Property Australia

Eight stars for sustainable townhouses

Karen Jamal Karen Jamal May 4, 2021

Northcote Place in Melbourne transforms a 12,000 sqm site, once a disused bus repair shed, with 74 diverse, flexible townhouses designed to achieve an overall NatHERs rating of eight stars.


  Why we love this project:

  • The lush landscaping complements local regeneration initiatives and features 80% indigenous species
  • Shared public and private spaces include a community garden, street furniture, a central mews for pedestrians and cyclists, and a new footbridge to the nearby park
  • The project was designed pre-pandemic but delivers an environmentally and socially connected 20-minute neighbourhood that Melburnians are now looking for after experiencing collective cabin fever during COVID-19 lockdowns.


Northcote Place is the result of a close collaboration between developer Metro, Akas Landscape Architecture, SDC sustainable development consultants and ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects, a carbon-neutral practice and Australia’s largest architectural BCorp.

NatHERS, the National Home Energy Rating Scheme, rates designs on a 10 star scale. The average national requirements are currently set at six stars, but proposed changes to the National Construction Code in 2022 would see this rise to seven stars.

“Eight stars is a tangible measure of energy efficiency that’s resonating with Northcote buyers because they’re ESD-focussed,” says Metro’s general manager, David Steele. “But beyond stars we wanted to create the most well-rounded sustainable townhouse living in Australia.”

ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s multi-residential associate Janice Tan says key design features include triple- and double-glazed thermally broken windows carefully placed for maximum effect.

“We’ve also used robust materials with high ESD values, north-facing living areas, cross ventilation, large eaves, ceiling fans in all bedrooms and living areas, solar power, rainwater tanks, large terraces, gardens and shared outdoor spaces designed as habitat, not decoration,” Tan says.

Northcote Place townhouses also have sliding doors at the bottom or top of the staircase at each level, which act as an airlock to stabilise air movement and increase comfort. This design solution also helped push the project’s overall energy rating from seven to eight stars.

Landscape design by Akas was inspired by the architecture and recent regeneration of Merri Creek. ClarkeHopkinsClarke Partner Toby Lauchlan says Northcote Place is conceived as habitat not just for flora and fauna but for residents and neighbours.

“We’ve designed these homes, gardens and shared spaces as a micro community that reflects local values, connects local ecology and bike paths, gets better with age, and creates an exemplar of contemporary community design,” he says.

Eighty percent of stage one residences are already sold and construction is set to commence after current demolition works are completed.

The diversity of approaches at Northcote Place is attracting a broad mix of buyers, from young families and downsizers to sustainability experts like Patricia Fitzsimons.

A sustainability professional working with local governments and not-for-profits for two decades, Fitzsimons says, “sustainability is fundamentally important to who I am”.

“The eight-star energy rating was important to me because there is accountability. Once the buildings are completed they have to report on whether or not they’ve actually achieved that rating…There’s few residential buildings at that level.”