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Deep green in the deep south: The Commons heads to Hobart

Four years ago, a residential housing project in the youthful Melbourne suburb of Brunswick took the country by storm. Designed by Breathe Architecture and developed by Small Giants Developments, The Commons was hailed as a radical new approach to sustainability. Completed in 2013, it didn’t take long for estimations about the project to be proven true. The Commons subsequently laid the foundation for the innovative Nightingale model of development, which is still being rolled out across the country. But even prior to that, The Commons lit up the sustainable building awards circuit, notably taking out the prestigious Best of the Best award at the 2014 Sustainability Awards. That same year, it also received the top prize at the Victorian Premier’s Design Awards.

Cut to 2017, and The Commons is back on the move. The vertical community, which is defined by shared facilities and self-sufficient systems, is now heading to Hobart to provide the southernmost capital with a new benchmark for sustainable inner-city living.

The site earmarked for the next edition of The Commons is in the heart of Hobart’s central business district, on the old site of Retravision. According to the developer, it was chosen for both its proximity to shops and services and for its northern orientation, ideal for solar gain.

Hobart’s iteration of The Commons will be even larger than its Brunswick predecessor, featuring a total of 30 hyper-sustainable apartments. (The Commons Brunswick contains 24). Like the inaugural development, community and sustainability will form the twin pillars of the design approach. A rooftop garden for residents, a second garden with public access, bike spaces, commercial spaces and ground-floor communal area will all feature in the final building. In the interests of limiting car spaces, only five parking spots will be available to residents – a restriction that will be balanced out by an integrated car-share scheme.

“The Commons Hobart is “a living building”—it’s carbon positive, meaning we do two important things. One, we minimise our carbon emissions. Two, we offset our carbon emissions. With a rooftop communal garden, a street-side pocket park on the ground floor, and beautiful non-toxic finishes throughout – this is sustainable apartment living with all the modern comforts,” concludes Small Giants Developments.

In the interests of keeping things local, the architect this time around is Hobart-based practice Core Collective. According to the architect, an 8-star energy rating is being targeted for each of the 30 individual apartments. To assist in the achievement of this, apartments have been oriented to facilitate northern light for at least several hours each day. “Healthy and durable” materials with non-toxic finishes have been specified throughout, and integrated planter boxes to each of the private balconies not only complement the two communal gardens, but contribute to the greenness of the building’s façade.

“I think there will be an increase in demand for this type of accommodation in Hobart,” says Hobart alderman, Bill Harvey. “Younger people are driving less and aren’t owning cars; they want to live in high-quality housing in the right location in the city. I think we have to start exploring this concept seriously.”

“Our intention is to use the built environment to contribute to the world in a meaningful way, and to show how humans can live in harmony with nature and experience profound individual and social flourishing,” says ethical developer, Small Giants Developments.

“Designed by local legends Core Collective Architects, it is much more than an apartment block – it is a community of people wanting to live more meaningfully with each other and the natural world.”

The Commons Hobart is due for completion in early 2019.

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