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The building blocks for hybrid housing

From older offices on a tight site to modular high-rise homes with shared green spaces

Office conversion sparks conversation and debate in most design practices working across Commercial and Living — and ours is no exception.

Last month, we shared a thought-provoking example: A Tower Transformed from an outdated office building in Sydney’s CBD to more apartments to help meet Australia’s urgent housing needs.

The response was galvanising, giving us more to think about, talk about, and put to the test.

In addition to responding to some of your comments and questions, we’re sharing another workplace-to-living conversion modelled by Principal Marko Damic and his team from our Commercial sector. This time around, they speculated on a new future for an office building situated in a crowded nest of towers in North Sydney. Adaptive reuse seems like our best foot forward across the industry for meeting the pressures facing the sustainable future of our cities.

Read on to find out how pre-fabricated Build-to-Rent (BTR) apartment modules could transform the sunny sides of the building, which would also incorporate open-air spaces ‘inserted’ into the structure for more shared, green gathering spaces.

Old place, new face

The object of our attention is an outdated, underused office building with 13 floors of workplace and six levels of parking on a 1058sqm site.

But we see something else: the potential to create appealing BTR apartments to meet high demand. By transforming the building while retaining the existing structure and core, we could cut construction time costs and reduce carbon emissions.

Living lighter

After heatmapping analysis, we arranged the apartments on the building’s eastern face to capture the sunlight needed for living spaces plus offer better outlooks. Any existing workplace areas would remain, retaining the existing façade.

A smart ‘kit of parts’ approach to the apartments would involve building volumetric pre-fabricated modules off-site via efficient timber cassette systems. Modular elements like these could also achieve planning efficiency.

Achieving uplift

There’s also potential to add seven more levels to the building, with 6-metre and 4-metre setbacks to the northern and western boundaries. What’s even better? We could build the new levels more efficiently and sustainably with pre-fabricated Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).

Trading places

Under the scheme, we strategically swapped the BTR apartment modules in some locations with landscaped, communal open spaces for residents. On the low-rise levels, commercial tenants could also enjoy these spaces.

Green space in the grid

Our series of ‘inserted’ communal spaces would give apartment dwellers greater access to fresh air and greenery. By arranging the modules at prime locations on the façade, we’d also maximise outlooks and access to daylight.

Framing the future

Together, these design moves would turn the tower into a healthier living-working hybrid, with nearly equal amounts of apartments and office space. Importantly, we’d refresh the building by introducing almost 670sqm of communal outdoor space. Could you imagine the difference?


Sustainable design wins at NSW Chapter Awards