The REAL Challenge (‘Regional Environmental Affordable Living’ Challenge) housing design competition was an integrated low budget campaign conceived and implemented in May 2009 by LandCorp and Riley Mathewson Public Relations to promote innovative and sustainable solutions to the challenges of WA’s regional housing market.
The first of its kind in WA, its overarching goal was to demonstrate the viability of more affordable climate responsive housing for everyday living in regional WA. Communications objectives were to build relationships with the private sector, demonstrate industry and community leadership, and raise LandCorp’s corporate profile and their triple bottom line contribution to regional communities. It needed to harness and promote the benefits of private sector collaboration in terms of affordability and climate responsiveness, demonstrate “real” concepts and the advantages of climate responsive design and sustainability.
The campaign motivated architects, designers and builders to collaborate and demonstrated to industry and community that it was possible to design and build innovative and affordable homes which were also sustainable and responsive to the extremes of climate found in the Kimberley, Pilbara and South West of WA. Approximately 30 design entries were received from throughout WA from numerous companies, and extensive media coverage was generated.
WA’s resources boom over the last decade has seen a significant escalation of home building costs and the growth of fly-in-fly-out towns. Additionally, has been a lack of environmental design considerations which impact on energy consumption and emissions, as well as immediate and ongoing home affordability. LandCorp thus determined the need for initiatives to create and demonstrate viable solutions to regional affordability and climate responsiveness/sustainability. In particular, it needed to demonstrate that innovative designs could deliver affordability and climate responsiveness in tandem.
A further but crucial problem was the general reluctance of Perth-based project builders to establish in the regions due to smaller markets, significant cost/ logistical issues and a resultant market possessing oligopolistic traits. A way needed to be “paved” for more builders to introduce a broader and more innovative mix of designs in these regions.
Additionally, and since its election in 2009, the State Government has adopted a deliberate policy of tackling the issues of supply and demand, affordability and liveability in regional WA.
As the State Government’s land developer, LandCorp closely monitors media and community interest in respect of:
· Housing affordability and availability
· Environmental and sustainability issues
· House and land prices
It is also aware that most regional housing does not accommodate environmental extremes thus adding to power and water consumption with immediate and on-going environmental and living cost impacts.
LandCorp also analyses extensive industry data. One desktop source of data utilised by LandCorp is from the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA). REIWA data demonstrated very clearly that there had been a dramatic increase in the price of housing and decline in affordability in regional WA during the recent commodity boom years. A broader macro public affairs and community level analysis highlighted the importance of climate responsiveness in housing to lower the cost of living and enhance sustainability.
The research was used to highlight the affordability messaging in conjunction with the sustainability angle.
To fulfill the goals and objectives of the campaign, it was determined that two discrete audiences needed to be targeted, being:
1. Industry (architects and builders) and industry authorities (Housing Industry Association, Royal Australian Institute of Architects WA, Master Builders Association, the Building Designers Association of WA and respective Regional Development Commissions.
2. Regional communities, in particular home buyers
To engage the target publics RMPR’s communications plan involved two stages: firstly, engaging architects, designers and builders in an industry-judged home design competition. Secondly, informing and encouraging regional communities to vote for the most suitable short-listed design in their region (i.e. People’s Choice Award). This required a three-stage, dove-tail communications strategy.
To facilitate underpinning industry involvement and thus peer-to-peer endorsement the strategy deliberately sought the involvement of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects WA, Housing Industry Association, and respective Regional Development Commissions on the judging panel.
The “People’s Choice” component was essential to broaden the appeal of the program. It was also determined that it would assist in attracting industry as a “People’s Choice” meant that the market had spoken, providing the industry with assurance of consumer support thus the viability of their designs and potential longer-term commercial returns .
Championed by WA’s Minister for Lands and Regional Development, the Hon. Brendon Grylls, there was added “institutional validity” to the program, and an extra hook for the media. This was deemed to be an essential mechanism to gain extra coverage from the respective local media.
