Design mockup of KARINYA by Allawah


Overview of design

KARINYA is a home from recycled materials, deigned to the highest levels of sustainability, without deviating from core requirement of everyone in search of housing, and Team ALLAWAH’s design philosophy: 

SAFE: Safety should be obtainable for everyone, and KARINYA provides everyone with the security of permanency. 

GROW: KARINYA is a home that grows with the occupants, providing a afe harbour that welcomes every definition of family. 

ADAPT: Family evolution and occupant transition is common to every home, KARINYA is designed to adapt in form and function. 

Sustainable House 

KARINYA is a home and community where the highest standards of sustainability is factored into all aspects of design and construction.  

Focussing on whole of lifecycle resource consumption, Karinya’s design of a home within a community, and addresses numerous constraints that have inhibited the use of recycled building materials from becoming a mainstream construction practice. 

Sustainable Living 

Adaptability is the key to transforming a sustainable house into a sustainable home. Karinya has placed the resides at the centre of every design decision, ensuring the home has the capacity to adopt to the occupant transition. 

KARINYA is not a stand alone home; community relationships and resources are the essence of sustainability. 

Reshma Benny

Master Environmental Engineering

Reshma is a recent Environmental Engineering graduate, with a lived experience of sustainability and self-sufficiency, being raised in a permaculture home in Kerala, India.

Reshma is committed to innovation by returning to many of the practices of the past, re-learning the art of sustainable living: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle and rot.

Matthew van Brakel

Bachelor Architectural and Applied Science

Matthew is drawn to architecture, creative design and functionality. Designing for aesthetics alongside occupant comfort, Matthew has the capacity to take the teams vision of structure and occupants needs and transformed KARINYA into a mulitpurpose and mulitzonal home.

Katrina Cachia

Bachelor Built Environment Architecture

Joining the team with an established reputation as a Zero Waste advocate, Katrina is a trained horticulturist who is able to incorporate sustainability into every element of KARINYA's design.

A natural project leader, Katrina's intimate knowledge of mycelium as insulation, and passion for the connection through community gardens led KARINYA's design direction.

Cooper Reynolds

Bachelor of Engineering Architectural and Civil

Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Architectural) (Civil), Cooper has a passion for structural engineering and applying sustainable design to the structures of the future. Cooper is conscious of the impact buildings have on the environment, and is committed to scalable innovation.

Janette Thorogood

Masters Social Work

Committed to social sustainability, Janette was integral in expanding the project from a singular home to a community. Aware of the demographics in the Illawarra experiencing housing vulnerability, Janette advocated for an adaptable home, and the inclusion of shared resources and social connection strategies to encourage sustainable social outcomes for residents.

Problem statement

KARINYA is a sustainable home from recycled materials, designed for a community housing provider, Housing Trust Australia.  

Adaptability is key to the housing design, and the relocation of a refugee family to the Illawarra. Occupants who have had to adapt to change require a home that will adapt to their lifestyle. Resources will be chosen to be adaptable to a second use, through material choice or durability.  

The house will be adaptable in layout, consciously modular in floorplate design, with rooms adaptable in size and function. The home's adaptability is congruent with the evolving needs of the occupants as they transition into their home and their community and through life cycle stages. 

 Acknowledging the needs of resettled refugees, the home will be created with the capacity to alter privacy zones within the property and surrounding property. A house and its occupants are part of a community. The home has been designed to maximize the opportunity to integrate into and be supported by the community.  

Wollongong has a history of refugee resettlement1 and supporting refugee initiatives for community connection2. The home design will aid families to create relationships within the community and adapt in form as family structure, and privacy needs evolve. KARINYA’s whole of community approach demonstrates how considering how the occupants use the home can minimize resource use and the home's waste. 

KARINYA is a sustainable home built from recycled components, designed for The Housing Trust, a leading community housing provider.  

Community housing providers build affordable homes, retaining and managing the property as they provide secure, affordable rental housing for people on low and moderate incomes in need of housing. KARINYA has been designed specifically for refugees and migrants, large families who are displaced from their community. Purposely adaptable for co-living, KARINYA maximises a community housing providers capacity to provide housing for individuals for the lifetime of the building without refurbishment. 

KARIYNA delivers on the brief of a home from waste, without compromising on liveability. Recycled and sustainable contributed to every design decision. Sustainable construction, through Green Star ratings, attracts government funding through financial incentives. A self-sufficient solar power energy system produces economic benefit alongside environmental, with KARINYA using the savings to deliver co-located electric cars, utilising the space under the co-located unit housing; a unit block which will also use many of the design materials and construction methods featured within the townhouse design. Bokashi waste management encourages use of community gardens, alongside addressing waste production during the life of the home. 

