LEGO House, named so for the plastic bricks that click together like LEGO pieces, is designed for and in conjunction with the local Indigenous community of Dharawal nation. As such, there are a number of design modifications that differentiate LEGO House from typical display home designs, including;

  • Maximised access to natural light and ventilation
  • Outdoor living spaces in the front and rear of the property
  • Front and Rear access to the property
  • Interactive frontage to help build connections with the community
  • Large living spaces on both floors
  • Small bedrooms upstairs to maximize living space 
  • Accessible bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor
  • 3 water closets, with 2 being separate to general bathrooms
  • Inline kitchen
  • Adaptable housing (AS4299) and silver LHA compliance

Further, the waste derived materials used to construct LEGO House are combined in unique ways, creating a memorable house that acutely responds to the needs of the occupant. This ensures LEGO House is not just a house, but a home.

Georgia O’Neill

I am completing a double degree of Civil and Architectural Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering at UOW. The passion and diverse thinking I have encountered throughout the challenge from all teams has been incredibly inspiring and I cannot wait to see the future we create.”

Evelyn Parrish-Gibbons

I will be entering my second year of a Bachelor of Primary Education Dean’s Scholar at the University of Wollongong in 2022. I am passionate about sustainability and in particular better education around the Sustainable Development Goals. This challenge has given me the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone and learn unique things that I can take with me into my future classrooms.”

Parimal Salunkhe

I am in my final semester of Master of Civil Engineering at the University of Wollongong. The challenge has provided me with the one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn and apply various aspects of sustainability in our design. It is indeed a great experience, which I believe would be beneficial for anyone who is willing to make a positive impact in this world and their own career.”

Nicole Ellingburg

“I am finishing my first year of a Bachelors of Sustainable Communities at the University of Wollongong. I am a mature age student, although I had a passion for all things sustainable for a long time, it has only been recently that I have discovered that I can really make a career out of it. Hence my return to uni life, and I am loving every minute of it.

Problem statement

There are three major “problems” that the team’s design endeavours to address, as outlined below.

Firstly, there is an increasing need for social housing within Australia with the Housing trust CEO stating that "We need another 3500 affordable rental homes for people on low incomes just in the Illawarra and 50,000 across the state." [1]

Secondly, statistics from 2018-2019 revealed that 34% of Indigenous people live in public housing, with ⅓ of those houses having major structural problems, and no Indigenous specific public or community housing in non-remote areas. [2]

Thirdly the total amount of waste is increasing in Australia, with current waste recovery rate for material such as metals, plastics, textiles, and tyres being exceptionally low. Statistics for 2018-2019 showing that: 59% of all exported waste was metals (2.6 million tonnes); around 84% of plastic waste is being sent to landfill annually; 74% of waste Textiles, leather and rubber are being exported or in landfill; 73% of hazardous waste including tyres are being exported or in landfill. [3]

LEGO House is designed to create a comfortable, cost effective and easily constructed home for its inhabitants. It is designed to be marketed as a quick and economical building method, using products derived from waste to reduce landfill problems globally and to promote a circular economy.

The design aims to maximise solar energy through the use of Tractile Solar panels [4] covering the entire roof to generate energy and provide heating and cooling for the house. Continuing to harness natural products, Aquacomb water tanks [5] under the house will collect and store both grey water for use in the gardens and toilets and fresh water for use within the house.

The waste materials used in the construction of LEGO House include recycled steel for the frame, recycled plastic bricks for the exterior walls [6], recycled textile batts for insulation [7], Dura Panel [8] for the walls, ceiling, and floors. By using these four materials all from recycled waste we have created a solid house that required no fixings other than screws. Thereby creating a house that is easily assembled, dismantled, and reassembled.

Other design features of LEGO house include the removal of a formal dining room, allows for the back of the house to be opened and creates a real connection between the indoors and the outdoors allowing for more usable space for the occupant in the coastal setting of Corrimal. Additionally, by reallocating the garage space into a usable living area, we were able to create an accessible bedroom and bathroom downstairs, ultimately giving the house more versatility.

A sense of community is also created within the housing trust site by having several general car parking sites spread out in the complex within easy walking distance of the houses, making carpooling easier amongst the community, and encouraging considered car usage, with the site easily accessible to public transport and cycleways. Additionally, these car parking areas would have carport structures covering them, which generate power from photovoltaic panels on their roof. To either power EV charging stations or generate additional power for the housing trust site.


The primary building materials we chose for our design are:

  • Recycled steel for the frame - due to its strength less of this material is required for the frame and supports for a 2-story house
  • Interlocking Recycled Plastic Bricks [6] for the exterior - made from recycled plastics which require no mortar or other adhesion material
  • Recycled textile insulation batts - provide thermal and acoustic insulation, from a material that is in its infancy of recycling. [7]
  • Dura Panel [8] for the interior - Australian made from agricultural waste these panels will form the internal walls, ceilings, and base floor for the building. Providing acoustic, and thermal insulation and fire resistance that Gyproc, which is traditional building material used for these interiors do not.

