What we want in a home and neighbourhood

Across the world city planners are increasingly aware of the need to design and develop cities that are more sustainable and resilient to future environmental, social and economic changes.  However, a key question is: ‘how do such concerns rate for those people who are currently looking to buy homes?’

To better understand community preferences for sustainable home and neighbourhood designs, CSIRO conducted a survey of 300 Canberra residents (including investors and owner-occupiers) covering 38 sustainability features relating to the home and 67 features relating to the wider neighbourhood.

The findings of the survey were published this month in the paper Preferences for sustainable, liveable and resilient neighbourhoods and homes: a case of Canberra, Australia in the Sustainable Cities and Society journal.

Those surveyed were asked to rate the level of importance of each of these features on a scale of 1-not at all important to 7-extremely important.

Dr Sorada Tapsuwan, a resource economist with CSIRO Land and Water said, “We believe this is the most comprehensive survey of its kind due to its coverage of home features, neighbourhood features and different types of consumers.”

“Not surprisingly, the most highly rated sustainability feature of the home was affordability, closely followed by related features such as the ability to stay warm in winter and cool in summer, the home energy efficiency rating, use of sunlight for lighting and heating, and access to solar energy as a power source.”

Among sustainability features of the home, survey respondents rated economic, building design, green technology, construction materials, landscaping, and lifestyle and comfort features highly, with only a few minor exceptions.

“Our survey found that green facades such as green walls, green roofs and large lawns are the least preferred features of the home.”

“For neighbourhood features, the survey found that low crime rates and cleanliness were the most highly rated, closely followed by aspects like high-speed internet connection and access to nearby shops, good quality roads, footpaths, parks, green spaces and public transport.”

All sustainability features of the neighbourhood in the categories of economic, health, social, safety, community, accessibility and connectedness (except for shared bins) were rated to be of mid-range importance or higher.

“Participants rated the vast majority of sustainability features as reasonably important considerations in buying a house so the important question that arises for urban designers, town planners, and others then becomes: ‘what is the degree of relative importance of each of these sustainability features?’.”

The survey canvassed preferences for neighbourhood street layouts and found that respondents rated the suburban pattern as most preferred, followed by radial grid, organic and grid (least preferred).

Above: Preferences for neighbourhood road network design

“Suburban design may be a reflection of a status quo bias, since many suburbs in Canberra follow the suburban design.  Consequently, residents may be less accepting of anything that strays too far from current accepted practices.”

The survey results were generally consistent across the socio-economic groups and buying intentions considered in this analysis.

“In the analysis of group differences, we found no significant differences in ratings between investors and owner-occupiers except, as you would expect, on the feature ‘fetching higher rental values’.”

Results from the survey will form part of the information that CSIRO draws upon as it engages with the community and a future joint development partner in the design of the sustainability features for the homes and neighbourhoods of the future Ginninderra development.



Ginninderra Project Team: Staff spotlight on Zillah Gisz

As Urban Placemaker with CSIRO Ginninderra, Registered Architect Zillah Gisz, provides a smooth conduit between the project team and architects, urban designers and urban planners.

Zillah’s focus is to help translate science into urban design and planning for the Ginninderra venture. This role utilises her analytical skills and experience in architecture and design. As CSIRO Ginninderra unfolds, Zillah’s knowledge of housing typologies, affordable housing principles, building materials and placemaking will come to the fore.

“The synergy between ecological sciences and urban design is a really exciting space, where so many vital aspects of the project meld,” according to Zillah.

Zillah is working closely with Science Lead, Urban Ecologist Guy Barnett, as part of the Science and Design team. It’s a diverse role that sees her working with a broad range of people and types of information, in order to shape the project.

“With more people living in urban areas today, the quality of the urban realm is becoming more and more important. The art of ‘placemaking’ as it is known, is becoming a key part of a people-focussed approach to design, where social and environmental observations not only inform the design process, but also give meaning to a place.”

“Placemaking is an inherent part of the design process, where understanding the natural, physical, social, ecological, and material features of a place is part of the interpretation of a place.  It reveals potential and generates inspiration.”

In championing the project, Zillah hopes to achieve the best outcomes for the site and the community through the integration of science, urban design, architecture and placemaking, by embracing originality and innovation, and responding sensitively to the natural and physical features of the site and the surrounding local context.

