Design concept for R3 - Reduce, Reuse, Rethink


Overview of design

Team Reduce, Reuse, Rethink aspires to create a home out of waste that never has to go back to being waste. Emphasising R³’s core beliefs of unity, commitment, a positive attitude and efficiency, our design - R3even House, encompasses the recycling and reusing of waste materials and instils positive stigmatisation on social housing and sustainable living. The challenge of designing a home completely out of waste that is affordable for the intended occupant, has been overcome through a simple and efficient design using modular construction. This allows for the flexible adaptation and integration of waste materials and sustainable design, while still including familiar homely qualities and biophilic elements that connect individual users to their own personal values. In achieving this, R3ven House will have a positive impact on the environment, contribute to social interactions within the community and provide our occupant with a healthy, affordable and comfortable place to call home. 


University of Adelaide

Hi, my name is Charles, I am a student at the University of Adelaide studying a bachelor of architecture design. I am close to the end of my bachelor's degree now and wish in the future to help under-privileged people in our backyard and worldwide through architecture. 


University of Wollongong

Hi, my name is Paris. I am a Sustainable Communities student at UOW and I have a huge passion for sustainable development. I endeavour to be part of creating a positive future and strive to solve the most complex issues in society.  


University of Wollongong 

Hi, my name is Steve and I am a fourth year Civil Engineering student at UOW and I'm passionate about sustainable design. I want to revolutionise the construction industry with a new sustainable design philosophy. 


University of Wollongong

I am Tyla and I am a third year undergraduate Architectural and Civil Engineer at UOW. I am passionate about living life full of adventure while connecting sustainably on a minimalist level. I hope to explore how societies can develop living solutions that have minimum impact but inspire maximum opportunities.  


University of Wollongong

I am a final year Electrical Engineering student at UOW and am passionate about sustainability in the engineering field as that has a very direct and significant impact on everything else around us. I believe in personal efforts making a significant difference to the overall condition of the world. 

Problem statement

Shortage of affordable housing for people on low incomes is a major problem in society. Housing affordability is decreasing, and the quality of homes is not made to last. The waste crisis is also worsening, with landfills filling up with resources that can be used innovatively. The design will need to address these interconnected issues by creating a home that will improve the lives of people from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing an affordable, healthy and secure home. It will need to reduce the impact on the environment through the innovative use of waste-derived products, have a long building life, and be ready for deconstruction at the end of its life.  

The R3ven house design has seen many iterations along the way, from internal gardens to indoor hammocks. The final layout is a combination of functionality, sustainability, affordability and health. The occupant demographic of a single mother with three children dictated how we responded to addressing a house that needed to be built from waste. A modularity approach has been adopted to allow for flexible floor plans that can be adapted and customized to suit a growing and constantly changing family. The passive principles of natural ventilation, biophilic design, thermal mass in the form of solid rammed earth walls and insulating materials of cork, work together to improve energy efficiency. The skylight, large windows and bi-fold doors along the entire exterior wall ensures maximum connection with the outdoor environment and encourages natural wellbeing. The design facilitates a healthy lifestyle through open plan interactive living spaces and provides multifunctional storage/study spaces.

Through these guiding principles, a home from waste was created which promotes waste as a lucrative opportunity. It provides a solution that combats rising house unaffordability and works towards diminishing the presence of unwanted waste. The R3ven house design - built from waste, encompasses all the interconnected and contributing housing principles of functionality, sustainability, affordability and health.


The materials used in R3ven house have been carefully considered and selected to not only recycle some of the most challenging waste in our world but to also reflect a balanced lifestyle and healthy environment for our occupant and their family to grow and live in. Heavy, solid excavated residual waste is used as solid dividing walls between houses which are complemented with the light weight modular panels between. These panels are a compound of waste materials that work together to create a single unit. Recycled aluminium, soft plastics, textiles and cork create thin yet durable sheets which can be joined together to form structural walls. Reconstituted stone and crushed construction masonry (ie. bricks, concrete and glass) are integrated throughout the house in areas such as counter tops and tiles for floors, bathrooms, laundries and outdoor areas. It is important that the assimilation of the chosen waste materials is done in a way that still provides the sense of familiarity to that of traditional homes. Ensuring the recycling and reusing of these materials are accepted and maintain societal acceptance, they simultaneously enhance indoor environmental quality and add a unique flare that the occupant can be proud to call their home. 