These materials, when used to build houses, provide a strong, efficient, and fast building method. Providing both sustainable and affordable housing for people globally.

A life cycle analysis was conducted comparing 2 of the major components in traditional houses, with the alternatives used in our design. The materials analysed were:

  • Cement used for traditional foundations compared with cement used for recycled tyre footings [11]
  • Brick mortar used to create traditional walls compared to interlocking recycled plastic bricks [6]

As can be seen by the calculations below, our design has the less embodied carbons as compared to a conventional house. Moreover, due to its innovative design, solar power generation and rainwater harvesting techniques it requires less operational energy which leads to less operational carbon emissions

Cement production creates ~7% of the world's CO2 emissions and is the largest contributor to embodied carbon in the built environment [9].

Difference between embodied carbon of concrete and mortar required for conventional brick house and LEGO House is shown.

Embodied carbon emissions
For M25 concrete- 559 Kg CO2e/m3
For mortar- 0.182 Kg CO2e/m3

For conventional house-
The foundation raft- Concrete- 22 Cu.m- 12300 Kg CO2e
Brickwork mortar- 4 Cu.m- 0.728 Kg CO2e

For Lego House-
Footings- 4 cu.m- 2236 Kg CO2e
Brickwork mortar- 0 kg CO2e (Interlocking bricks, no mortar required)

The materials that are used most in our design have been chosen as they can be reused many times. The steel will be affixed with plates and screws, the Dura Panel [8] will also be affixed with screws and the plastic building bricks [6] slot together without adhesive or mortar. As such, the installation will be done in such a way that it can be disassembled easily and can be further reused or moved to another location for reassembly.

We have designed this house for an Indigenous occupant and their family, both nuclear and extended. We conducted interviews with several Indigenous people who had all spent time in social housing growing up. From this, the design needs of the occupant became clear, with the following features being listed as necessities for the occupant:

  • multiple bathrooms with separate toilets
  • a clear connection with and extremely easy access to a larger outdoor space.
  • A comfortable and liveable outdoor space both in the front and rear of the house that invites connection.
  • Large gathering spaces both within and outside of the house that allow for large family gatherings and learning experiences.

We decided to focus on the comfort of the occupant in regard to creating a healthy home. Most importantly we focused on increasing the amount of natural light being drawn into the building. We thought this was especially important as in a row of townhouses as only the 2 end houses are able to have side windows.

As such we have included a clerestory window in the roofline facing east leading to a lightwell where the staircase is to capture the sunlight and illuminate both the upstairs and downstairs living areas, and the kitchen. The bedrooms are also at the front of the house to capture the light, and minimise the cooling required for them in summer.

From our interviews we established that social interaction is especially important for the Indigenous population. As such we have designed the fencing with gates to each of the neighbours' properties that can be locked from either side for privacy and security, as necessary. We have added a back gate to the property and enlarged the outdoor living space available with bifold doors at the rear of the house. Additionally, we have removed any front fencing replacing them with communal seating, and communal planters designed for food. The children can learn together how to grow their foods in a cultural learning experience while socially interacting with each other.

Internally we have designed an open concept home which features large living spaces for family and community gatherings on both stories of the house.

Overall, we have designed a home that allows for cultural learning, which was specified as important in our interviews. The extra outdoor space leaves room for traditional plants to grow and an outdoor fireplace to be situated. These elements are important as they allow Indigenous children to explore their culture outdoors in a safe environment.

Recycled steel for the frame is easily sourced and readily available in Australia. 

Durra Panel [8] is an Australian product with their main manufacturing plant in Victoria.

Recycled Plastic Bricks [6] are originally a Columbian product created by Conceptos Plasticos. However, they have been manufactured in Africa and Asia as part of UNICEF programs [10] and could easily be manufactured in Australia to assist with our growing problem with plastic waste.

Recycled textile insulation battens [7] are currently being produced in Europe. However, with the large amount of textile waste in Australia, creating these insulation batts in Australia could create another new manufacturing source and more jobs in Australia.

The simple layout of our design allows it to be easily flipped to fit into the alternate nature of townhouses.

The interlocking materials used in our design allow for an easy and quick construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. As no glue or mortar is used in construction.

The house being on footings constructed with recycled tyres [11] rather than a concrete slab speeds up the construction time and allows for it to be located in various geographical areas. Additionally, it considerably reduces construction costs. with an estimate of Australians paying between “$200 to $300 per cubic metre” [12] for poured concrete.

