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Find a designer

In any project that involves substantial renovation or new-build it’s advisable to seek the advice of a qualified designer or architect. Designing collaborative housing on a small block requires an additional dimension of skill, so it becomes even more important to find the right professional.

Some tips for finding a designer


Make a shortlist and check each designer’s experience, qualifications and demonstrated capacity to deliver the type of project you want. Ask if they have done similar projects before, and ask to see examples or speak to previous clients. Make sure they have a sound knowledge of the applicable planning controls, and ideally they’ll have a good working relationship with your local government authority. Experience in working collaboratively with multiple households is also ideal.

Help with feasibility assessment

In larger collaborative housing projects, it has typically been the architect who facilitates the process from feasibility assessment and site procurement to final product. Likewise in small projects, getting a good designer on board from the outset can help with feasibility assessment, site selection (if you’re purchasing) and liaising with council on what’s permitted.

Getting the design right

A good collaborative housing design on a small block will reflect these principles:

  • It’s designed to foster connection between residents and encourage casual interaction, whilst also enabling privacy when needed

  • Each dwelling has its own ‘identity’ and private entry

  • The balance of private and shared space will be customised to suit the preferences of the group

  • It’s space efficient – residents work out what they’d benefit from sharing, and so the building ‘footprint’ takes up less space compared to conventional housing.

  • It’s flexible, for example, some spaces can be opened up or closed off as required

  • It’s adaptable to suit different household configurations and their changing needs over time

  • It’s able to accommodate moderate density increases on a site without any significant adverse impacts on street or neighbourhood character

Downsizing and ‘rightsizing’


The Rightsize Service is a proposal being pursued through the City of Sydney’s Housing Challenge competition. It will support homeowners to change the design and configuration of their home so that it is always the right size for their needs – this will include the option to downsize and accommodate an extra household or two. See here for more information.

Sustainable design

Want a home that’s comfortable and healthy to live in, saves on bills and is better for the planet? Because sharing leads to resource efficiency, you’re already part way there. Why not take it further by engaging a designer with a demonstrated track record in sustainable design? Read more about the many benefits of sustainable home design in Your Home, including tips on finding a designer.

A collaborative design process

In a collaborative design process households have a significant degree of participation. They help to shape the conceptual design, decide what will be shared, and work through different design options. This requires particular skills on the part of the designer in facilitating group decision making and helping to build consensus.

Next>> Get development approval 

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