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Habitat: balancing work, life, and the environment

Habitat: balancing work, life, and the environment


Above: Habitat architect Dominic Finlay-Jones, photo courtesy dominicfinlayjones.com.au.

Byron Bay’s new mixed-use business hub, Habitat, seamlessly combines residential and commercial spaces over 12.5 acres, designed by architect Dominic Finlay Jones.

The commercial precinct – located within walking distance to Byron Bay’s Belongil Beach – will offer a series of office, professional, café and retail spaces. The residential precinct, which will follow the commercial precinct, will include private loft-style dwellings with commercial studio and office spaces with a focus on enabling residents to work from home.

“We wanted to create a modern sustainable village – one where you have all the mod cons at your fingertips to run a successful business, yet still feel like you’re in Byron – somewhere with a sense of community, where the much sought after ‘work/life balance’ is an achievable reality,” said developer, Brandon Saul.

Habitat 3D render

Artist’s impression of Habitat, render courtesy Dominic Finlay Jones.


“The development is defined by a simplicity to the architecture, with larger buildings broken down in scale to allow covered outdoor spaces to exist between them, which is a direct response to the climate – offering plenty of shade, sub-tropical gardens and ventilation,” said architect, Dominic Finlay-Jones.

The development will also include a communal lap pool, shower and change room facilities, bicycle parking, electric car charging points, rainwater harvesting, abundant sub-tropical landscaping and state-of-the-art solar power with Tesla batteries.

Finlay-Jones spoke to ADR about Habitat, its commitment to environmental sustainability, and reaching the perfect work-life balance through design.

How did the Habitat project come to you? Was it a long tender process?

Typically for this area, the project came to us in a non-traditional way – it was not a standard tender. The client had been working with Rod Simpson from Simpson+Wilson on the concept and masterplan for some time, and we managed to land a local role to assist in the design and documentation process.

How involved was the client from the initial conceptual stages and throughout the design process?

The client came to development from a very different angle. Most of his work has previously been in the music, events, creative industries space, but I think it is fair to say he is intimately involved from broad brush concepts to the particulars of the photovoltaic battery system.

What were the key points of inspiration behind the design of Habitat?

The masterplan is where the real smarts of the project lies – there is in-built permeability to the surrounding areas, dual frontages to dwellings to allow the live/work idea to flourish, community facilities including a pool, pocket park, meeting spaces and a wetland for the native Wallam froglets.

How did you approach the live/work concept within the housing? Which elements of the design work to achieve this theme?

The key was to firstly provide flexibility to the work space – they are not small studies or secondary bedrooms – there is a commitment to providing generous space for commercial use. In practical terms this means separate entrances, sturdy finishes, generous ceiling heights etc. The idea is that we provide the bones and the tenant can tailor the space to suit their needs, whether they are a graphic designer, an accountant, or a online retailer.

What, in your view, is the most successful element of the project, what makes it stand out?

Time will tell, but from our point of view I think it is the genuine commitment to environmental sustainability: habitat for fauna, water re-use, extensive photovoltaic cells with battery storage, electric car charge stations etc. There is also a considerable commitment to landscaping for shade, habitat, food and natural cooling through the development, which I think will define it over time.



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