“This is a rare opportunity to be part of a unique project that offers profound possibilities.”

Ecologists launch new surveys

Building on the foundation of 2016’s ‘Ecological Values of CSIRO Ginninderra Field Station Report’, our CSIRO ecologists identified aspects of Ginninderra’s fauna and flora that they wanted to explore in greater depth.

A fresh survey was commissioned this Spring, with a specific focus on the Striped Legless Lizard population, Box Gum Grassy Woodland and several plant species.

Local ecological consultants recently started work on these key areas of investigation:

  1. Searching for the Striped Legless Lizard in an unexplored area of grassland.
  2. Surveying a small area identified as potential Box Gum Grassy Woodland to determine if it meets the necessary criteria. Regardless of whether it meets the legislative criteria, CSIRO will be including it as part of the conservation area network, acknowledging there are still a number of significant features such as large old trees, a regenerating tree layer and areas of a native grassy ground-layer.
  3. Repeating previous targeted plant surveys for the Austral toadflax (Thesium australe), Tarengo leek orchid (Prasophyllum petilum) and Ginninderra peppercress (Lepidium ginninderrense) in areas of suitable habitat. These areas of suitable habitat are already part of the conservation reserve network.
  4. Looking for sightings of other species with notable biodiversity values such as raptors like the Little Eagle or rare flora and fauna species.

The success of ecological survey work always depends on seasonal conditions like rainfall, frost and climate, according to CSIRO senior ecologist, Jacqui Stol. “At this stage it looks like numbers of the Tarengo leek orchid in sites outside of Ginninderra have been impacted by the low rainfall and large numbers of frosty nights over winter”, said Jacqui. “With these unfavourable conditions, we are expecting very low numbers of this species to be detected this year; however, it will remain one of the key species for monitoring over future years, as will the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard when seasonal conditions improve.”

According to Jacqui, performing surveys across different seasons means the team can increase their understanding of the ecological value of the CSIRO Ginninderra site, and is therefore invaluable to furthering the team’s future research efforts.

“We will use the findings of this survey, and others, to further inform the planning and the conservation management of these valuable areas”, Jacqui said.

Above:  Survey site for Striped Legless Lizard


Project update – November

The procurement process to select a development partner is still underway, with a decision expected and subsequent announcement to be made early 2018.

Throughout this process, our team continues to engage members of the local community, conservation groups, government and industry to build partnerships and drive innovation.

Since the beginning of Spring, our team has:

CSIRO remains committed to open and collaborative community engagement. Once we have a development partner, we will provide community members and community groups with opportunities to provide input into the planning and design process. Stay tuned for updates!

In the meantime, we’ll be rolling out a number of informative blogs including FAQs from the most recent Gungahlin Community Council meeting, an update on ecological survey work, a staff profile featuring our Urban Placemaker, and progress on our native grassland fire trials.

This month we celebrate a 95% survival rate of the 3,500 native shrubs planted in May 2017, during our community planting day events, in the article ‘Ginninderra shrubs Spring to life’.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with our news on a more regular basis, please like our Facebook page or email us.

Ginninderra shrubs Spring to life

A drizzly start to Spring, along with the significant rain this week, has provided welcome refreshment to the Ginninderra shrubs planted in partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group by more than 100 members of the local community, the Green Army and the Indigenous Green Army back in May 2017.

After careful monitoring by the CSIRO, we are delighted to report that 95% of the 3500 shrubs planted are thriving.

“This impressive survival rate is testament to the care our community volunteers took to follow planting instructions, and gives our shrubs the best possible start”, said CSIRO ecologist and planting day coordinator, Jacqui Stol.

To keep the vegetation safe and sound, all 13 of the planting sites have now been securely fenced to protect them from sheep and kangaroos on the property.

“We are also preparing for the warmer months by ensuring any weeds in the area are removed, since they would compete with our plants for water and nutrients.

Allowing shrubs to grow in the best possible conditions brings us closer to our ultimate objective – to create a safe habitat and foraging site for vulnerable woodland birds”, Jacqui said.

There is always more work to be done, and the CSIRO is continuing discussions with the Ginninderra Catchment Group to plan for future restoration activities.

Stay tuned for further opportunities to get involved or re-live the planting day with our video below!