Canberra needs housing that is affordable, sustainable, and of high amenity that is achieved through clever design strategies, including smaller, energy-efficient dwellings; cost-effective, space efficient and quality controlled mass housing; and the adaptation of existing housing stock to accommodate multi-generational families, and support ageing-in-place.

Aerial Photo Red Hill Multi-Generational House.jpg

Site area: 752m²

Zoning: RZ2


The brief for this project asked for a single dwelling house that allowed for a flexible design allowing the occupants to “age in place”. The design uses three separate interlocking modules that can be used independently or as a whole dwelling, depending on the needs of the owner. Each module has its own kitchen, bathroom, and laundry, as well at least one living/dining space and bedroom each. Each module is linked with the other via either doors or stairs, allowing the owners to open or close sections of the house as needed. Each module also has access to its own landscaped courtyard or terrace.

All modules face north, and have their own car parking space. A lift shaft is also included in the design allowing for easier movement through each level as the owners age. A 3-storey spine wall forms the core of the design, which is constructed using bricks recycled from the existing dwelling on the site, giving the modules fire separation. The spine wall also improves the thermal performance of the design, reducing heating and cooling costs for the owner.

As the site is zoned RZ2, only 2-storey development is allowed. However, the basement is not included in this rule, and the basement in this design allows the owner to modify this area to become a separate dwelling in future.

This project has been included in this collection of exemplar housing in Canberra because it is a good example of a flexible design that allows the owners to downsize as they age. As the owner downsizes, they can choose to lease the other two modules to the general public. This concept could be replicated on other similar sites around Canberra.