SUSTAINABLE  CANBERRA                                           australian institute of landscape architects   AILA®


 introductionimages / location / case-studies


  • Locate eco-housing within existing urban infrastructure. Aim to create sustainable developments close to public transport, shops, services, schools and bike paths.  This will reduce residents’ car dependence and minimise the impact on non-urban land which may provide habitat and agricultural services.

  • Aim to locate the eco-village witin the 7.5km radius from Civic (urban intensification zone set out in ACT government’s Canberra Spatial Plan).  An eco-village could be created by amalgamating blocks of land, or retrofitting disused or underused shopping centres or school sites.  One possible site for Canberra’s first eco-village is the old Downer Primary School site or the Hackett shopping centre.

  • Aim to retrofit existing buildings, as this has lower embodied energy than constructing new buildings.

  • All new buildings should be designed to meet or exceed best practice environmental design.

  • Building blocks can be as small as 150sqm if residences are sited and designed well (The average size of serviced blocks released in the ACT in 2007 was approx. 500sqm – based on LDA data).

  • Provide a variety of accommodation styles, not just four bedrooms, two bathroom homes.  When considering the types of accommodation provided, analyse the changing demographics and lifestyles of the area.  (At least 25% of the population live by themselves).  Designing higher quality but smaller homes can reduce the environmental footprint of residences.

  • Aim to incorporate a portion of adaptable and low income housing within the development.  This will ensure that the development meets the ACT government social sustainability objectives.

  • Consult with the future residents of the site about their needs and desires.

  • Consult with the local community on the proposal.  By consulting the community and addressing their concerns, if well considered the project, is more likely to gain approval

Building Design 

  • Aim for passive solar design for all residences and an energy rating system of 5+.

  • Explore the opportunity for alternative energy generation, using solar or wind technologies.

  • Capture rainwater in tanks for internal building use and garden irrigation.

  • Use non-toxic and sustainable building materials wherever possible.  This will reduce the ecological footprint of the project and limits exposure of residents and builders to toxins. 

Landscape Design

Water use

  • Aim to be sustainable in water use. Reuse grey and black water using passive systems such as reed beds, landscape evaporation/transpiration beds and harvest water in swales. Alternatively consider installing an active grey water system. These measures will have a marked benefit to the local catchment.

  • Maximise site permeability. This will also assist the local catchment by reducing peak flows and nutrients entering local creeks and drains.

Landscape Materials

  • Incorporate sustainable landscape materials wherever possible.  This will reduce the ecological footprint of the project.

Site Ecology

  • If practical and if original soils have not been adversely affected aim to restore some of the existing ecology to the site – this will improve site biodiversity.  If possible link site to existing open spaces and reserves to create habitat corridors. 

  • Choose plants with multiple functions. For example, when choosing a species to create privacy, consider one with screening capabilities, that produces edible fruits and is bird attracting.

  • Establish regulations on responsible animal ownership, such as keeping cats indoors or within enclosures.

Private Outdoor Spaces

  • Provide small courtyards, balconies or semi-private open spaces for residents.  These spaces should give allow some level of privacy but also allow for interaction between residents and visitors if they wish. 

Communal Outdoor Spaces

  • Set aside communal areas for food growing and food preparation.  Include cooking equipment such as BBQs and pizza ovens which may foster community spirit.

  • Provide a communal bike shed to encourage cycling and reduce car dependency.

  • Ensure clothes drying facilities are located in sunny positions so they can reduce reliance on energy intensive clothes dryers.

  • Encourage some community use of the site by non-residents. 

Planning for climate change

  • Building and landscape designers to work together to create a well integrated home and landscape to address a hotter and drier climate.

  • Ensure the development will be shaded by appropriately selected trees (considering their final height, longevity, weed potential and whether deciduous or exotic) and the majority of plants need to be able to cope with a hotter and drier climate.  Vegetable gardens can be irrigated with drip irrigation from harvested water.  Other garden beds can be watered with treated grey water.

  • Consider creating ‘mini-oasis’ adjacent to buildings that can aid passive cooling.

  • Relegate cars to the edge of the development and link residences with wide landscaped paths. 

  • Consider using green roof and green wall technology in the project to reduce building running costs.

Case Studies

Christies Walk, Adelaide
Westwyck, West Brunswick, Melbourne


 introductionimages / location / case-studies



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