The Walumba Elders Centre by iredale pedersen hook architects (ipha) was the winner of the Multi-Density Category prize and the Best of the Best award at the 2015 Sustainability Awards. ipha received the prestigious honour at the awards ahead of 68 finalists and a record number of entries.  

The architects were commended by the judges for their careful consideration of the cultural requirements of the building’s occupants in their architectural detailing, as well as their deep understanding of the triple bottom line of sustainability. Scroll to the bottom to see comments from our expert judges on Best of the Best project from the 2015 Sustainability Award program.

On 13 March, 2011 the Giga people's home town of Warmun was devastated by a catastrophic one in 300 year flood event.

Three hundred people were displaced for 12 months while new houses were built.

Working directly with the community Elders and the Home and Community Care staff, iredale pedersen hook architects designed a new home for the Elders based on their Cultural and social needs. The site was selected to be close to the school and town centre to ensure the Elders are able to continue their role as educators and Cultural leaders.

This site was still in the flood zone so the facility was designed to be above the 2011 flood level - standing some three metres off the ground like a bridge or jetty.

Addressing the Cultural requirements of the Giga people is a sustainability initiative. The Cultural needs of the community were given priority.


  • Reciprocal responsibilities - by providing a variety of spaces for family members of all ages to meet
  • Balancing privacy and family access- via controlling entry points to the facility to allow for simple visitation control
  • Generous outdoor living and private balconies to all bedrooms
  • Supporting Lore and Culture activities- fire pits on the main and ground activity areas, FIP isolation of rooms for smoking ceremonies, gender specific private activity areas
  • Avoidance relationships- by providing multiple paths of travel and good passive surveillance
  • Cultural surveillance - by providing good internal and external passive surveillance
  • Supporting cultural activities by planting bush medicine plants and smoking ceremony plants
  • Future proofing against future floods
  • Minimisation of power consumption
  • Maximise shade throughout the day- allow for more external living on protected veranda spaces the use of vertical polyester shading panels for natural lighting. Many of the residents are painters and have poor eyesight so high levels of natural light are desired.
  • Breeze paths have been carefully considered and pavilions are spaced to provide breeze paths across activity areas to provide for natural cooling.
  • Low energy level, long life LED lamps have been used extensively
  • Water heating via Solar Hot water system with a continuous flow pump
  • High levels of insulation including verandah soffits

Jury Citation

"Here is a building which does all of the important things really well and is the epitome of sustainability. Not only does it sit comfortably in its environment with a very appropriate climatic design response, it is clearly responsive to the often complex cultural requirements of its users."

"An innate understanding of both people and place by the designers resulted in a building that reacted to, rather than imposed upon, its landscape and culture. The elevated floors are more than just flood-proofing - they provide areas of deep cool at ground level in the hot months where people of all ages can gather, sit and 'do community'. And when it rains, the water is celebrated and featured rather than considered a problem and just piped away.

"Furthermore, that this project was delivered on a very tight budget to a remote location is testament to the designers understanding of the triple bottom line of sustainability for which they must be commended.

"Though there were many candidates for the overall award, the Walumba Elders Centre stole the show as it demonstrates the skills and understanding required to design truly sustainable buildings. Where some buildings achieved great energy performance or high results through certification programs, this project illustrated sensitivity to people and culture, a respect for environment and building response and delivered it with ingenuity rather than a large budget.

"If this is ‘Aged Care’, you would be happy to grow old in a home like this.

"Congratulations to all involved in this project, this is sustainable design in action!"

Boral.pngThe award for Multi-Residential was proudly sponsored by USG Boral