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Wohnen Morgen: setting a benchmark with 9-star higher density living

The recent 2015 Architeam Awards resulted in a string of projects receiving commendations, with one project in particular appealing to Urban Melbourne. Designed as a 9-star apartment complex in Thornbury, Steffen Welsch Architects received a Commendation for Sustainability for their Wohnen Morgen project.

Translated as Living Tomorrow, the small scale design would transform a standard suburban block with a single dwelling into ten highly environmentally credentialed apartments and townhouses above ground floor commercial tenancies.

9-star apartments: Wohnen Morgen (Living Tomorrow)

Located at 409 St Georges Road, the project has yet to advance past the schematic design stage. Currently within a General Residential Zone, the site and surrounds are to be re-zoned into Commercial 1 Zone which will facilitate the delivery of higher density living in the area.

The development team held pre-application meetings with City of Darebin staff with the developer awaiting re-zoning prior to proceeding with a planning application. In the meantime the design found favour with the Architeam Awards judging panel during November.

Asked by Urban Melbourne if Wohnen Morgen is a site-specific design response from Steffen Welsch Architects, or would they look to implement these sustainability ideals across all their projects, the simple answer was both.

The design response is site-specific as it takes into consideration the east-west orientation of the block, access from St Georges Road, links to neighbourhood, amenity impacts onto adjoining lots and likely future development of adjoining lots.

However, the underlying principles we do plan to implement across our projects, that is value adding through focus on identity and community, keeping community facilities at a manageable scale, creating comfort through energy efficient design and managing cost through space efficiency.

Steffen Welsch, Principal, Steffen Welsch Architects

Wohnen Morgen design highlights

LID Consulting's Craig Harris worked with Steffen Welsch Architects on the project in an advisory capacity, providing advice throughout the initial design process which allowed the project to gradually build up to the nominated 9-star rating.

As Steffen Welsch explained an apartment building has an advantage over single houses since each unit has less external surface area and therefore less heat exchange between inside and outside. The measures to increase the rating are relatively simple, and in the case of Wohnen Morgen included:

  • Each unit has direct sunlight access into living areas for passive heating.
  • Windows are located to optimize cross ventilation in summer.
  • The floor above is slightly cantilevered to provide fixed sunshading from mid-spring to mid-autumn but allow winter sun access.
  • Glazed areas are not excessive and double glazed high performance glazed units.
  • Highly insulated external floors, walls and roofs.
  • Thermal mass in floors that can receive direct sunlight.
  • Installation of suitable mechanical, hydraulic and electric systems like louvre vents to exhausts, water and energy saving devices, rainwater collection in the basement, PV collectors and solar hot water on the roof.
Ground and first floor layouts

A blueprint for the future

This is a very important project to us as it is an attractive, high density residential development on a regular size suburban block.

With the right mix of units, yield and outdoor space it can be a very manageable model in terms of planning, cost and community development once it is occupied.

We are very proud to have received this award as a recognition that this can be a sustainable model for the future.

Steffen Welsch, Principal, Steffen Welsch Architects
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Discussion (1 comment)

Bilby's picture

Interesting - but will it ever get built? Fraser Paxton won approval for the development of a site at 250 Gore Street Fitzroy a couple of years back, which boasted a 9.5 star rating. The permit was then flipped and the energy efficient design scrapped for a standard block of flats:

http://www.fraserpaxton.com.au/#!commercial/ctzx

In the process, all the architects succeeded in doing was dooming all the heritage buildings on site to demolition and ensured the developer got a built "envelope" approved for the next developer to put up a building with much more modest green credentials.

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