The Life Cycle Analysis for R3ven house has been conducted to understand the performance of the building and to understand the total impact of the building on the environment. 

The panels are designed with life cycle at the forefront of design. The modularity of the panels enables them to be reused for different buildings and parts of a building, regardless of how old they are. The transient nature of the panels mean they can be reused several times before being deconstructed and separated into their component parts again. When in its individual parts, each material has its own life cycle. 

Cork is a biodegradable material and can either be returned to the earth or re-moulded into new panels. Through this life cycle approach, materials can be utilised repeatedly and updated/replaced when needed in smaller sections rather than whole walls or surfaces. This reduces the overall waste and targets smaller portions of material to deal with at a time.

Planning for the end of building life is an essential part of sustainable design. R3ven house has been designed with modular panels so that the end of building life does not mean the end of its component’s life. Using a kit of part approach with a set of standard sized panels and simple connections we have designed the building so that it can be almost completely disassembled and reused for any other building that employs the same panel system. Therefore, this house built from waste should never have to go to waste even long after the original building is gone. Walls that don’t utilise this modular panel system are also designed using rammed earth so that they can just return to the earth at the end of building life without creating any waste. 

Our occupant, Rachel, a single mother of three young children, was at the forefront of our decision making throughout the design process. Gaining a first-hand understanding of our occupant's needs was exceptionally important to us. We conducted interviews with several single mothers, and the information gathered provided a reliable source of information that has guided much of our design. Additionally, creating a day-in-the-life of the occupant helped to understand how spaces would be used day-to-day by the family. 

Family orientated spaces were proven to be important to single mothers, so R3ven house comprises an open plan living area in which the living, dining and kitchen spaces are connected. The occupant values a line of sight between these areas. As a young family, the occupant requires an ability to monitor the children much of the time, and this has been made possible through the openness of the area. The combined indoor and outdoor on the ground floor ensures the family has an extended living space that connects them with the environment outside the home. The ground floor also contains a study space that can be hidden from sight when it is not in use. This is ideal for Rachel as someone who works from home during the day. 

The first floor of the design contains 4 spacious bedrooms for the family to grow into. A second living space is also provided, as the occupant valued an area separate from the main living area where the children could have an alternative space to use when necessary. Throughout the home there is also a generous amount of storage space, an aspect of the design that was necessary for the occupant. These areas in the house were specifically thought out to cater for a single mother and her young children. The simplicity of the design, however, ensures the house can be functional when another occupant moves in. 

It was an important consideration when designing for the occupant that sustainability was incorporated in an encouraging way. Through simple and low impact passive design, the house operates in a sustainable way that, through small occupant actions such as the opening and closing windows, the house functions and further teaches younger generations how to live and operate within a sustainable home. Therefore, it was imperative that the technology and practices used were easy to understand, operate and intertwined within the occupant's life so that it could be accepted and absorbed as normal everyday living.

The many aspects of a healthy home have been integrated into R3ven house. The design positively impacts the physical and mental health of the occupants. The flow of natural light into spaces in the home creates an optimistic and energetic environment to live and work in. Natural light also encourages productivity, an important factor for our occupant, Rachel who works from home. Open space in the home promotes healthier social interactions, promoting engagement between the family. The connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces creates constant visible greenery, making the home feel more connected to nature and the environment. 

Choice of materials promotes the health of the space and also integrates biophilia into the design. Biophilia improves quality of life and the mental and physical health of people in spaces. Recycled cork used in the walls and floors has hypoallergenic properties, insulating properties, and promotes cleanliness. It’s natural, earthy feel adds to the biophilic design. Similarly, the rammed earth walls are a natural, breathable building material that enhances the quality of the indoor environment. Rammed earth provides the thermal mass in the home, contributing to the thermal comfort of the occupants. The aesthetic of rammed earth also adds to the biophilia in the home.

