Tusculum Interstate Speaker Series: Urban Impacts

 Emma Williamson presented an insightful overview of the CODA practice and Western Australian architecture at the Tusculum Speaker Series held at the NSW chapter of the AIA on 13 August 2013.

The series focused on the Urban Impacts of architectural projects around Australia. 5 speakers from key architectural practices were invited to discuss their own work as well as that of other architects within the context of their respective cities. The selected works and practices were to demonstrate a strong consideration for the urban environment- how they interact with other sites, streets and public spaces to have an urban impact and in particular how these projects are generators of positive change and renewal in the city.

Emma discussed how the CODA practice had come to be before presenting a collection of projects by the practice. She also discussed a number of key architectural pieces from throughout Perth, including the State Theatre by Kerry Hill Architects, an urban intervention at the old port of Arthur by Donaldson and Warn and the Perth Arena by ARM.  Whether they were sited in Perth’s city centre or in a remote country town, all of the projects that Emma discussed demonstrated in some way an aspiration to expand on the client’s brief and to impact upon the greater city by thinking beyond their physical sites.

For a full copy of the presentation and text please email

Fill and Substructure Study: East Port Hedland

The purpose of this report is to compare costs of alternative methods for raising the ground floor level of buildings on a low-lying area located within the flood plain of East Port Hedland. The site has been identified by LANDCORP as the most likely next stage of residential subdivision in Port Hedland.

Commonly, in Western Australia, a business as usual (BAU) approach is applied to raising site levels, wherein compacted sand fill is introduced to raise ground levels to the required minimum habitable floor level.

CODA’s role, in conjunction with CAPITAL HOUSE AUSTRALASIA Engineers and DAVIS LANGDON Quantity Surveyors, was to interrogate costs associated with alternative housing typologies and various substructure solutions. From this analysis, costs for a comprehensive range of building types, construction types and site-filling levels have been obtained.

The report considers lots being partially raised by filling to minimum ground levels dictated by 1:20 and 1:50 year flood events. Three common sub-structure types, used to elevate the buildings to the required higher 1:100 year habitable floor level, are examined.

A Cost Calculator and series of Comparative Foundation Studies have been prepared to assist in determining and comparing costs (for filling plus sub-structure only) associated with 135 permutations of House Typology, Building Construction Type, Development Building Footprint and depth of Fill.

Intuitively, break-even costs exist between filling and raising buildings via elevated substructures. The report demonstrates that cost optimization is predominately driven by the cost to supply and place fill material, and the total building footprint intensity (i.e. the sum plan area of all buildings as a percentage of the overall site area being filled).

The report provides an exhaustive basis for analysis of costs associated with raising site levels. Furthermore, the model established is suitable for similar interrogation exercises at any site needing to be raised.

During the course of the investigation an attempt to collate local market views on residential housing typologies and construction methods was made.

Research from established Pilbara Home Builders’ websites revealed that the use of suspended floors is not currently favored and that the preferred house types predominantly comprise of a standard steel roof and wall frame construction with a concrete slab on the ground.

The Queensland floods of 2011 generated an extensive review of the response of Architectural, Civil, Planning and Structural design in relation to development in flood plain areas. Our research has collated some of the findings and identified applicable strategies important for consideration when developing in a flood plain. These included appropriateness of building typology and material selection with regards to resilience to water damage and absorption.

For a full copy of the report please email us at 

Main Image: Flood prone areas around Port Hedland

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.

Munster Grouped Housing Project

This study explored opportunities for housing diversity in Munster, a suburb south of Fremantle, Western Australia. The typical dwelling in Munster is a detached single house on a 600sqm lot.  The study and concept designs have been prepared by CODA for LandCorp and are the result of research and testing to find viable opportunities for multiple housing on a single lot.

The designs also needed to provide demographically diverse and affordable housing options as well as respond to the scale and grain of the accepted suburban pattern of the surrounding area. The designs evolved from an exploration of the ‘maisonette’ housing type which presents to the street at an integrated, suburban-scale built form whilst accommodating multiple units. Whilst the designs respond to the specific site conditions of Lot 45 and Lots 52, 53, 54 of LandCorp’s Mayor Road subdivision, the study is intended to demonstrate the importance of a sympathetic and harmonious response to the site conditions, both physically and contextually.

Multiple Dwelling Opportunities
The new provisions in the amended Residential Design Codes (gazetted on 22nd November 2010) remove ‘minimum site area per dwelling’ controls for lots zoned R30 or greater, thus allowing smaller multiple dwellings to be built in areas where historically only single or group dwellings would have been allowed. Importantly, the new Code enables LandCorp to integrate one bedroom and two bedroom dwellings into subdivisions which previously imposed minimum dwelling sizes of 140sqm or greater. It allows us to consider a range of accommodation for a more diverse demographic than has been possible previously in Munster.

The new Code is more compatible with LandCorp’s two tiered strategy for affordable housing:
1. affordable housing facilitates both housing which is priced for key workers and households on low to moderate incomes, including social housing, and
2. affordable living which seeks to provide diverse, efficient housing stock with equitable access to community facilities and amenity.

Lot 45 can accommodate six dwellings. Lots 52, 53 and 54 would be amalgamated to enable a single lot of 10 dwellings. The dwellings range from 72sqm to 150sqm, each with generous outdoor living areas as well as the shared areas.
The site planning is integral to the success of the individual housing designs and the enjoyment of future occupants. Cardinal orientation maximises north solar access to the interior and exterior living spaces of each unit. The steep contours on the lots allow garages to be located at a lower level to the dwelling entrances, which frees up the shared spaces for landscaping and innovative uses such as a communal vegetable patch, tool shed, barbecue facilities and water tanks.

The floor areas and plans consider the life-cycle scenarios of young singles and couples who might be first home buyers; families; empty nesters; and retirees who might want to continue living in the area where their family home was located. Disabled occupants and visitors are also catered for with a disabled car bay on each lot and universal access to ground level units. The larger units also allow for more independent living for aged or teenage family members as well as flexible spaces which can be used for a home office, theatre room, study, play room or additional bedroom.

Sustainable design
This has also been an opportunity to  test and apply the sustainable design principles which LandCorp actively promotes to the new multiple dwelling code.
The designs address the notion of sustainable housing at four levels: climatic, environmental, social and economic. To be successful, the houses must perform successfully at each level and the design intent must be supported by decisions and practices made throughout the development and construction process.
These concepts for site planning and housing design could be readily adapted to other lots and site conditions. For example, the units could be rotated to take advantage of cardinal north-south orientation. A flat lot could have garaging located on the same level as the dwelling entrances.

Ongoing review
To ensure that the design intent is not lost in the journey from design development to habitation, the development and construction process needs to be guided by ongoing review and assessment by LandCorp and the architect. A checklist of design guidelines would make this process more manageable for developers and builders as well as ensure that there is a consistent and clear interpretation of the intent by all parties.
The Mayor Road concept houses have the potential to make a significant contribution to the quality of multiple housing in Western Australian and can only benefit from developers and builders who share the design intent vision.