How to blend quality home design, with affordability and accessibility for all, in the confines of a housing estate

STANDOUT: Although part of a housing estate this home in Milton, on the NSW southern coastline, has architectural features that speak to the owners' style. Photos: Nathan Devine. Produced with BowerBird.
STANDOUT: Although part of a housing estate this home in Milton, on the NSW southern coastline, has architectural features that speak to the owners' style. Photos: Nathan Devine. Produced with BowerBird.

The challenge to design a home with a low construction cost, energy efficiency and individual style was accepted by Justin Mallia Architecture.

The custom-built house for specific clients was created using a mass-housing style builder and is located within a conventional, new suburban housing estate.

Through the increased levels of amenity, creativity and liveability that it achieves within the housing estate context, and within the budgetary constraints that appeal to the mass housing market, the project acts as an exemplar of the positive impacts that quality design can bring to this vast sector, that is largely devoid of meaningful architectural influence.

The home challenges the status quo by cooperatively harnessing the efficiencies of the mass housing market and applying them through sound architectural fundamentals, to deliver quality design at unprecedented affordability and accessibility to all.

The construction cost is under $300,000 and $1250 per square metre, which aligns with conventional housing estate rates, but is at least three times less than an average architect designed custom-build.

Study nook

Study nook

The clients are a family of two parents with three young children.

Before moving into the new house, they lived in a small, nearby apartment with their August 2018 daily consumption at 30kW/h. This aligns with local averages for a five-person family.

In comparison, the August 2019 daily consumption of the same family, but in the new, larger house, was only 12kW/h.

Aside from the tactile, experiential or indirect pleasures and benefits of living in a thoughtfully designed home, these financial factors are admirable.

The amalgamation of mass housing efficiency with architectural care was achieved through a design-led process.

This included a considered functional layout customised to the clients and the context, and applying ESD values and creativity in the volumes, feeling and relationships between spaces.

The house was constructed using standard mass-housing methods.

Materials and finishes are standard but creatively selected.

Atmospheres with textures and contrasts are formed through combinations of plaster, plywood, exposed concrete and brickwork, and the consideration of light and shadow.

Standard roof trusses are exposed in areas giving a sense of workmanship, height and drama.

The house features natural cross ventilation and north facing windows to every room.

Specially adapted eaves and sun-shading control solar gains to windows, and carefully positioned standard brickwork harness the benefits of thermal mass for warmth in winter and coolness in summer.

While large, the house is smaller than the national average, and spaces are not ostentatious or unnecessary.

It features three same-size bedrooms for the children, plus a master suite with walk-in wardrobe and ensuite. The open plan kitchen, dining and living room is spacious, and there is a separate family room and study nook.

There are flexible, adaptable relationships and connections between functional areas, and between inside and outside.

The project works within the current realms of suburban development, showing good design can lead to realistic, better outcomes. It shows that architectural design need not be elitist or limited by location or demographics.

Master suite walk-in robe

Master suite walk-in robe

This project is not a mass housing design that is "architecturally inspired" but instead an inspiring house for the masses, based on sound architectural fundamentals.