The Draft Design Standards released by the Victorian State Government this week have been cause for conflict with many concerned that the omission of minimum apartment sizes will result in a reduced quality of residential stock in the Victorian apartment market.
Others disagree, pointing out that there exist determinants of good design other than size.
We agree. With so many incredible solutions already available to manage small(er) space living, large rooms should not be the only criteria.
Indeed, participants in the discussion paper survey ranked daylight the number one key issue affecting apartment amenity, and space was joined in the top seven key concerns by natural ventilation, sunlight and outdoor space.
These are not concerns unique to apartment living and although this set of standards doesn’t govern projects in Brisbane or Sydney, it brings to light issues that exist nationwide.
The majority of our projects seek to manage some version of the above problems, in addition to privacy and comfort.
So how can developers and architects work with manufacturers and suppliers to manage conflicting demands, whether they are coming from government or prospective buyers and tenants?
It is not uncommon for a developer to insist that additional residences be “squeezed” into drawings and where they might like to see yet another storey, the architect is contending with a maxed out building height for that zoning. Likewise, a building that sprawls outwards leaves little room for mandatory outdoor spaces on the ground or podium levels.
In this type of scenario, the essential outdoor space can often be provided by way of a rooftop communal area. Where an additional storey is not permissible, operable awnings may create more usable space and provide the flexibility to create an open or protected area where a fixed awning might be considered an additional level to the building.
Another challenge is balancing the minimum size of living areas with restricted room depths, intended to maximise natural light.
The perceived depth of a room can easily be increased by planning rooms that open directly onto balconies and enclosing these outdoor areas with operable elements to create one large space. Floor to ceiling shutters or balustrade compliant louvres make this a possibility. The latter offers the added bonus of closing to create a striking façade feature.
The additional depth, disguised within the balcony, satisfies regulations and residents alike and offers greater control over shade in the apartment.
Survey respondents identified natural ventilation as being the third most important issue affecting apartment amenity and with rising energy costs and green living, architect designed property is increasingly expected to meet passive performance standards.
Additional openings and varied configurations designed to meet the myriad other planning criteria throw up further issues of privacy and façade design.
Operable external shade solutions (recommended by the City of Port Phillip Council as a mandatory criteria for the Better Apartments Design Standards, although overlooked in the Draft) can assist in resolving such issues as they allow residents to manage openings (closed, partially open or open) and can add interest to the exterior of both new builds and refurbishments.
If you find yourself facing one of these challenges (or any other), get in touch with our team to discuss your requirement. We frequently design new and innovative solutions to residential and commercial architectural challenges.