Pilbara Vernacular

Innovation through Demonstration approach to development is being shared in the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook, a guide that aims to highlight ways developments in the Pilbara can achieve design excellence in environmentally and socially sustainable projects.

The Vision

In order to assist growth and development in the Pilbara, we developed the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook. The handbook helps guide built form in the region to be more innovative and sustainable. It also addresses some of the opportunities and challenges around residential and mixed-use developments and how the application of specific design values and strategies can contribute to the activation of town centres.  Unique strategies have also been developed for a number of specific major Pilbara towns; Hedland, Newman, Onslow and Dampier. The general overview is relevant to Karratha and the Pilbara in general.

The Pilbara Vernacular Handbook is an example of how we are listening to locals, developing innovative concepts and striving to be an industry leader by applying and sharing our outcomes. Not only are we progressing our Pilbara developments  in line with the guidelines, the handbook is available to any party interested in implementing environmentally and socially sustainable design principles in the Pilbara context.

In responding to local issues it is imperative we rethink the guidelines and recommendations to design and built form in the Pilbara. We need to foster efficient and sustainable urban form that captures the local character and functional design features needed for this vast and challenging region.

The Pilbara Vernacular Handbook is not intended to impose any statutory requirements. It aims to provide a collection of local considerations and strategies that strive to improve design responses and achieve sustainable outcomes.


Benefits in implementing the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook

 The handbook offers strategies for working within the Pilbara and looks to:

  • Ensure high quality buildings and public realm, and enhance the interface between the two.
  • Contribute to the development of climate responsive designed built form by providing contemporary design responses to the Pilbara context, including logistics and economic considerations.
  • Evoke a sense of place that develops local character, reflecting the local landscape, environment, climate and culture.
  • Support the region’s development by providing sustainable options to improve future built form and public spaces.
  • Support the implementation of more efficient built form with lower running costs.

The handbook features a range of case studies and environmental studies which are relevant to conditions in the Pilbara. Development in the Pilbara region and the region’s individual towns are explored within a framework of key design values, principles and strategies. The handbook also sets up a context for development across the Pilbara region including Hedland, Newman, Onslow and Dampier with brief overviews of the local:

  • Economy
  • Demographics
  • Town planning
  • Housing
  • Community infrastructure
  • Utility infrastructure
  • Construction materials
  • Development opportunities and constraints

The Pilbara Vernacular Demonstration House

The Pilbara Vernacular Demonstration House has featured on Josh Byrne's “Josh’s House - Star Performers” television program. View the episode here.

The show looks at high performance and affordable homes that are accessible to the mainstream public. One of five leading homes in the series, the Pilbara Vernacular Demonstration House, is designed specifically for the Pilbara's unique climate and conditions.

Further videos on the vernacular home and the display village can be viewed below.

Who should use the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook?

The Pilbara Vernacular Handbook is a resource for anyone contributing to decision making which affects housing and built form in the Pilbara.  

DevelopmentWA partners and consultants, architects, planners, designers, developers, project managers, builders, service and infrastructure providers, business operators and managers can all benefit from understanding the intent and applications of the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook.

While this is not a mandate for future development, this handbook opens up a dialogue of possibilities for the future development in the region.

The History

The launch of the Pilbara Cities Vision by the Western Australian Government in 2009 proposed a complete transformation of towns across the region in order to provide centres of activity that will attract new residents from Australia and overseas.

innovation pilbara vernacular copy imageThis transformation requires an almost complete regeneration of the existing urban form and includes major restructuring and activation of town centres in the Pilbara. This includes the densification and renewal of existing residential areas; development of new residential, commercial and industrial areas; and major upgrades and replacement of services and amenities infrastructure.

In order to assist with the implementation of the Pilbara Cities vision DevelopmentWA developed two documents which aimed to guide and inform future built form in the Pilbara region; the Karratha Vernacular guideline and the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook. In line with our Innovation through Demonstration philosophy, we have created guidelines on how to conduct development within the Pilbara landscape. We supported the Pilbara Vernacular Demonstration House build to demonstrate the effectiveness of these guidelines in the area of building design.

Early in 2011, we completed the Karratha Vernacular Guideline which aimed to inform Mulataga and Karratha City Centre. Since then, new research and experiences have allowed us to refine and expand this work to other parts of the Pilbara region.

This knowledge has been captured in the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook which was completed during 2012. The principles and guidelines specific to Karratha are compiled in the Pilbara Region Part 1 of this document.

Although the information provided in this handbook is similar to the previous guideline, the latest iteration incorporates new considerations tailored to each part of the Pilbara region.



Pilbara Vernacular


Sustainable development practices and cutting-edge technologies.