model, young people in need are provided with stable accommodation and support in order that they continue to participate in education, training or employment. Simultaneously, we referenced the ‘Common Ground’ business model which seeks to assist people in work placement and offer them a path to full-time employment through a structured support program.

Whilst a supported social housing model is certainly warranted within the Mandurah region, generally the issue of affordable housing continue to be a critical issue. There are many people who cannot purchase homes yet need accommodation from which to work as a base. These people play a significant role in the functioning of the city, as crucial workforce, as well as adding diversity to the community.

Housing options that address the possibility of flexible live/work arrangements contribute to the activations of sites by ensuring continual activity. Our Think Brick project addresses these opportunities as well as introducing the idea of communal living, a notion of  importance for a workforce increasingly driven by the resource sector that flies in and out its work force.