The Bower Studios are a sequence of Master of Architecture design projects at The University of Melbourne’s School of Design. The projects involve students working to design and build community infrastructure alongside Indigenous groups in remote locations in Australia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea. The approach focuses around constructing community infrastructure to stimulate discussion with communities. This discussion helps in the development of meaningful relationships that enable a greater cultural awareness and assessment of need, whilst strengthening community spirit. The process of talking, designing and then building together creates unique opportunities for useful dialogue, which then enriches the ideas, processes and outcomes for future projects.
The HomesPLUS model is built on Bower Studio’s extensive work and research on Indigenous Housing. It gives the occupant choice, control and relies on their sweat-equity. It offers outcomes in tune with community aspirations and is designed to produce cost-effective, sustainable and positive outcomes for Indigenous communities. This innovative, best practice procurement model for new housing and housing upgrades works alongside Indigenous communities throughout Australia to improve the sustainability, quality and quantity of housing.
The HomePLUS process is simple: select a house, select some additions (carport, fence, outdoor cooking shelter), place an order and then build it yourself with assistance. A reconfigured off-the-shelf prefabricated dwelling, with a staged/incremental construction schedule, complemented with suitable Add Ons, using local Indigenous labour, and supported by a positive network of academic and industry partners forming an Alliance Team, can tailor houses to the individual needs of the Indigenous residents.
The investment of ‘sweat equity’ is an excellent prelude to home ownership. It parallels what is often seen throughout mainstream Australia where households invest much time and effort to improve their own home and express their identity and aspirations through this improvement. This process anchors people to their houses, provides opportunities to build self-esteem and creates a positive environment that reflects a positive society.
Arup’s role in this initiative has been to provide engineering specifications and calculations for HomesPLUS package engineering certification and permits. Along with this, Arup also provides Indigenous employment pathways. Arup sees the benefits this partnership through the development of new knowledge, improved Indigenous employment pathways, community engagement and social responsibility.
The investment of ‘sweat equity’ is an excellent prelude to home ownership. It parallels what is often seen throughout mainstream Australia where households invest much time and effort to improve their own home and express their identity and aspirations through this improvement. Brendon McNiven, Arup, Melbourne