Community connection allows individuals and families to empower themselves and develop sustainable local associations, with housing design developed to foster relationship development and green certification where occupant health is of equal value to material selection, energy consumption and carbon ratings. 

Pooled resources, gardens, carpools, and housing that balances neighbourly interaction and household privacy, and adaptable to accommodate extended family, provide individuals with community networks that can be relied upon, reducing the need for formalised external intervention services. Concepts are extended beyond minimal compliance, ensure the durability of use without future refurbishment, while meeting the housing needs of current and future vulnerable demographic groups. 

KARINYA takes recycled materials and sustainable living beyond a single home, ensuring recycled, reused and sustainable encompasses every aspect of living. 


KARINYA is a home from construction waste. In designing a community across a site, materials were chosen to meet the brief of recycled, scalable across the site and replicable for future builds.  

As KARINYA was not designed as a single build home. Our home has been designed to change industry building practices, therefore materials were chosen that are commercially available, cost effective and meeting the brief. While single sourced products can be used within the design, Team ALLAWAH's material choice was influenced by the intention of delivering a replicable model to the client.  


TimberCrete is an alternative to masonry bricks which makes use of wood chippings and sawdust as a binging agent, cement and a non-toxic deflocculating additive to create a sustainable option for walling within the design. TimberCrete has been looked at for use in the project especially for its ability to reuse chippings and sawdust which our team has assessed as a key area of concern in Australia's construction waste. In addition,  TimberCrete is also beneficial in its ability to have lower embodied energy and carbon, higher thermal, noise and fire ratings in comparison to conventional bricks and is easier to work with. For these reasons, TimberCrete is going to be used to form the walls on our site.  


For our walls, our team has designed structurally insulated panels comprising  TimberCrete blocks as sandwiching Mycelium Insulation. Mycelium is a type of branched fungi, it is gaining attention within the transportation and clothing industries because of its ability to grow to moulds and its great thermal properties. For our group, Mycelium's potential has been seen in its ability to be used as an insulation product. The benefits of using Mycelium over conventional insulation are:  

  • Its ability to colonise construction waste products such as paper, cardboard, plastics and organics allows reuse of products and diversion from landfills. 
  • Its ability to have lower embodied energy and carbon due to the creation process being largely naturally driven only requiring damp and warm environments to grow. 
  • and their ability to be biodegradable at the end of the life of the site.  

Based on these properties, mycelium has been chosen for insulation in the site both within walls as well as ceiling and flooring.  


Ferrock is a carbon-negative concrete alternative that makes use of waste steel dust, Fly ash, limestone, Metakaolin and Oxalic Acid. The benefits of using Ferrock over concrete on the site are:  

  • Inputs such as waste steel dust and Fly ash being able to be sourced from BlueScope recycling some of their waste products, also reducing the embodied energy and carbon due to the close proximity of BlueScope to the site.  
  • Ferrock's ability to excel in saltwater conditions.  
  • And ferrock's strength which is 5 times stronger than concrete.  

At this stage there is not much known about Ferrock's end of life, however hopefully in the future, there will be more research completed on the subject. On the site, Ferrock is going to be used to create the slab instead of Reinforced Concrete.   

Rammed Earth  

Rammed Earth is a method of compacting soils to create walls or flooring. Within our design, it has been decided that a rammed earth feature wall will be used. The benefits of using rammed earth are  

  • They have a high thermal mass reducing heating costs. 
  • There is potential for the rammed earth to utilise the soil from the site within the walls reducing the need to import of site resources.  
  • There is minimal maintenance required  
  • Rammed earth enforces natural motifs within the house as well it being a breathable material that can help regulate indoor temperature.  

Decreased footprint, decreasing impact from conception, while maintaining a design that limits variation or modification, therefore eliminating waste through refurbishment. Durability is essential for ensuring life expectancy of the building.  

To ensure sustainability, planning for the end of building life commenced at the concept design stage. Karinya’s components, such as walls and flooring, are designed in such a way they can be assembled and disassembled with ease, utilising pre-fabrication. 

Materials will be managed via a methodical resource management system which ultimately works towards restoring and reusing components for future applications.  

In the case where materials can not be reused in their original form, they will be assessed as directed to the most appropriate processing stream which could either be recycled, reformed or composted.  