The materials allow for easy replication, and the plastic bricks are easily mass produced. A manufacturing plant in Australia could utilize the 84% of   2.1 tonnes of plastic that was sent to landfill in 2018-2019 [3]

In our design we are focusing on cost saving measures for the tenant by:

  • Using solar panels from Tractile Solar [4] which will produce energy for the house as well as providing heating and cooling through the roof.
  • Energy derived from the solar panels will run all the appliances within the house.
  • With an off-peak hot water system being installed.
  • Using under house water tanks from Aquacomb [5] for both grey water recycling in the gardens and toilets and freshwater collection for use within the house. 
  • Using recycled textile insulation will increase fire protection, thermal and acoustic insulation [7]
  • Coupled with Dura Panel [8] for floor, wall and ceiling panels additionally increases thermal and acoustic insulation.
  • Natural lighting supplied by clerestory windows will also reduce the amount of energy used during the day for lighting.

The innovation underpinning our design is in an effort to redefine residential construction, by maximizing the amount of construction materials made from waste materials, especially those waste materials that are not currently efficiently recycled within Australia and either find their way to landfill or are shipped overseas.

By finding ways to construct by recycling these materials: steel, plastic, textiles, tyres. We can add manufacturing markets and jobs to Australia, reduce waste, and add to the circular economy.

Additionally, as these building materials create fast and cost-efficient buildings, we may be able to help address the current social housing crisis in Australia.  [1 & 12]

[1] Latifi, A., 2021. Housing Trust CEO calls for federal budget cash to fix rental housing crisis. The Illawarra Mercury, [online] Available at: <  [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2021. Indigenous housing - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2018-19 financial year. [online] Available at:   [Accessed 15 October 2021].

[4] Tractile. 2021. Tractile - The Premium Roofing Company. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 December 2021].

[5] Aquacomb. 2021. Aquacomb - Innovative Water Solutions. [online] Available at: <>  [Accessed 1 December 2021].

[6] 2021. Conceptos Plásticos - Productos. [online] Available at:,sc [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[7] Asdrubali, F., D'Alessandro, F. and Schiavoni, S., 2015. A review of unconventional sustainable building insulation materials. Sustainable Materials and Technologies, [online] 4, pp.1-17. Available at:  [Accessed 27 August 2021].

[8] Durra Panel. 2021. Durra Panel Benefits. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[9]"What is Embodied Carbon?", CarbonCure Technologies Inc., 2021. [Online]. Available:,carbon%20in%20the%20built%20environment.  [Accessed: 01- Dec- 2021]

[10] UN News. 2021. Easing ‘classroom crisis’ in Côte d’Ivoire, brick by (plastic) brick. [online] Available at: <>  [Accessed 1 December 2021].

[11] Critical Concrete. 2021. Tyre Foundations - Critical Concrete. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[12] 2021. How much does concreting cost? | 2020 Cost Guide. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 15 October 2021].

[13] McHugh, F., 2021. Social housing: Labor demands federal intervention after report warns of 200,000 dwelling shortfall in a decade. The Canberra Times, [online] Available at: <>  [Accessed 1 December 2021].

[14] UNSW Newsroom. 2021. Turning old clothes into high-end building materials. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[15] Carpet Recyclers 2021. [online] Available at: <>  [Accessed 1 December 2021].

[16] Floors by Greensborough. 2021. Floorboards Melbourne, Floating Timber Flooring, Bamboo Floor Melbourne, Recycled Timber Floors, Jarrah Floors, Oak Flooring, Engineered Timber Flooring | Floors by Greensborough. [online] Available at: <>   [Accessed 1 December 2021].

[17]  Valencia, N., 2017. This House was Built in 5 Days Using Recycled Plastic Bricks. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: <>  [Accessed 29 November 2021].

Georgia O’Neill

The SHC has been an incredible opportunity that has allowed me to grow my technical, professional and team building knowledge in a field that I am passionate about. As stated in its name, the SHC was indeed a challenge, complete with highs, lows, and setbacks, however, as a team we persevered, and I believe we were met with remarkable success. Ultimately, it is evident that in order to solve complex problems a diverse range of people who are passionate is essential to ensuring success.

Parimal Salunkhe

Being involved in this challenge made me think critically about the things we are doing, things we are taking for granted and their adverse impact on the environment and in turn our own future. I strongly believe that the perspective which I got from this to look at the things around us would help me to make positive decisions, whichever field I choose to work in.

Nicole Ellingburg

Being back at university and involved in this project has opened my eyes to an entire world of people and connections I could have only dreamt about. The knowledge I have gained in this project has been invaluable, especially working with my team members, staff and my mentor who are all from other disciplines to my own. I have definitely gained more of an understanding of what is involved in creating a sustainable project, and the impact it can have on those involved and the world.

Evelyn Parrish-Gibbons

I believe the SHC has been very important to my personal growth as a peer, student, and a future teacher. It has given me invaluable experience in collaboration with team mates outside of my own discipline. The opportunity to go outside my comfort zone to learn a range of new skills has given me confidence that I can take forward into the rest of my degree and future career. The SHC has significantly increased my passion for better education on sustainability and I have gained a new perspective on how solutions for problems such as these can be found.