The ACT Government’s Suburban Land Agency (SLA) has a dedicated built form program that is testing and showcasing innovative forms of housing and sustainable housing opportunities. As the developer of these projects, the SLA is able to drive sustainable building innovation and demonstrate what is possible in well designed, comfortable, energy efficient homes that are more affordable to run.

In November 2022, SLA opened its Innovation Precinct as part of the Display Village in Whitlam. The precinct showcases the latest in sustainability, low carbon and multi-generational livable housing, climate-wise landscaping and placemaking.

The Innovation Precinct consists of three multi-generational terrace homes and a single residential building temporarily housing the SLA sales and information centre and Mingle Community Hub from where our community development and placemaking programs are facilitated. The precinct design brief was to focus on a range of sustainable living criteria in addition to energy efficiency and is both Livable Housing Australia certified and HIA GreenSmart accredited. Climate-wise gardens surround the homes and include nature play, pollinator-friendly plants, a fruit orchard and vegetable plots. The precinct also features vertical greening elements and a green roof on the single residential house. Key design objectives of the homes include:

Energy– passive solar design; carbon positive and all electric; PV system with battery storage; high levels of insulation R2.5 slab and walls, R6.0 ceilings and R1.5 roof, and building sealing; high-performance uPVC double glazed window systems; heat recovery and ventilation system; LED lighting; EV charging.

Green infrastructure– green roof; climate wise garden principles; maximised tree canopy and landscaping as heat sinks; edible gardens with fruit trees and community garden beds.

Water– entire roof catchment collected; 20,000l of water tank capacity across all dwellings; water tank connected to toilets; cold water supply to washing machine and garden irrigation; grey water reuse system to landscape; high water efficiency fixtures; low water use landscaping.

Materials– no dark roofs- solar absorptance below 0.6; building materials with reduced embodied energy; carbon neutral and recycled bricks; thermal mass through concrete slab and ACCC to first floors.

Adaptability– Silver, Gold and Platinum Livable Housing Design; flexible floorplans for different household compositions.

Following completion of construction, air permeability testing was conducted with the dwellings achieving results as specified to 5 air changes per hours (measured as 5m3/h/m2@50Pa reference pressure when tested in accordance with AS/NZS ISO 9972).

The four homes have been assessed with a Life Cycle Assessment tool against Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions with the Global Warming Potential of all dwellings being reduced between 68% and 157% (carbon positive) compared to an average benchmark home and recognised at the ACT Low Carbon Challenge in 2021.

Following completion of the Whitlam Innovation Precinct in 2022, SLA is moving ahead with its next showcase built form project – the North Wright Sustainable Housing precinct building on connection to Country, climate resilience and a place-led co-design process. Twenty-three townhouses in Stage 1, designed as an entry-level sustainable house and land package with an Energy Efficiency Rating of up to 8.6 Stars are currently under construction.

SLA has planned, designed and is constructing this ‘missing middle’ style, landscape-oriented townhouse precinct. With block sizes from 200m2 to 250m2, the design of the precinct focuses on:

Small footprint efficiently designed housing– with flexible spaces and ‘room to grow’ over time as the needs of occupants change. The average Gross Floor Area of a North Wright townhouse is 105m2, compared to a new build BAU size of 178.3m2. By reducing house size, carbon savings equating to planting over 10,000 trees are made. The townhouses have been designed to be comfortable, energy efficient, well-oriented for solar passive heating combined with the use of internal thermal mass to capture, store and release the sun’s energy. North facing private open spaces and windows for living areas with appropriate eaves and sunshade devices to minimise unwanted summer sun and for weather protection more broadly. Designs optimise energy efficiency, use of natural light and for cross flow ventilation to passively cool the homes.

Designs built with the aim of achieving a net zero carbon footprint-the precinct has been designed with the aim of achieving net zero carbon over the life of the precinct. On-site renewable energy generation (solar panels) will offset the carbon emissions associated with building and construction phase. The building envelope will be constructed and tested to 5 air changes per hour with a heat recovery ventilation system installed for further efficiencies. The project also looks to maximise the use of recycled and sustainable materials to minimise its carbon footprint, such as recycled bricks and landscaping materials.  SLA will monitor and evaluate the carbon emissions of the precinct upon completion of construction and use the results to better educate the community and guide future built form projects.

Regenerative landscape-oriented precinct with heat mitigations initiatives– with over 9000m2 of space dedicated to the public realm and 250 trees planted for the precinct in Stage 1 alone (150 in public spaces and 5 trees for each block), urban heat mitigation will be a benefit for future residents. Tree shade can result in reductions of short-wave radiation reaching the ground surface by 60%–90%, with upward of 20°C differences in surface temperatures between shaded areas and sunny asphalt areas.

Construction for Stage 1 of the North Wright Sustainable Housing Precinct is anticipated to be complete in early 2025, and the SLA is very proud to announce that two display homes will be open for inspection and education in late 2024. For further information on the project, please visit our website on North Wright Compact Housing | Suburban Land Agency.


You can visit the SLA’s Whitlam Innovation Precinct and Display Village which is located at the Corner of Sculthorpe Ave and Klaus Moje St, Whitlam (ACT) and is open from 10am to 4 pm, Thursday to Sunday.