Strategically it was planned that messaging should not be excessively focussed on the environmental component as there was an existing “market myth” that environment and affordability were incompatible. Highlighting industry innovation as the key to a synergistic relationship between sustainability and affordability was deemed to be the correct approach.
Industry key messages:
· Reward – opportunity to promote corporate credentials to industry and consumers, as well as potential financial gain from sale of property and subsequent design/product sales
· Recognition – an award-winning design/structure that becomes an industry reference point or benchmark
· Altruism – harness industry members’ personal interest in sustainability and affordability
The “People’s Choice” element involved print and electronic publicity, electronic direct mail and advertising directly targeted at local communities.
Community key messages:
· Regional Housing Affordability and Comfort of Living
· Community Participation – People’s Choice Award
· Government Commitment to Regional Development – working with private sector to find viable solutions to the serious issues of housing affordability and climate responsive design.
The plan was executed in three phases:
1. Launch – A successful launch event involving more than 50 representatives from LandCorp, key industry bodies, architects and builders was held in Perth. This provided the platform for a follow-through industry communications campaign comprising electronic direct mail (EDM) via industry associations, advertising in housing construction and regional media, editorials and postings on industry and LandCorp websites. Editorials were also placed in targeted regional media announcing the competition to local communities. The announcement was made on World Environment Day (June 5) to platform and underscore the project’s environmental/sustainability aspects.
2. Short List Announcement/Launch of People’s Choice Segment – The announcement of short-listed entries as judged by the industry experts evidenced to industry that affordable and climate responsive homes could be brought to the region, and offered a strong “validity” to the competition’s brand. It dovetailed in providing a launching pad for the People’s Choice campaign.
Communications tools included EDM to industry associations, advertising, editorials and postings on industry and LandCorp websites. To maximise community buy-in editorials were targeted to the Kimberley Echo, Pilbara News, Collie Mail and The West Australian highlighting the short-listed entries. Displays were erected in regional libraries, while voting coupon advertisements were placed in regional media and local libraries. Coupons were also posted on the LandCorp website for regional residents to complete.
3. People’s Choice Winners Announcement - The winning entries were announced by the Minister for Lands and Regional Development, the Hon. Brendon Grylls at a function attended by more than 60 people including Perth-based regional media representatives.
Detailed and regionally tailored media kits were prepared by LandCorp and RMPR comprising hard and soft copy media statements on winning entries and design/construction teams, architects’/designers’ perspectives, etc. The kits were also provided to industry and real estate/homes media.
Briefings were provided to key print and electronic media resulting in numerous interviews with LandCorp and winning design/construction teams, while results were posted on LandCorp’s and industry websites.
Construction of the houses as display homes in each regional centre is now either underway or commencing soon, which will generate further promotional opportunities in line with the project’s communications goals.
There were a substantial amount of positive outcomes achieved by the program including:
- Key result – engagement with the private sector. Approximately 30 design entries (partnerships between architects and builders) received from throughout WA.
- Entrants from a range of companies
- Coverage in trade media, association websites
- Regular EDM to industry members
- Cross-industry collaboration between builders and architect
A sample of media clippings are in Appendix A.
- Public engagement – success of People’s Choice judging phase and coverage in the media. See Appendix A.
- Advertisements / promotional collateral produced and distributed forming an integrated campai
- Credibility of concept and competition. Entrant recently presented to an international conference on building in extreme climates.
- People’s Choice awards presented by Minister for Lands and Regions as per images in Appendix A
The competition and subsequent promotion was a resounding success. It enabled LandCorp to demonstrate industry and community leadership while also contributing to regional development in an environmentally sustainable yet affordable way. It engaged both the public and industry, including its peak bodies. The program fostered cooperation between architects, builders and peak bodies and enabled LandCorp to engage with a broad spread of private sector companies beyond its existing pool of industry partners.