Mycelium in the insulation is a natural product, which is compostable upon disposal. Recycled power poles for internal benches are able to be turned into sawdust and reused for sustainable building materials, such as TimberCrete blocks for future developments. Rammed earth has been sourced from the site, and can be returned to the site upon demolition.

Karinya is a home for a migrant family, providing a safe sustainable home, that supports the family’s physical, emotional and community growth.

Australia’s Humanitarian Program and commitment to resettlement of refugees and asylum seekers has continued through the COVID-19 health crisis, and Australia’s contribution to the global response to house displaced Afghanistan nationals influenced our occupant profile choice.  

Wollongong’s history of purpose-built migrant huts and status as a regional settlement centre, our demographic choice reflects the identified need for housing for a refugee or migrant family, of seven people, with children under twenty-five years.  Karinya’s sustainable design has been influenced by the occupant's needs: family, home and community. 

The family size of our chosen demographic will not be stagnate, and the home has been designed to accommodate the increase in family size through additional children, or sponsorship of family members, who may reside permanently in the home, or temporarily while they establish themselves in Australia. 

Flexible home designed to accommodate multigenerational living and allow multiple concepts of family, children, multigenerational living and temporary or permanent accommodation of extended family.  

Sustainability for the Housing Trust is maximized by designing a large family home with multiple personal quarters, adaptable to communal housing for older women, an emerging demonocracy vulnerable to homelessness and social isolation, without modification. 

Illawarra is rich in biodiversity. Karinya will have native plants covering its lawns, and native and residence sourced produce in its community gardens.

The presence of native flora will attract native fauna, important for ecological balance. Plants native to the Illawarra will be low maintenance, important for occupant lifestyle, and minimising resource consumption for maintenance and replacement.

Produce gardens provide sustainable food sources for residents while providing opportunities for connection and social interaction.

Back gardens are designed to allow occupant directed interaction and access between properties, encouraging social interaction, and community interdependence while allowing periods of increased privacy.

Within each KARINYA residence, a green wall is featured below a roof-top skylight, increasing oxygen, and clearing air of pollutants, while aesthetically pleasing and providing a natural connection between the home and the environment.

Community living, through shared physical and personal resources, has been incorporated into the design. Community relationships maximise opportunities for families to develop positive co-dependent relationships, such as single parents becoming able to take additional work shifts when a trusted elderly neighbour babysits her children. Opportunities for meaningful interactions between neighbours have been created, consciously designed into the home by creating gates between rear yards, where a common yard can be created, or privacy maximised when required.

Community gardens allow individuals to grow their own food, and create connections as they share these experiences with neighbours. Refugees and migrants are able to connect with traditional fruits and vegetables, retaining their traditions while providing opportunities to participate in a common activity regardless of language barriers.

Community resources have been extended to provide a community carpool for residents of the site, all-electric, removing the reliance on two cars per site. Migrants and refugees, alongside other community members, may not own a car. Mobility assists in employment options, without the financial outlay of vehicle ownership.

Within the home, moveable walls allow the occupant to customise the home without refurbishments, maximising comfort and minimising waste. Karinya is adaptable to accommodate multiple generations, house extended families, and provide privacy for aging families. 

KARINYA's social housing tries to focus on sourcing materials and products from close proximity to the site this. From the material standpoint a lot of our proposed alternate materials reduce how many processes are involved with production and transport with the intention of reducing our embodied energy and carbon. In addition to this within our community plan there is a focus on reusing and storage on site evident through our composting procedures, as well as our community energy storage bank. 

Materials and Prefabrication

KARINYA’s use of rammed earth allows building materials to be sourced from the site, minimising costs of waste disposal and building material purchase.

KARINYA has been designed as a scalable community, maximising savings through uniformity of material use and construction methods across the site.

Prefabrication of walls offside maximises building efficiency, utilising materials that are durable and cost-efficient, ensuring comparable cost savings to traditional masonry.

Government Rebates

An energy-efficient home, KARINYA attracts current NSW Energy Efficiency rebates through the Virtual Powe Plant program3. A community that will be retained by the provider, KARINYA’s capacity to export excess electricity to the grid will earn feed-in tariffs for the community housing providers for the lifetime of the building, simultaneously minimising power costs for tenants.

Energy Efficient Cars

Incorporating energy-efficient cars, charging points within each home and a Housing Trust managed car pool onsite as a service to the occupants, at the time of design each car within the fleet would attract a rebate by the NSW Government through their Electric Vehicle Strategy. Further savings are achieved through charging cars onsite through cost-neutral, self-generated power.

