Our needs as social and familial beings change over the course of our lives; however, it has become common practice to build as though these needs remain static through time. The needs of a child, young adult, family, middle age and the elderly are dynamic between generations, and adding to these evolving life needs is the crisis of housing affordability. Three decades ago a house could cost 3–4 times an individual's annual income, today that cost is closer to 10–12 times. In response to these challenges, this article explores the concept of Sustainable Micro-Villages, providing insight into a new approach to energy-efficient housing with reference to our case-study project—Carwoola House.
Sustainable Micro-Villages can be defined as a cluster of integrated dwellings, referred to here as Living Pods. Essentially a “single house” on a single site, these micro-villages can be comprised of two or more smaller buildings that provide private dwelling space for a single person, couples, couples with children, parents, elderly, friends and any combination of social groups. Living pods cluster around a natural garden setting, enhanced by water-harvesting, and are connected with covered, open or enclosed links depending on the climate of the site. The recent iterations of this type of dwelling also incorporate solar passive design, passive house and greenhouse technology.
In Australia, new house designs are evaluated as part of an approvals process for their energy rating. 1 The Australian Building Code requires a minimum 6-star rating, ranging up to 10 stars for any new home to be built. A 6-star rating provides a good level of insulation and energy performance if built correctly, while 10 stars represent the highest level of energy performance and refers to a dwelling that needs no heating or cooling. Sustainable Micro-Villages consistently achieve an 8 to 10-star rating by combining Solar Passive Design principles (good orientation, thermal mass and thermal performance) and Passive House Technology (high thermally performing building with low air leakage, no thermal bridging, high performance glazing and heat recovery ventilation) in various combinations to suit the climate, context and budget.