Architects revive hope for home builders with old-school design competition

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
5 Min Read

Plans to build much-needed homes in the country’s most expensive market will revive an old idea to deliver homes faster and cheaper.

The NSW government has announced it is on the hunt for designs for terrace houses and mid-level apartment buildings to add to an approved state Pattern Book. 

These pre-designed homes will be met with faster approvals, saving time and cost for developers and streamlining the construction process in an effort to boost the delivery of the state’s much-needed homes. 

Successful designs must be respectful to their neighbourhoods, built sustainably to reduce power bills, and feature functional planning, support diverse household types.

But above all else, state architect Abbie Galvin said the Pattern Book home should be affordable, simple and modest.

“Good housing design goes beyond just the look of a building and its architectural style,” she said. 

“Thoughtful design can add to a better quality of life and improve our streets and neighbourhoods.

“The development of low-and-mid-rise housing patterns will support our reforms to build up and not out, with more diverse housing close to transport, green space, amenities and jobs.”

The Government claims they have already reached out to communities to work out what people want in their homes, and what they are willing to trade off to be able to buy one.

The competition, which opened on Tuesday, will take submissions from registered architects and students until August 9.

Finalists will then be shortlisted by Ms Galvin and a panel of judges before completed designs are initially built on five sites owned by government agencies Homes NSW, Landcom and the Sydney Olympic Park Authority.

Premier Chris Minns said the “once in a lifetime opportunity” for architects gave the chance the shape what the future of construction looks like in Sydney’s suburbs. 

“This competition provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for Australia and the world’s best architects to play a central role in addressing the housing crisis our state is facing,” he added. 

NSW has to build an average of about 75,000 extra homes each year over the next five years to reach its share of a nationally agreed target, but current approvals and completions numbers put builders way behind schedule. 

Bringing back what works

Pattern books are nothing new in NSW, with Planning Minister Paul Scully claiming that the stock homes have been responsible for some of the state’s most beloved housing since the 19th century.

“We’re picking up a good idea that’s been used time and time again in Sydney and in NSW and modernising it, making it work for a modern era,” he said.

“This is about the terraces, the semi-detached and the mid-rise apartment blocks which have not been part of Sydney’s housing for the last little while.

“We have less diverse housing now than what we had a century ago, and that means people are missing out.”

Older pattern books featured designs for timber and fibro homes, many featuring two bedrooms with the option to add a third.

David Borger, executive director at Business Western Sydney, welcomed the upcoming pattern book as a solution for Sydney’s acute housing crisis and emphasised the need to bring down the skyrocketing prices. 

“We fully support this initiative, providing it’s affordable … there’s no use having an award-winning design if people can’t afford to build it,” said Borger.

“The best-loved parts of cities were often pattern-book housing. That includes the Victorian terraces of Paddington, the art deco flat buildings of Coogee, and the Federation houses of Haberfield.”

“It was cookie-cutter, but it was a cookie that people loved to watch and eat.”

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.