By: Joshua Duncan & Chaz Flint
Building Up, Not Out | A Viable Solution to Perth’s Suburban Sprawl.
Having already sprawled further than most major international cities, Perth is predicted to grow from 1.5 million to 4.2 million in population by the mid 2050’s. To meet this rapid growth, the entire city and its infrastructure will need to double in a relatively short period of time. Suburban sprawl and low density housing growth on the outskirts of Perth is already an acknowledged problem. Continuing this development trend to cater for the expected growth in the years to come is not a sustainable option.
Many jobs remain based in the CBD, leaving thousands forced to make long commutes to the CBD from the increasingly outer suburbs. Richard Weller discusses several ideas for how to deal with the expected population growth in his book, Boomtown 2050. However, The City Above The City competition puts forward a new idea worthy of investigation; building above Perth’s existing urban structures.
We have selected a case study building in Perth for testing a timber housing superstructure that has the potential to be easily applied elsewhere - both in Perth and around the world. The chosen building is a 1970’s brutalist train station a short distance from the CBD and well connected via the adjacent train line. Its generous concrete and brick structure is more than likely able to accommodate a timber structured addition.
The housing proposal is based on a modular LVL construction system that maximises repetition in layout, cutting down construction costs and ensuring an efficient planning organization that facilitates optimal natural lighting conditions for all apartments. A single lineal apartment type with access from the South and full glazing to the North affords each apartment equal access to unobstructed winter sun light and full cross ventilation.
Apartment modules are stacked and arranged to create an apartment block to best fit the available roof plot, as well as meet local codes for egress and escape. Three of these blocks are spaced along the case study building to ensure all three Northern facades are exposed to winter mid-day sunlight; the spacing of these blocks defined by winter solstice sun reaching the bottom apartments unobstructed.
External circulation is the most cost effective option for affordable housing, however, it can compromise a dwelling’s privacy, with rooms adjacent to circulation routes in affordable housing schemes often having permanently drawn curtains. To deal with this issue we have created an intermediate outdoor space between the southern circulation route and the apartments. As well as housing a small personal laundry unit, it is an ideal place to store a bike, an A/C unit and hang washing. It is separated from the public circulation by lockable sliding timber screens, adding another layer of privacy and security.
As LVL is not a suitable material for use in outdoor applications, a protective layer is required. An operable translucent polycarbonate skin performs this role, protecting the timber structure from inclement weather and harsh UV light at the same time as allowing us to see the timber frame beyond and the warm colours of the wood.
The circulation space, between the operable skin and the apartments, performs as a greenhouse - a separate climatic zone - which makes the semi-public spaces comfortable throughout the year. In summer the operable skin will be opened, allowing full ventilation throughout. In winter, the screens can be more closed, protecting the timber from the rain at the same time as warming the space. More than just circulation, the space becomes a setting that encourages social communities within the housing complex.