Director, Xsquared Architects
Hopkins Street Affordable Housing is located in Moonah, just 10 minutes drive north from Hobart’s CBD. This 5 Star Green Star-rated development consists of 22 two-bedroom and 8 one-bedroom units and supports a community of diverse tenants drawn from the public housing list. The design is flexible, accessible, sustainable and affordable, with a wide range of amenities and facilities provided, and unlike many social housing projects, Hopkins Street was created with a real community at its heart.
Achieving housing affordability is not just about the cost of housing, it is about the cost of living. The Hopkins Street Affordable Housing development delivers a model of energy efficient housing that reduces the strain on our environment and the financial stress on household income, through significantly reduced energy bills for occupants.
Funded by the Federal Government’s Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan, the development was required to achieve 6 star NatHERS ratings for all units. Through maximisation of energy efficiency, via efficient heating, solar hot water systems, effective insulation and photovoltaic panels for communal power needs, all units achieved a minimum energy rating of 7.3 stars, with three apartments achieving 8.1 stars.
The heating and insulation products for Hopkins Street Affordable Housing were chosen to meet these ambitious energy efficiency targets while maintaining the ‘affordability’ of the development, including a strict construction budget and minimising future running costs for tenants.
"The biggest challenge for us in the Hopkins Street Affordable Housing project is inherent in its title – ‘affordable housing’. We were given a brief and a budget for a ‘business-as-usual’ development from a heating and insulation perspective. But we developed an enlightened and performance-leading exemplar of public housing within this budget, which has enabled our client to pass on this benefit to the managing organisation and tenants." -Peter Scott, Director, Xsquared Architects
A clever product choice by the project team was the selection of single reverse cycle heat pumps, usually only utilised for commercial applications. Chosen as one of the most energy-efficient options on the market, they also use non-ozone depleting refrigerants and are highly reliable, ensuring that tenants would not be without heating during cold Tasmanian winters.
"The project team have achieved an outcome that is performance-driven. By staying focused on the needs of the end-use, rather than on an overly detailed list of specifications that might have stifled creativity, they have encouraged innovation and quality of life." -Robin Mellon, Chief Operating Officer, Green Building Council of Australia
Indoor environment quality is extremely important within residential developments, where people spend much of their time indoors. The indoor environment at Hopkins Street is designed to be sustainable and healthy through both active and passive means.
The units are dual aspect, compact, efficiently planned and overlook a shared landscaped courtyard. This design maximises natural daylight and cross flow ventilation throughout the apartments wherever possible. This helps to ensure the air is kept clean and reduces the potential for mould and bacteria growth. The design includes low-VOC emission paints, sealants, adhesives, and flooring as well as low-formaldehyde wood products.
Together these elements ensure that occupants are provided with a clean and healthy indoor environment with fresh air and daylight to maintain a healthy environment for as long as the dwellings are occupied.
"Our intention was to build units that we would want to live in, with finishes and aesthetics that we would want to live with." -Alex Newman, Associate, Xsquared Architects
Hopkins Street Affordable Housing development has been recognised as a case study of excellence in ‘design innovation’ by research conducted at Monash University. Just one of six developments selected nationwide, Hopkins Street was recognised for redefining the quality, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, liveability, performance and ambitions of social and affordable housing in Australia and is innovative in addressing all of these issues simultaneously and to the extent that it does.
Key to this recognition was the environmental performance of the housing. If all public housing in Australia were to adopt the same performance levels as Hopkins Street, the resulting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be 3570 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 289,870kL of water per annum or the equivalent of 115 Olympic swimming pools.
This development was also recognised for the unusually generous amenity for social housing, incorporating a children’s playground, community gardens with compost turners and worm farms, outdoor BBQ area, landscaped courtyard, bicycle storage, clothes drying lines and even an area for residents to place and exchange unwanted items with other residents, encouraging reuse rather than dumping.
Hopkins Street Affordable Housing development was awarded one Green Star ‘Innovation’ point for its substantial contribution to a broader market transformation towards sustainable development in Australia.
"The biggest achievement has been the sense of community achieved, with flourishing community gardens, a popular children’s playground, Hopkins Street is a safe place that people call home." -Alex Newman, Associate, Xsquared Architects