The interactions between the home, the community and the occupant are a well thought out aspect of R3ven house. The way the home is perceived as a ‘home from waste’ has impacted the choice of materials, as well as the overall design of the home. One of the main objectives of R3 is to revolutionize views on waste as a construction material for the design of the home. Invisible to the passer-by, the design will facilitate social contagion through the surrounding community, encourage sustainable thinking and combat a stigmatization around sustainable living. The house works towards passively introducing low impact living that subtly blends into its location. The waste-derived materials were specifically chosen to mimic traditional housing construction materials, with the intention of reflecting modern living. 

The design of the home also considers the interactions between the occupant and the surrounding community. Different aspects of the design have been thought out to provide the occupants within the housing development opportunities for interaction and social integration. The entrance to the home contains a large patio and a garden, with an expectation that occupants will care for this garden and interact with neighbours consequently. Similarly, the master bedroom balcony would have a view of the community and connect the occupant to the neighbourhood. R3 envisions the housing development itself to contain communal areas that encourage community interaction. A playground, garden and vegetable patch are covered in this vision. Design decisions such as the balcony and the front patio were specifically chosen to connect with these communal areas, with visibility from each. 

Within the home, social interactions are encouraged through the open plan design. The occupants can connect with each other through the flow of communal spaces in the home. This layout also provides opportunities for entertaining guests. The occupant’s connection with the environment is also emphasised through the sliding doors that join the inside living areas with the outside living areas.

Materials in R3ven house have been sourced locally and derived from waste. The design philosophy of using easy to assemble/disassemble reusable modular panels allows the existing building stock to be the main source of supplies for new buildings. Urban mining and the reuse of modular panels will solve the issues of supply chain management as long as the uptake of this approach to building is high. High uptake of this design philosophy will help achieve this goal however it will still take time for existing buildings to be the main source of materials for new buildings to be used for parts an existing building needs to have reached its end of life approximately 50 years down the track. However, a high uptake of this design philosophy could result in economies of scale often seen in the automotive industry with thousands upon thousands of panels being created in factories for current or future use. Therein, the supply chain would likely become quite easy to manage. 

Our brand embodies the principles of the 3 R’s - reduce, reuse and rethink, to produce a holistic design by using a flexible modular system that can be modified with ease. The design consists of smaller square modular panels that make up walls, floors and ceiling. Each panel can be isolated and moved so that various floor plan configurations can be achieved. The long-term impact of using this modular system is the potential for the reuse of components in other buildings and structures. This could stimulate a future market for second-hand panels. Hence, one of two things would likely occur:  

  1. The original homeowner could sell the parts that make up their house for a profit if they are reducing the size of the house. The modular system becomes profitable, and therefore overall life cycle costs are reduced.  
  1. The house will be deconstructed instead of demolished, but the house components could be sold at a lower rate than when they were first manufactured meaning the subsequent houses, they are used in will be cheaper to construct than the original house.  

 identified a lack of affordable housing that adapted to their specific needs and requirements. Some of the benefits of the house used to address this challenge are that: 

  • We have an incredibly open floor plan which allows light through the entirety of the home and provides comfort to our target demographic of single mothers with young children.  
  • The large living space offers direct access to the backyard with full-wall folding doors which is overlooked by the decking. This provides a dignified and healthy living at affordable prices and isn’t just another typical budget home.  
  • We use sustainable and locally sourced alternatives to industry standards, challenging the current market by reducing production costs. These solutions are valuable to the local community as they provide not just an adequate space, but a desirable space. 
  • We have envisioned our house to be adaptable to the family that lives in it and their changing needs at different points in time. This in turn adds to sustainable practices by increasing the life of the building. And once the end of life is reached, we hope to be able to simply disassemble the various parts of the house and fit them elsewhere. 

business-as-usual (BAU) case showed that a typical Australian household of four people produced an average of 24 kWh of energy a day. This figure was something that Team R3 targeted as an avenue to meet greater affordability targets and sustainability goals for improved building energy efficiency. Through careful passive design and renewable energy, building orientation and material choice and placement, a final building energy figure of 19.8kWh of energy per day was achieved. Through simple changes in the building's function and form, the energy reduction of 19.1% was achieved in order to help occupants like Rachel’s family live more comfortably at a lower cost. 

