Award for solar-powered health care centre serving Newman’s Indigenous community


Kaunitz Yeung Architecture has won the prestigious Australian Good Design Award for Sustainability, and the awards’ Best In Class accolade for its co-design of the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Services (PAMS) Newman Health Clinic in Western Australia. 

The welcoming building is capped with one of the best-looking solar systems around. Its 150 kW capacity array is integrated with the building’s wing-shaped roof; it provides around 85% of the facility’s electricity requirements — saving PAMS thousands each year in operating costs; and 13% of its output is allocated for community use.

“We were looking for design initiatives that create substantial change in environmental, economic and social outcomes,” said Andrea Elhers, a member of the Good Design judging panel.

The Australian Good Design Awards, which have been championing the importance of design to “creating a better, safer and more prosperous future” since 1958 are internationally recognised as Australia’s peak design endorsement and promotion program.

Pilbara Aboriginal Medical Services building in Newman

Image: Robert Frith, Acorn Photography

Free, green, renewable energy leaves more money for health care

Located some 12,000 kilometres north of Perth, Newman has an average of only 30 rainy days a year,  but is still primarily powered by gas-fired and diesel generation, David Kaunitz told pv magazine Australia in August 2020, just after the building was opened.

He said the decision to power the medical clinic with Risen Energy High Performance Mono PERC 405w modules was made to extend the budget of the facility, to perhaps allow for another health practitioner, or additional services.

Since it opoened, the Newman Health Clinic has been attended by more than 15,000 patients who proudly and correctly claim the building’s design as their own work.

“This project shows outstanding leadership in the co-design process, which was manifested into the built environment, and its users have applauded that process,” said Elhers.

A human-centred way of working

Kaunitz Yeung Architecture is renowned in the region, among Torres Strait Island and Pacific Island communities, for its collaborative design process.

Among it’s many accolades, the husband and wife team of David Kaunitz and Ka Wai Yeung has won coveted international awards for its work on two other remote PAMS clinics, Punmu and Parnngurr, each of which has a 15 kW array of flexible, glass-free solar panels, which were chosen for their resilience to transportation into the outback.

The $8 million Newman clinic was commissioned by PAMS, and Robby Chibawe, the organisation’s CEO, says, “The respectful and collaborative approach by Kaunitz Yeung Architecture with the Martu Elders and communities has created a deep sense of ownership and pride in this health centre among the local community.

PAMS is the first health centre dedicated to the region’s more than 10,000 indigenous residents, and provides a variety of allied health services including maternal and children’s health care, physio, dental care and dialysis. Previously, many patients and people supporting them had to travel to Perth for treatment at a cost of $5,000 per person.

“The centre combines best practice and culturally appropriate clinical care that is connected to people, country and culture,” said Kaunitz on receiving the award.

The front elevation of Pilbara Aboriginal Medical Services building — rooftop solar goes with the flow.

Image: Robert Frith, Acorn Photography

All under the one rooftop solar system

The building’s rammed-earth structure was made with earth from the site, and state of the art insulation minimises the need to use energy for air conditioning, even in 40 to 50 degree Celsius summer heat. Die-cut metal window screens that help to shade the interiors, and form the centre’s entry gates, were created with the designs of seven local artists representing the communities served by the health care hub. Endemic native plantings shade the facility’s serene oval-shaped central courtyard and a public park at the front and sides of the building.

Elhers noted that the centre and its design have also “brought health, well-being and social-cohesion outcomes” to the community it serves.

“This project is the culmination of all we have learned from working with Martu communities for the last four years, and the communities of the Western Australian Desert for the last decade. Their generosity and wisdom have taught us so much,” said Kaunitz.


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