$2M research boost for sustainable housing in regional Australia

A collaborative project between Deakin, Colac Otway Shire, Formflow and Urbis that addresses the need for housing in regional Australia will receive more than $2 million in Federal funding as part of the regional Precincts and Partnerships Program (rPPP). 

The Colac Otway Adaptable Precincts project, a collaboration between the Colac Otway Shire, FormFlow, Urbis, and Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials and the School of Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE), will take a share of the $207 million in Australian Government funding that aims to support the delivery of capital works projects in regional and rural Australia that support community socio-economic outcomes and regional priorities. 

According to the Regional Australia Institute, there is dire need to increase availability and affordability for regional housing stock, with Australia’s regional population growing at an average of about 89,000 people each year over the period of 2012 to 2022, while the number of homes approved for construction declined in four out of these 10 years.  

IFM’s project lead Associate Professor Matthias Weiss said their project aimed to develop a living community laboratory that will test new building and manufacturing technologies for housing that is sustainable, adaptable and resilient to the future challenges of climate change. 

“FormFlow has been developing prefabricated and modular building solutions to address Australia’s need for low-cost housing and rapid disaster relief,” he said. “For the living community laboratory, FormFlow will further optimise the housing solution.”  

Assoc. Prof. Weiss, who is also a co-founder of FormFlow, said the major focus will be reducing the use of new materials, instead looking to increase sustainable and recycled materials to optimise building design, manufacturability, transport and maintenance.   

“The aim is to develop a building solution that can be used forever,” he said. “Instead of pulling a structure down, we’d construct modules that can be sent back to FormFlow for upgrades and then reused or resold for a new purpose.”   

SEBE architecture team will help FormFlow perform a live cycle analysis to determine the environmental impact of the building solution. IFM will investigate manufacturability – aiming to have a holistic approach towards design, materials and manufacturability. 

“My group will ensure that the building design and components can be produced with Australian, low-cost manufacturing technologies,” Assoc. Prof. Weiss said. 

“The major view will be on roll forming, which is one of my group’s major research areas and one of the major processes used in Australia to produce steel purlins, corrugated sheets, and other components heavily used in building production.”  

FormFlow Founder and Managing Director Matthew Dingle said the project was a wonderful example of successful industry and research collaboration in action.   

“The project brief was developed by FormFlow to address a real and urgent need for housing in regional Australia,” he said. “We approached urban design experts Urbis and chose partners based on their experience and capacity to complete important work and deliver real outcomes. We presented our proposal to the Colac Otway Shire who jumped at the opportunity to lead the project and carry out the work in their Shire. 

“This is yet another great example of the work that Matthias and his team are doing to deliver real outcomes for Australia and inform the development of sustainable communities around the world.” 

To see the full list of successful rPPP projects, visit www.infrastructure.gov.au/territories-regions-cities/regional-australia/regional-and-community-programs.