It may not be a boom overall, but the Queensland market offers a number of areas for opportunity for architects as residential building activity remains strong for now and a strengthening economy helps activity along in sectors such as retail and tourism.
If only aggregate numbers were considered, the outlook would indeed not look good. At $70.571 billion, the overall dollar value of work which Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) expects to be done on building and infrastructure assets during 2015/16 will represent the lowest level on record in nine years and would be down more than 20 per cent compared with the peak in 2013/14. Moreover, on an aggregate basis, work is expected to drop back a further 3.8 per cent this year.
Take out the combined effect of a massive drop in work on new mines and resource/LNG plants, a pull-back in investment of water and electricity infrastructure (after several years of strong activity) and continued winding back of stimulus spending in areas such as health and education, however, and a number of underlying growth sectors emerge.
As the weaker dollar helps drive stronger conditions in sectors such as retail and tourism, the pipeline of developments in areas like shopping centres and resorts is growing. For now at least, levels of activity in multi-residential construction should remain reasonably high. Property developers within the state remain optimistic about forward levels of development activity as well as the outlook for capital growth in sectors such as residential, industrial, retail, accommodation and retirement living, according to a recent Property Council of Australia survey.
Helping all this out will be a lift in underlying conditions within the state’s broader economy, which Treasury expects to grow by around four per cent per annum over the next three years.
The government, too, is trying to help. Moves announced late last year to simplify the state’s planning system received a welcome response from industry lobby groups – as did the release of a draft infrastructure plan, which gave the sector at least some idea about what the forward program of capital works will look like. Such certainty had previously been lacking since the current government was elected without having a clear plan in this area.
Nevertheless, concern remains regarding the way in which Brisbane is conducting key urban renewal projects. In a recent article, Australian Institute of Architects Queensland Chapter president Richard Kirk and Queensland University adjunct professor of landscape architecture Catherin Bull slammed the process by which the Queens Wharf redevelopment project was conducted, describing it as ‘cavalier, high risk and unnecessary’ and involving little in the way of clearly articulated public benefit.
While the current recovery in some areas of the market does not represent any form of overall boom, opportunities within these sectors do seem to be flowing through into the sector’s workforce. In its most recent quarterly report, for example, recruitment outfit Hays said most employers had solid project pipelines and there were significant levels of demand for mid to senior level architectural technicians, especially to help in meeting documentation deadlines.
Areas of opportunity
According to forecasters:
- Despite most likely having peaked last year, activity in the residential sector should remain reasonably strong for now, and the Housing Industry Association expects dwelling unit commencements in both standalone housing and multi-unit developments to remain at respectable levels compared with recent historic standards until at least 2017.
- Activity in retail and shopping centre developments should remain elevated over the foreseeable future as projects such as the extension of Grand Central Garden Town in Toowoomba, stage 8 of the Westfield Garden City Shopping Centre at Upper Mount Gravatt, stage 3 & 4 of the development at Westfield North Lakes and the town centre at Maroochydore City Centre drive activity forward.
- With the dollar value of investment already at its highest level since the global financial crisis, hotels represents a significant area of opportunity. ACIF expects the dollar value of work done to rise almost fourfold over the next seven years to go from $296 million in 2014/15 to a peak of $1.099 billion in 2021/22 as a recovery in tourism and an undersupply of available rooms drives demand for new developments. Major upcoming developments included the Acquis Great Barrier Reef Resort at Yorkey’s Knob, the remaining stages of the Ella Bay Tourist Resort at Flying Fish Point, the Jewel Mixed Use Development at Surfers Paradise, the Capricorn Integrated Resort at Yeppon, the Linderman Island Resort Development at Linderman Island and the revitalisation of the Great Keppel Island Resort on Great Keppel Island.
- Having bottomed out at $3.120 billion in 2014/15, the dollar value of investment in road building activities is expected to rise by more than one third to reach almost $4.3 billion by 2018/19. Investment in non-road forms of transport will bottom out in 2015/16 and return to higher levels from 2016/17 onward.