Cohousing for Ageing Well

a collaborative design research project in the Bluefield Housing model, shortlisted in the 5th Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation and a winner in the 20th Annual Local Government Professionals Australia SA Leadership Excellent Awards


Cohousing for Ageing Well (CHAW) is a funded collaborative design research project undertaken for and with Office for Ageing Well (SA Health Department), the South Australian State Planning Commission, the SA Department for Infrastructure and four inner-Adelaide Councils: the City of Unley, City of Burnside, Town of Walkerville and the City of Prospect.

The project expands the Bluefield Housing model first developed in the Alternative Infill thesis and subsequently tested in the Established Manors Missing Middle competition, whereby existing homes are retained, altered and extended to provide new small-scale housing located around high quality shared gardens.

Where these precedent projects explored the Bluefield model across two adjacent and amalgamated sites, CHAW explores the infill possibilities across single allotments. Ignoring minimum allotment size in favour of appropriate design fit and scale - a guiding principle of the Bluefield model - the project tests design possibilities across four sites:

  • Small  - 325m², where a 2-for-1 intensification is achieved;
  • Medium - 530m², where a 2- or 3- for-1 intensification is achieved, depending on how the residents choose to utilise the housing;
  • Large - 675m², where a 3-for-1 intensification is achieved on a corner allotment; and
  • Extra Large - 920m², where a 3-for-1 intensification is achieved along with a shared Common House that incorporates a guest room / study, laundry, kitchen, dining and living space.

Each of the dwellings, whether created out of the existing houses, as extensions to them, or as detached backyard homes are self-contained and designed to the Gold or Platinum levels of the Livable Housing Australia guidelines for mobility and liveability.

Recognising the shortage of high-amenity single bedroom dwellings available in the suburbs, the project explores a number of single bedroom designs that provide increased liveability over existing Accessory Dwelling Unit, so-called 'granny flat', or 'tiny house' models.

And where cohousing traditionally extends across large land holdings accommodating twenty or more dwellings, the project explores a cohousing 'lite' approach, where degrees of sharing are offered, ranging from a full common house in the Extra Large Scheme, to a shared laundry in the Small scheme. Each of the four schemes shares the gardens, with a variety of options demonstrated for the locations of clothes drying, rubbish bin, shedding and car parking.

Focussed on housing to suit ageing in place and multi-generational living, the project was developed to inform low-scale and low-intensity infill housing options that are suitable for residents of any age. The next step for the project is to develop planning policy that will see the model adopted as a new infill housing form in South Australia's new state-wide Planning and Design Code.

In 2021 the project was shortlisted in the 5th Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation. It was one of only 15 shortlisted projects from a field of 273 entries from 175 cities across 60 countries and the only Australian project to be shortlisted. Locally, the project received the Community Partnerships and Collaboration Award in the 20th Annual Local Government Professionals Australia SA Leadership Excellence Awards.

Recommended citation: Madigan, Damian. "Cohousing for Ageing Well Design Research Report." Adelaide: University of South Australia, 2020.

Cohousing for Ageing Well