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Swinburne's transformative approach to Indigenous housing with future-forward solutions

Joseph Guenzler -

Swinburne's transformative approach to Indigenous housing with future-forward solutions

Swinburne University of Technology recently initiated the Indigenous Building Co-Fab (IBC) project, aiming to tackle housing affordability and sustainability challenges for Indigenous communities.

The project aims to transform construction by integrating advanced technologies and locally sourced materials into eco-friendly homes collaboratively constructed by local communities.

Professor John Evans, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Engagement, said housing needs to be done differently to meet the needs of Indigenous peoples in diverse settings.

"The Indigenous Building Co-Fab (IBC) is a radical reimagining of construction, particularly for remote and regional communities," he said.

"It's not just a construction project; it's a catalyst for transformative change, aiming to redefine the future of Indigenous housing in Australia."

By utilising innovative, cost-effective materials and technology, the initiative pioneers transdisciplinary research and reskilling, presenting a fresh approach to building and community involvement.

The IBC is poised to create an impact by establishing a living laboratory at a Swinburne campus.

This collaborative space will unite researchers, educators, and community members, fostering exploration of innovative construction techniques and strategies.

Professor of Urban Futures, Mark Burry AO, says the initiative will push the boundaries of housing construction techniques.

"The initiative actively focuses on practical and cost-effective solutions, leveraging digital fabrication technologies - including 3D printing - to embrace the principles of Manufacturing 4.0," Professor Burry said.

"This will increase the speed and quality of building outcomes.

"A lot has changed in terms of construction innovation research in recent years – but not so much in the way we construct our homes."

The housing crisis, marked by overcrowding, supply shortages, and substandard construction, disproportionately affects Indigenous communities.

The IBC addresses this by integrating university research and vocational education for building trades, providing a distinctive platform for culturally responsive housing solutions through the lens of self-determination.

It seeks to deliver tangible solutions for communities, contributing to positive change across Australia.

The Indigenous Building Co-Fab is guided by five primary objectives:

1. Overcoming barriers: Identify and overcome barriers hindering the widespread adoption of advanced construction technologies for and by Indigenous communities.

2. Innovative technologies: Develop and test innovative building materials and technologies that can significantly reduce construction costs and enhance the environmental performance of community buildings and homes.

3. Community participation: Communities upskilling to participate physically in the construction process, fostering a sense of communal ownership and collaboration.

4. Transdisciplinary collaboration: Create new pathways for transdisciplinary collaboration among architects, designers, engineers, builders, sociologists, ethnographers, anthropologists and economists.

5. Next gen_ education: Inspire and equip the next generation of VET and university researchers with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle housing affordability and sustainability challenges

Focused on skills development, funding models, governance structures, and planning law adjustments, the IBC initiative aims for a comprehensive and sustainable approach.

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