Architects can Whyalla caravan park cabins plan for hydrogen workers

The South Australian head of the Australian Institute of Architects says the state government’s plan to accommodate hydrogen hub workers at a caravan park isn’t “setting our world on fire” and is a missed opportunity to build sustainable, climate-appropriate housing.

Feb 28, 2024, updated Feb 28, 2024
Architects have criticised plans to house hydrogen workers in cabins on the Whyalla foreshore. Photo supplied.

Architects have criticised plans to house hydrogen workers in cabins on the Whyalla foreshore. Photo supplied.

The state government announced on Sunday that it planned to build “high-quality cabins” at Discovery Park’s Whyalla Foreshore Caravan and Holiday Park to house workers for early-stage development of hydrogen projects in the region.

The plan initially involves 32 cabins and was described by the government as “the first step in an infrastructure blitz that will eventually help accommodate up to 1000 workers required at the project’s peak”.

The government also signed an agreement with Upper Spencer Gulf business Bently’s Cabin Parks to progress plans to build 50 cabins at Kloeden reserve, “with the potential for future expansion”.

But Australian Institute of Architects SA executive director Nicolette Di Lernia told InDaily that she’d hoped for more for the workforce.

“Let’s face it: holiday cabins in Discovery Parks aren’t going to be setting our world on fire regarding quality of housing,” she said.

“It’s a good stopgap solution to get things going. I think the government’s announcement is really exciting. It’s about new technology, a new fuel source that’s sustainable, about how we can use that fuel source to create sustainable steel which is a huge leap forward.

“But it’s also a chance for us to look at other add-on benefits. This is a chance for us to build some really good offsite manufacturing facilities that allow us to address housing shortages in the long-term.”

Di Lernia said the Whyalla Hydrogen Jobs Plan was an opportunity to establish “sustainable, pre-fabricated in some kind buildings”.

“A high-quality cabin is fine if you’re there for a holiday for a week, but that’s not the way they’re intended to be used,” she said.

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The region’s climactic profile was also raised as an issue by Di Lernia, who said thermal controls and proper heating and cooling must be prioritised considering the city can get quite hot during the day and freezing cold at night.

“You get a really high risk of condensation forming inside a house if it’s not built for those conditions, and toxic mould too, so this is not really a long-term great outcome for people that we want to work on these exciting new future-looking projects,” she said.

Di Lernia pointed at Woomera in the state’s outback as a good example of how to build a community that would attract workers to the regions.

“It was developed by the Commonwealth to attract people to go out into the middle of nowhere basically to do rocket testing and other things,” she said.

“But they actually invested in not just a whole lot of transportable homes; they invested in a whole community – a green garden city development in the middle of the desert.

“That was an amazing investment in getting people to go and work on this really important project. This is what I think we would like to see government do in this context. It’s a long-term investment in our future and we want people to actually buy-up to this thing.

“Are they going to do it if they think they’re going to have pretty dodgy housing and few services? Probably not. If we set this up in a way that is going to make Whyalla develop into the future, then this will actually allow that whole vision to be a more sustainable one.”

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