A NEW Victorian housing development aims to pave the way for an alternative style of building, one that gives to the planet, rather than taking away.
Houses at The Paddock are based around the exacting standards of the Living Building Challenge, which calls for buildings to give more than they take.
The 27 houses at the Paddock in Castlemaine will be arranged in a horseshoe around a central common area and a community centre.
Tiered gardens growing produce will sit in this space, open for owners to use.
The landscape has been designed to bring threatened species back into the area.
Architect Geoff Crosby said the sustainable design was about introducing people to a different way of being in the world and changing their behaviour.
Rather than remove the nature from the site, the Paddock aims to improve the biodiversity of the area.
His goal was to create an economical alternative to mainstream housing development.
"What we're really trying to do is design housing with nature as opposed to housing against nature," Mr Crosby said.
Mr Crosby said the development's ethic was a response to the direction the planet was heading with global warming.
Rather than just do no harm to the environment, the living building challenged said we need to regenerate the planet, he said.
"Projects like this really are only prototypes and they're only useful if they introduce people to a different way of being in the world," Mr Crosby said.
"Human behaviour is the biggest thing we need to change. Though these projects are really useful and really important, the most important outcome of them is this communication to a broader public.
"Really we have to be putting our hands up and saying there's a different way of doing things."
Project initiator Neil Barrett said the Paddock was the only housing development of its kind.
He bought five acres in Castlemaine with his wife in 1983, on a "lovely piece of land" just over a kilometre from the centre of town.
The project brings together years of experience, as he and his wife had been involved in environmental issues in Castlemaine for as much as 40 years.
Mr Barrett said the development was designed to appeal to people who want sustainable housing, and to live in a community.
"We're trying to do something very different to the usual awful developments around our towns and cities now," Mr Barrett said.
"This development has been actually planned so people will enjoy living in a community and be able to grow all the food and have a very peaceable community."