Australians Choosing to Live in the Clouds 1

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
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In the midst of a multi-residential building boom, Australian cities are striving to meet the demand for sky high living.

Skyscraper apartments are replacing ground floor suburban homes as Australians look to adopt a live, work and play lifestyle in the heart of their capital cities.

Backyards are being traded in for urban balconies and shared public spaces. Being surrounded by ample amenities also removes the need for extensive travel with urban dwellers not requiring car storage. Instead, city residents are opting for carbon-free bicycle travel or public transport – which is right at their doorstop of course.

So just how high are Australian residents planning to live?

According to the database of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), there are currently 35 skyscrapers above 200 metres proposed or under construction in Australia – 29 of them in Melbourne alone.

Melbourne also holds the top five spots on the list, which includes the 319-metre Australia 108 tower, the 308-metre Queensbridge Tower and the 250 Spencer Street Tower 1 at 297 metres, all of which are due for completion over the next five years.

Australia 108 has actually incorporated what architects Fender Katsalidis call “cloud residencies” amongst their 1,105 apartments.

While height is key to sky high living, so are a building’s amenities. The CTBUH database shows that 31 of the 35 skyscrapers have a residential component, with the majority being mixed-use buildings.

Population growth is a key driver of the trend toward vertical living.

Australia’s estimated resident population (ERP) is projected to increase from 22.7 million as at June 30, 2012 to between 36.8 and 48.3 million people by 2061, and to between 42.4 and 70.1 million people by 2101.

In 2012, 66 per cent of Australians lived in a capital city, a figure that is expected to increase to 74 per cent by 2061.

Sydney and Melbourne remain the most populous cities but residential skyscrapers are also rising in Adelaide, Canberra and Perth.

Just last month, a $100 million, 27-storey apartment building was announced for Adelaide. Upon completion, it would become the tallest in the city.

The Eclipse Project is set to house 272 apartments and will sit atop the Renaissance Arcade, intertwining two levels of retail and commercial into the building.

It will also be located near key community landmarks such as Adelaide Oval and the Botanic Gardens, with project director Jonathan MacKenzie describing the project as a “powerful symbol of the opportunities for the city.”

“The fundamentals that govern growth prospects n Adelaide, particularly in the City Centre Precinct, are compelling and include a reform of planning laws, the removal of height limit restrictions and increased infrastructure spending on projects such as Adelaide Oval,” MacKenzie said.

“There is a also a strong message coming from the Government of South Australia that the city is poised for growth and this makes Adelaide a compelling investment option.”

Property database CoreLogic noted that many people aspire to live in inner city areas in Australia’s most desirable suburbs, close to rivers, beaches or harbours.

“It appears that most Australians are showing an ongoing preference to live in capital cities rather than regional markets,” said a report by RP Data senior research analyst Cameron Kusher. “When you consider the concentration of jobs across the nation, most are found in capital cities and the majority of these jobs are found in just a handful of these capital cities.”

This research also reflects the rise of mixed-use buildings. Urban dwellers are recognising the value of having live, work and play opportunities all in one area, or even within one building.

This trend toward the vertical community is a growing part of the smart city, and is designed to encourage social interaction and convenience within a building.

A vertical community mirrors that of a ground level neighbourhood, but instead of ground level parkland or nearby retail stores, the building itself will house green space on rooftops or balconies and stores on the lower floors.

Gensler, which is behind what will soon become the world’s second tallest building – Shanghai Tower – describes that project as a “self-contained city.”

While it doesn’t have a residential component, the 632-metre tower features nine zones across 121 storeys, including office space, entertainment venues, retail, a conference centre, a luxury hotel and cultural amenity spaces.

Over in Manhattan, Adrian Smith+Gill Architects’ 541-metre Nordstrom Tower will house seven floors of Nordstrom retail on its lower floors. Floors eight to 12 will feature a hotel, with higher levels housing luxury condominiums.

In Melbourne, 568 Collins Street by Bruce Henderson Architects will be mixed residential, office and retail skyscraper.

More and more, residential skyscrapers are being built within city squares and communities that incorporate shared, accessible amenities, local work opportunities, retail and green space.

In Sydney, one of the largest waterfront renewal projects is the 22-hectare, $6 billion Barangaroo precinct, which will incorporate commercial office buildings, residential apartments, an international hotel, shops, cafes, restaurants and cultural facilities. It will also offer direct public transport connections, including a major pedestrian connection through to Wynyard station and the city.

One key part of the project is One Sydney Harbour, with Lend Lease recently announcing that Pritzker Prize recipient Renzo Piano will be designing the three high-rise residential towers which make up the project.

In Australia, Brisbane’s South City Square is creating a 1,000 apartment village across seven towers that also incorporates retail.

The plans for South City Square are estimated at $550 million across a 2.1-hectare site.

While this global movement of clustered vertical communities is social, convenient and serving an urban demand, in contrast, it also suggests a change in people’s health habits.

In buildings, escalators and lifts are required to take residents sky high, removing the need for walking. With everything at one’s doorstep, some of these vertical communities have been described as “obesogenic environments.”

Active green and public space, the implementation of safe cycling and walking routes to encourage active travelling and staircases on the lower levels of the buildings can help to combat this concern.

It’s important for developers and architects to consider how residents will interact within the environment, removing a risk of inactivity and isolation. It’s up to the amenities to ensure that while residents live in the clouds, they remain active, both physically and socially within their communities.

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  1. David

    Angela, I am not sure that it is time to call this a movement towards cloud living. In the current heated property market with record low interest rates a high level of momentum is coming from investors and off-shore. These sort of projects appeal to architects as they make big statements and with a bit of luck attract the odd design award. The reality is that with retail prices for projects now ranging in the $15,000 to $25,000/m2, its not ordinary Australians who will buy these dwellings, and for most their outgoings will be unsustainable. Rents are only returning net 3% to investors and their investment only works with short term capital growth and negative gearing. I anticipate a 15% correction to all properties over $1 million to make them economically viable in the future. That will put the brakes on. If you look at the property section of the major media you can already see the astute developers now taking their profits and selling some of these site's with DA's in hand for spectacular profit. They do not believe that all these properties will stack up for much longer. And as for urban environments one hopes that Docklands is not the benchmark. Its all in the clouds I think.