R3ven house encompasses a number of innovative ideas that have guided the final design. The modular system has been developed for maximum flexibility in the floor plan layout as well as allowing easier handling for the recycling and reuse of the waste compounds. The panels are made from an assemblage of waste derived materials which not only tackle the issue of waste but make use of their other beneficial properties such as corks hypoallergenic capabilities, plastics water resistant nature and aluminium which is rust resistant in the harsh coastal environment. The panels are low weight and can be put together easily with simple connectors, allowing a single person to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct much of the house by themselves. These panels prevent building waste, allow materials to be processed separately, and reduce costs. They also provide an opportunity for the house to adapt to the growth of the family. 

Biophilic design is an innovative aspect of design that has been a present consideration in all iterations of the planning phase. Through green spaces and material selection, biophilic connections contribute to a healthy home, improve indoor environmental quality and facilitate a positive mental mind frame for the occupants.  

Consultancy with the occupant is an innovation that was occurring throughout the design process and guided the end product.  Understanding the needs and values of the target demographic has arguably produced a design that will give the occupant a better quality of life, enhance the use of the spaces in the home, and grow with the family. 

Charlie: The SHC has encouraged me to go above and beyond in terms of my architectural thinking, giving me things to consider that I usually wouldn’t. I have managed to increase the quality of my design skills and significantly increase the efficiency and tempo of my work. The challenge has given me a new outlook on how I see architecture and design and I look forward to seeing how the SHC will grow and evolve. 

Paris: Being involved in the Sustainable Homes Challenge has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I have been able to develop my skills and knowledge in so many areas, and have a new-found confidence that I have the ability to make change. Working with people who have the same values and aspirations in the area of sustainability has been extremely motivating. The main takeaway from the experience for me is that there are so many innovative people in the world, if we bring them all together, we can make a huge change.  

Steven: This challenge has meant a lot to me especially in terms of career prospects as it has reaffirmed that I want to be in the sustainable design industry. Being involved in this challenge has given me the opportunity to work with some incredible people with great ideas that has helped further my desire to work with likeminded people to create a more sustainable future. The challenge has provided me with a lot of knowledge about all areas of sustainability and my team has shown me how we can link them all together and create a project full of passion and a lot of fun. 

Tyla: This challenge is one that I feel I have grown immensely from. Working with a diverse group of talented and enthusiastic people from different disciplines has allowed me to see perspectives more open mindedly and share a passion that is common amongst all of us. It has instilled a sense of reassurance that these project styled challenges, particularly with a sustainability focus, is where I am meant to be and from this challenge, I will take away an enthusiasm and willingness to learn, research and share/promote ideas that can be carried no matter what path my future career will take. 

Pallavi: I have learnt so much over the course of this challenge. The team I worked with was diverse both in the type of degrees everyone was doing but also the skillsets everyone brought to the table. We turned out top-quality deliverables in the middle of busy semesters and took on different responsibilities for different tasks. This experience was a small taste of real-world work environments, and I must say it paints an exciting picture. The other big takeaway was the passion we all had for learning about and exploring sustainability. The weekly modules offered various resources and were great tools on the journey to our final pitch. We tested team strength when throwing together last-minute presentations and emerged better for it. I will cherish this challenge and the time I spent with my team in my last semester at university, as I step into the real world.  

  • Bedroom 1 with bunkbeds and a cupboard
  • Materials working in harmony with earth walls
  • Open plan layout of the kitchen, living, dining spaces at Raven house
  • Bedroom 2 with a double bed and desk
  • Design concept for exterior of R3
  • Open plan living looking out onto grassy noll
  • Floorplan of Raven House