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If the way we do things now is unsustainable - the urban sprawl and the 1/4 acre block, the number of cars, the levels of production and consumption - we must ask “Could we use less without being deprived? Might a new housing design using less even be able to help us out of isolation? What could we share to our advantage?”   What size block of land, what levels of self-sufficiency, are rural or higher density environments more sustainable? In relation to all these questions, we believe we have come up with a model that really has potential.




For sustainability, NTW recognises the need for...


Self Reliance
...more productivity at both household and neighbourhood levels.

 Efficient Design - Community Housing Principles
...private but connected housing and some shared common facilities.

Design Adaptability
....flexible design that can be adapted to units, town houses, clustered housing or adjacent housing.

...a suburban setting to support local cooperation and contain urban sprawl

Lease of Households
...housing that's more secure than rental and involves less market commitment than ownership

...aspects of self-build and self-maintenance.

Bricks & Mortar Model
...a demonstration bricks and mortar NTW model.



Self Reliance
NTW believes that sustainability involves more self sufficiency and more cooperation at both household and neighbourhood levels. NTW is committed to producing as much as it can as locally as it can to meet its participants basic needs.

NTW's inclusion and development of programs for food gardens, self build, resource pools, energy efficiency etc. are all in this self-reliance vain.


Efficient Design
If the worlds growing population is going to be sustainably supported, research strongly suggests that ten households could not legitimately claim more than around 2 suburban acres. A sustainable but modern lifestyle suggests a level of self sufficiency, neighbourhood cooperation, and a level of community sharing which challenges common assumptions about the 'nuclear family design' of buildings, and the very idea of the 'rural alternative'.

If ten households are going to have space for maximising food garden and other local productivity and if they are going to minimise their use of resources for building, a single building of at least two levels with a balance of private and some common facilities would be the logical design to work with.  

The dwellings footprint (land use) on the two acre site is vastly changed when you move to ten separate dwellings. If we are going to develop a model that avoids the urban sprawl of the ¼ acre block and the disaster of mono-culture farming, we need to use the maximum amount of land for food gardens and other co-operative activities. The efficiency of building materials and labour is also blown out by individual dwellings.

NTW is guided by social, environmental and economic sustainability. If someone presents a  case for individual dwellings that address these issues NTW would of course keenly look at it.

Other than the balance of privacy and community that has enormous environmental benefits we will be looking at passive solar design, rain water collection, water efficiency and recycling, energy conservation, reduced resources (including land) and costs, innovative and insulative materials etc. We believe that sustainablility must involve solutions that are affordable to the poorest in the world and applicable by people who don't even have secure access to a roof over their head - let alone thousands of dollars for high tech solutions.

We do not feel that environmental housing design is necessarily in tension with Government Housing constraints. While Government will certainly require housing design that can serve as standard housing, even if the NTW is unsuccessful, they are however experimenting with technologies like mud-brick. They are also interested in reducing the cost of energy for tenants. These factors and the fact that we will try and work toward self-building, all work in our favour.

Community Design Principles
What degree of privacy and what degree of community does sustainability suggest? We recognise the need of individuals and families to have self-contained private space as well as sound privacy and private outlooks. All this would be very important to assure that people don't feel crowded and have plenty of room to breath. We are by no means designing a model that forces people to have to interact every day or live in each others pockets.

The right balance between the individual and the community space would be vital to success. Common facilities that are created with thought and care can support community and make the best use of resources.

From our research, the argument for a one building design has tremendous social, environmental and economic advantages over separate individual dwellings.

Sharing to achieve a modern yet sustainable lifestyle is not possible in typical modern individualised architecture because people will not happily use common facilities that are outside their dwelling and will naturally revert to personalised everything.  

Privacy, complimented with easy indoor access to comfortable common spaces could gain much from sharing and lose nothing. We could substantially reduce our working week while increasing our material standard of living. We could also benefit from sharing many domestic duties.

The argument for town-house/common design has tremendous social, environmental and economic advantages over individual dwellings.

People withdrawing into totally individual and separate dwellings is the physical reality behind the isolation, lack of real community and resource unsustainability that marks our current society.

This is basically overcome through increased interdependence in the sort of housing design that gives privacy but compliments it with easy to access comfortable common spaces.  

If we thought the building design was somehow socially unworkable we would not be interested in it. But far from that we believe that through the right design it would be idealic.

More community is needed in the way we do things. Very good processes and structures are needed to avoid the common pitfalls and keep community a positive thing.  


NTW Building Concept

Design Adaptability
The core NTW activities that we have outlined will involve participants in programs that are only dependent on standard housing and land access.

While our ideal project has a specific building design, the NTW plan has been designed to be flexible and can be adapted to DoH units, town houses, clustered housing or adjacent housing. While participants have no intention of living in each others pockets close proximity for programs is fairly essential.

NTW’s domestic gardens program has very small land needs and will operate on whatever land is available as well as in pots.

NTW’s management and community programs are also designed to be highly adaptable to the limitations of any given site. Neighbourhood and community activities would find a workable home in public and private venues.

To achieve its objectives NTW will develop a site specific-strategy when a site is identified and its particular features are understood.


For sustainable development to actually make some inroads and help people and the planet, it must be deeply integrated and accepted within suburban settings.   If we were based right in the middle of the ‘burbs, close to the heart of town, and if we were SEEN to be productive, accountable and viable, the larger community could begin to re-think their view around alternative forms of development.

Land is also already developed in suburbia and we need to avoid further sprawl.

NTW's highly efficient housing design and land use for cooperative productivity has been designed with suburban as well as inner city high urban density in mind. The project is also reliant on a large population base  to achieve community interaction and co-operation.

Beyond being important for environmental and social reason, suburban blocks for ten families that are close to the centre of a town also fits government requirements for public housing.


Lease of Households
The project seeks long-term leases for 6 - 12 adjacent households. Ownership would not be sought by NTW and the security of the rental leases would be subject to project performance.

One possible strategy for achieving this is that participants be drawn from a group who are eligible for affordable housing support. In this way, existing government affordable housing spending could support the many positive outcomes of the project.

Unlike mortgage payers or typical renters, project participants will be in the unique position of having a long-term future in the neighbourhood tied to their work within it. From this new foundation we could begin to see 'Neighbourhoods That Work'.


If the situation allows, NTW seeks to involve participants in some aspects of design, construction and maintenance. All the skills needed can be structured into the process with the help of existing programs such as TAFE Outreach which provides on site skill development.


Bricks & Mortar Model
In the 'Neighbourhoods That Work' (NTW) proposal a selected group of ten participants would be offered affordable and secure rental housing in return for a commitment to neighbourhood programs.

In this way affordable and secure rental housing could become part of a new neighbourhood work opportunity that was increasingly dependant on local cooperation rather than market competition.

Core to this proposal is the integration of neighbourhood work with a person's natural right to establish a secure home.

Formalised by a membership agreement, ten adjacent households would provide around 100 hours of activity in well-managed community programs.

This 100hrs of weekly neighbourhood activity is designed to create a critical mass of activity that the whole neighbourhood can directly and indirectly benefit from.

This organised community commitment would have payoffs worth replicating in neighbourhoods everywhere.


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Through the NTW model we can see that ‘sustainability’ promises a social, material and general quality of life that most of us have only just begun to fathom. Not only can we have modern comfort, but also happy and vibrant families and communities, meaningful and enjoyable work and a more just and safe world.

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