25/11/2020 - 08:00

Delivering healthy home blueprints

25/11/2020 - 08:00

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Lisa Halton’s determination to intertwine architecture with wellbeing outcomes has shaped her housing designs.

Lisa Halton hopes architecture and health can become more interconnected in design outcomes. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Lisa Halton’s determination to intertwine architecture with wellbeing outcomes has shaped her housing designs.  

Drawings that pair people with buildings fill many of Perth architect Lisa Halton’s childhood sketchbooks. 

Born in Ireland, Ms Halton enjoyed the best of both worlds as a child, spending the working week with her parents in Dublin before heading to the countryside on weekends to visit her grandmother.

It was this contrast in environments that set the foundations for Ms Halton’s passion for analysing how different places and spaces can influence human wellbeing and happiness. 

“I loved watching people, looking at how they reacted [to places] … their happiness or frustration,” Ms Halton told Business News.

“Our house was also full of architecture and interior design books because my parents always had the aspiration to build their own home.” 

Ms Halton’s acute awareness of the spatial world was further developed with a degree in architectural engineering at Liverpool University, later joining her family’s construction company.

In 2012, she completed a bachelor of architecture in Dublin, later venturing to Australia, her only link to the country an aunt and a few episodes of Home and Away

Backed by a thesis in mine site rejuvenation, Ms Halton found her feet with a small engineering company contracted by Rio Tinto, later leading the design team for Elizabeth Quay. 

But her interest in exploring architecture’s connection to health eventually became too strong to ignore. 

“I knew great universal design could amplify people’s health and wellbeing, and with that Studio Halton was born,” she said. 

“It was a leap of faith in a city you don’t really know and I learned the hard way; I lost money with a developer that went rogue, but I’ve also had incredible wins.” 

Those wins include being named a 2020 40under40 winner, as well as a recipient of the Woodside STEM Excellence Award for her innovation in architectural design.

Underpinning those accolades is Ms Halton’s work with specialist disability accommodation (SDA), a relatively new field of housing largely emergent from Australia’s recent reform of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

SDA can be designed to cater for the specific needs of those with physical or intellectual disabilities in terms of access and usability.

Up until those changes to the NDIS, most people living with disability in Australia were placed in aged care facilities.

For input into her blueprint, Ms Halton spoke to providers nationally. 

“I designed the first of its kind in Australia SDA – non-clinical environments – which uses ancient design principles scientifically proven to amplify people’s wellbeing,” she said. 

Besides private residential homes, Ms Halton has developed concepts for ancillary dwellings (small, self-contained homes that can be located on the same lot as another building).

Having held information sessions with key groups such as ShelterWA and Foundation Housing, Ms Halton said these could be catered to the aged care and homelessness space. 

The 70 square metre modular homes can be built within 12 weeks and can be plugged into existing buildings. 

With the design still in the prototype phase, Ms Halton said the homes had the additional potential for use as transitional housing for hospitals, or for quarantine. 

“It brings in chromotherapy (also known as colour therapy), so it’s overlaying medical research with architecture as to how our body actually reacts chemically in an environment,” she said. 

Ms Halton’s work with indigenous housing has also started to gain momentum; she recently co-founded Studio Kinship with indigenous man Clifton Bieundurry, with an aim to deliver Australia’s first culturally appropriate Aboriginal housing.  

Studio Kinship integrates ancient lore and culture practices into design, while enabling indigenous people to be part of driving their own housing solution.  

“I want to ensure people of all abilities live in spaces that amplify their health and wellbeing,” Ms Halton said. 

Studio Kinship's indigenous housing concept. Photo: Studio Kinship

Ms Halton hopes awareness raised through projects such as hers can break down the siloed nature of architecture schools, so wellbeing outcomes can become more entwined with design. 

“What I would love to do is get the message out there to developers and builders and say: ‘Look, we can actually achieve this reasonably’,” she said.

“People feel they can’t afford an architect, but you can; we can work in really smart ways.

 “Every time I see built fabric I relate it back to nature; how do I feel sitting here? 

“And I always have my sketch book.”

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