Local award-winning architect, Dominic Finlay-Jones talks about the design of Habitat and how it will benefit the community of Byron Bay…


What was the brief for this mixed-use development?

To design a village for people to live and work in the one place and thereby reduce the reliance on a car for the daily commute.


The Commercial Precinct (Phase one) has commenced construction - what stage is Phase Two (residential) at?

Stage 2 is under detailed design and will be issued to the builders over the coming months so that they can flow directly from completing Stage 1 through the rest of the buildings.


How have you approached the design? How have factors such as the local aesthetic, lifestyle, environment & climate influenced the design & material palette?

The development is defined by a simplicity to the architecture, with larger buildings broken down in scale to allow covered outdoor spaces to exist between them - which is a direct response to the climate - plenty of shade, sub-tropical gardens and ventilation. Materials are generally either naturally finished, or pre-finished - to reduce the amount of paint required and to allow the buildings to age gracefully.


What environmentally sustainable design initiatives will be incorporated in this development?

All of the buildings feature natural ventilation, natural light and high thermal mass - all of which combines to reduce any reliance on mechanical cooling or heating and lighting. All of the common areas are lit using LED low wattage lights and all of the buildings will have photovoltaic cells for energy generation. There is a large amount of water storage on site for re-use in toilets and gardens. We are also looking into shared electric cars and solar power micro-grid storage. The development also features a large wetland for the local native Wallum Froglets and birds.

What have been the main challenges and how have you overcome these?

The biggest challenge has probably been planning legislation which inadvertently seems to stifle innovation by trying to prevent bad development rather than encouraging good ones. This is no unique to this area - it is across the board - it is a large ship to try and turn around but hopefully developments like Habitat can show that it is possible to deliver good built environment outcomes in one package.

How do you see this development benefiting the inhabitants and Byron Bay more broadly?

I think it will create a bit of focus in the Byron Arts and Industry Estate, which has developed in a very informal and rambling way. If there is a cluster of creative people working away on the things that they are passionate about amongst architecture that allows them to do what they do, we will be happy.

What are your thoughts on the future of live/work mixed-use developments in regional locations?

There is something unique about Byron, there is no doubt about that - and so to us it is no surprise that this type of innovative development would get up here. Having said that, it could work wherever there are enough people who want to live and are prepared to look at their work/life differently in order to achieve it.