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Design panel: Scott Flett

Photos: Scott Flett Architecture Workshop

Design panel: Scott Flett

Photos: Scott Flett Architecture Workshop
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Architect, builder and construction entrepreneur, Scott Flett is immersed in the building industry and offers his unique perspective on design and where Australian housing is headed.

Laura Valic

Editor

A registered architect, licensed builder and construction entrepreneur, Scott Flett founded Scott Flett Architecture Workshop in 2016. A member of HIA and the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), Scott is a representative to the Australian Building Code Board technical working group. He has won multiple awards for his designs and building work in Tasmania, including the 2022 Global Architectural Innovation of the Year award for his newly invented building product, 3D-printed roof flashing.

Q: As a designer, where you go for inspiration?

Everywhere and anywhere. But the most enduring source of inspiration for me is a classic – the Sydney Opera House. It's one of Australia's greatest buildings and a classic for a reason. It has that cultural iconic status and is the most enduring source of inspiration for me.

Scott Flett, founder of Scott Flett Architecture Workshop
‘I'm hands on the tools, so there's a personal connection for me in my projects’

Q: What is unique about your designs?

I build my designs, I'm hands on the tools, so there's a very personal connection for me in my projects. Beyond that, a lot of my designs are geometrically daring. With my architecture background, I'm quite comfortable with more complicated geometries. That's given me more confidence in dealing with elements such as curves and difficult junctions.

Q: You describe yourself as a construction entrepreneur. What does this mean?

Sometimes I wear my architect hat, sometimes I wear my builders hat and then sometimes I create a building product to make those two jobs easier. This is what I mean by construction entrepreneur. Several years ago, I invented a building product called Flett Flashing. Using 3D printing, or additive forming, I’ve created roof flashing that can allow difficult junctions to be resolved more simply for a quicker installation. Difficult junctions are often the leading cause of roof leaks in Australia, so the product is designed to make the roof less likely to leak around those complicated geometries. 

I’m currently going through a stage of commercialisation and due diligence so that my pathway to compliance can extend beyond my own designs. I feel a lot of people in the industry know that how we build in the future will likely be very different to how we build today, and they are quite interested in how 3D printing might play a part in that.

Q: As both an architect and builder, how can these two roles form a successful partnership?

For there to be a successful partnership between a builder and architect you firstly need to have respect and trust, and then that's followed up with transparency in communication. The best way to advocate for that is to be very clear in all verbal and written communication and have transparency about what the process will be. Take the time to explain why things have other implications. It's about fostering respect and trust within the relationship.

‘Where we are innovating is in new methods of construction’
‘I feel the home office will no longer be considered a luxurious extra’

Q: When you consider modern Australian design, where do you think we need to innovate?

Where we are innovating is in new methods of construction. We are adopting a lot of European standards for a passive house design and the use of CLT. But much of the technology has to be imported to Australia. It would be great if Australia could, as it is doing with some CLT, establish its own manufacturing industry and supply chains around that so we don't have to import as much. From an environmental point of view, it's not as sustainable to bring over products from the other side of the world when we can make it here in Australia. We have the capacity and capability for it, so it would be advantageous to the broader building industry if Australia could step it up.

Q: Has the pandemic influenced the way that we live and what we want from our homes?

I feel during the pandemic people realised that if they have to spend 24 hours a day in their apartments, not just for an evening meal and to sleep, then they need more than minimal amenities. There needs to be more consideration so that apartments are nice places to inhabit and include working from home facilities. That extends to larger housing as well. So, I feel the home office will no longer be considered a luxurious extra but more of a utilitarian room, akin to a laundry. That way, there is always going to be a dedicated space to be able to work from home. 

Q: Is it necessary for a kitchen’s design to be cohesive with the rest of the house?

The kitchen should always be a considered part of an open plan design. I believe a measure of its success is if two people can happily use a kitchen at the same time and it doesn't cause an argument. But to ensure a kitchen has good accessibility and zones requires careful planning and consideration. It needs to be included within the open plan. If you can think of that as part of a cohesive whole with the living room, it just makes those spaces more enjoyable.

Overall, I feel the kitchen is beginning to overtake the living room’s significance. The open plan was all about no longer hiding the kitchen, but we spend so much time in the kitchen, why have we just put it to one side? It should be a central element that people can inhabit.

‘There are changes to the code which includes standards for accessibility’
‘Consultancy work has great workplace flexibility arrangements’

Q: What will we see more of in our housing in 2023 and beyond?

Australia is growing its institutional knowledge and understanding of how to deal with energy efficiency and condensation. We will be increasingly pushed in that direction as an industry with continued code changes in that space. 

I’m seeing some drivers in client requirements. There’s a push away from gas to an electrification of the kitchen. For the first time, with gas prices where they are, people are seriously considering turning off gas to the kitchen, especially when you have induction cook tops, which seem to have parity to, if not are better than, gas cooktops. 

Australia is also changing demographically, we're getting older. Retrofitting accessibility to old houses often comes across as a clumsy bolt on, but it's no longer appropriate to consider it as an afterthought. There are changes to the code which includes standards for accessibility and those requirements are just going to strengthen in the years ahead, with elements like split levels destined to be in our past.

Q: Magenta was announced as the 2023 Pantone colour of the year. Is this something you take notice of?

I'm completely oblivious to it. Sometimes I like guessing what it is each year to see if I'm close or not! 

Am I going to include it? No. Do I like using bold colours? If it's in context, then absolutely. I've just finished a blush pink in the kitchen of a heritage-listed building, and it's come up beautifully. But the context is important. In this project, there's a wonderful Jarrah floor and beautiful stained-glass windows. It was more important to pick a colour that suited those elements – not base it off a colour of the year. 

Q: What advice would you give to people interested in a career in architecture and design?

If there's one part of the industry – one aspect of design and architecture – which is completely undersold, it's workplace flexibility. Consultancy work has great workplace flexibility arrangements, but this is not communicated very well to people. If you want a career that’s family orientated, architecture and design can support that in a way that as a builder, I’ve experienced is much more difficult to achieve. 

First published on 20 April 2023

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