Sustainable Architecture Award winners redefine the Aussie building industry

By Jarrod
6 Min Read

Big developers and towering high-rises are being left behind as regional sustainable buildings and First Nations-led teams dominate the National Architecture Awards

Amongst the tough competition at this year’s Australian Institute of Architects’s (AIA) National Architecture Awards, 47 of the most innovative, sustainable and inspirational homes and commercial buildings have emerged as winners out of the highly commended 178 applicants

This year, a panel of five jurors conducted their biggest national tours ever, visiting 68 sites shortlisted to become award winners across every state and territory. Out of the final winners chosen, over 28 per cent of the winning projects are situated in regional areas. 

The AIA said that the “exemplary work” being done in Australia’s regional areas can be seen as a window into the changing built environment of contemporary Australia.

In particular, the institute applauded the winners for their unique designs having a “deep connection, appreciation and consideration to Country” and the respectful and sustainable approaches taken to alterations of existing homes.

Most winning projects share the common theme of world-class designs incorporating sustainability, adaptive reuse, dynamic collaboration between designers, connection to country, thoughtful higher-density living and resource-sharing with the broader community.

Jury Chair Shannon Battisson said the projects are a beacon of light in a time of environmental and economic crisis.

“Australia is in the depths of a once-in-a-generation housing crisis and a climate crisis,” said Battisson in a statement provided to Build-it.

“We are in dire need of new approaches to our built environment, and this year the jury were united in our desire to seek out and draw attention to the best examples of design innovation in the country.”

“There was a shared respect for what we wanted the Awards to say about the broader climate, sustainability and culture situation. Our hope was to send a message to all Australians about where our industry should be going in terms of sustainability, learning and listening to Country.”

“The jury felt the importance of celebrating good architecture across the breadth of Australia. Building in the regions has a different set of complexities to building in metropolitan areas – the constraints and opportunities are different.

According to Battisson, this year’s extensive regional tour helped the Jury debunk assumptions about regional projects being easier to design and execute. 

“Jurors heard stories of architects and their clients creating amazing projects against the odds of distance, tight budgets, the COVID pandemic with material and labour shortages, and political uncertainty. They contain their own unique set of intricacies,” said Battison. 

Battisson also said that the jury saw architects collaborate on projects more than ever, leading to richer outcomes for communal buildings and spaces.

“Collaboration between architects brings in a diversity of skills and expertise and leads to better outcomes,” she said. 

“This year’s jury has a keen interest in sustainability, designing with Country, collaborative working and projects with a generosity to community, and design innovation.”

Amongst the shortlisted candidates, the group said they witnessed innovations in many facets of the building process, including projects that championed inclusion and collaborated closely with the surrounding communities. 

“Making good architecture is not easy and often takes a dedicated and passionate team made up of many people. The awarded projects are layered with generosity to their communities, the planet and the profession,” said Battisson.

Notable winners

Nightingale Village

Comprising 203 homes across six buildings, this zero-gas, medium-density residential precinct won awards in the “residential – multiple housing” category and “sustainable building category” and was highly commended in the “urban design” category. 

Each building was designed according to the social, environmental and financial sustainability principles of Nightingale Housing, with homes “created for people, not profit”. 

Under this approach, homes are sold at-cost to owner-occupiers (not investors), encouraging the formation of sustainable communities over the long term.

JBC Studio

This adaptive reuse project on the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation aimed to build on the previous JBC studio to encourage new technologies, flexible work culture and an increased commitment to sustainability. 

Knowing the building will likely be demolished and redeveloped in the future, the contemporary additions were underpinned by a commitment to reuse and salvage and designed to be cost-effective. 

Boola Katitjin

This “inspirational and sustainable” new teaching and learning building for Murdoch University took home awards in this year’s education and sustainable building categories. 

Designed by Lyons, the new campus centre boats a 180-metre low-rise mass timber and spaces connected to native bush landscapes.

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By Jarrod
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.