Building Lifetime Savings

Designed for a community housing provider, KARINYA’s design purposely maximises tenancy, without renovation. Suitable for a large family and multigenerational living, KARINYA changes with the occupant, removing renovation costs and waste between tenancy.

Without alteration, KARINYA can transition to three independent living areas providing a co-living home, conscious of the increasing demographic of older women in the Illawarra experiencing housing insecurity and social isolation.

Savings Increase Services to Tenants

Minimising operational costs during the building lifetime, and by designing for occupant self-sufficiency, KARINYA maximises the opportunity for the Community Services provider to offer residents services and scholarships, supporting them to live in a home and belong to a community. The Housing Trust strategic plan 2018 – 2021 details the scholarships and support they provide community members. Designing a home that addresses isolation, access to cars, disability access and access to the community within the design, KARINYA Housing Trust aligns with its long-term vision, and is replicable across its future portfolio.

For the design, it was imperative that energy and water efficiency was achieved. In our design we wanted the site to be able to generate its own energy and to be less reliant upon the grid. It was decided that our site would use a tractile system and based on an Energy Model completed on our design a 15kWp system was chosen consisting of 150 solar tiles on each house. These systems will be connected to a communal solar battery located near the communal cooking area and will allow all sites to store excess power during the day and use that stored power during the night. This system configured with our design allows for total renewable energy generation within our site.  

We wanted to make use of all the natural resources that are available to make the home more environmentally sustainable. For collecting the rainwater, a rainwater tank of capacity 1000 L. All the runoff from the rooftop is collected and stored in an underground tank which is connected to connected to toilets, cold water taps, and hot water systems. A stormwater tank that can collect up to 500 L is placed underground near the backyard border of the property. The lawn is given a slight inclination towards the tank for the ease of collection to cover runoff from the impervious areas, lawn, garden, and planter box areas. This water is mainly used for gardening. The greywater from the bathroom and laundry is also diverted and used at the site.  

Garden and Lawn  

A vegetable and fruit garden is implemented in the backyard prioritizing natives of Australia. This will reduce the water needs and increase the biodiversity and ecological health of the site. Natural hedges are used for borders considering a space for social interactions with the community without compromising privacy.  

Waste Management 

Since most products are cultivated at home, packaging waste is reduced. To be able to compost raw and cooked bio waste including meat, dairy, fat, citrus and many more Bokashi composting is implemented on site, and fertilizer for the garden is produced on site. Any additional green waste is disposed of through Wollongong City’s FOGO Bin program. 

Calculated Monthly carbon emission is reduced to less than 0.6 tCO2e  

Mycelium Insulation 

Mycelium is the vegetative root structure of mushrooms, renown for its thermal and acoustic insulation. Mycelium is a closed cell insulation material, filling the space within the TimberCrete blocks, ensuring an air tight seal. 

Mycelium uses readily available building waste, with KARINYA sourcing fence palings or similarly sources wood from the local community. Cured onsite, Mycelium consumption of local organic waste provides a durable product, that is compostable at the end of building life. 

Movable Walls 

Movable walls are a adaptable deign feature. KARINYA’s ability to alter rooms to meet the occupants' changing increases fit for purpose to residents, and decreases waste for the community housing provider; waste from refurbishment and waste from homes not maximised in occupancy. 

Movable walls can create an extra bedroom for long-term visitors, or privacy in the downstairs living area, addressing the faith-based modesty and privacy preferences of many refugees and migrants settling in the Illawarra.  

ALLAWAH has functioned as a team from inception. A truly multidisciplinary team, including architecture, environmental engineering, civil engineering and social work, the team challenged each other’s bias and perception at every stage, contributing to a design that demonstrates affordable housing, circular economy and sustainable construction are not mutually exclusive concepts.

We are living in a time where sustainable lifestyle is not an idea, but a necessity. Resource consumption at current levels is not sustainable in our lifetime, and building from construction waste will soon become our only option.

The idea of buildings made of waste is a solution industry must embrace, and as a team of young professionals, we are wanting to continue the conversation beyond our project.

Buildings made of waste materials is affordable. If we extend beyond an industry approach, and address sustainability from a whole of community perspective, the art of sustainable living: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle and rot, the transition is natural – because it has to be.

  • Plan of Karinya Gardens and common areas
  • Plan of Karinya community electric car share
  • Plan of resource management
  • Karinya site plan
  • Plan of Karinya Energy Service and Storage