A boom in new home building and a modest rise in some areas of commercial construction in New South Wales are creating opportunities for interior designer firms throughout the state.

Up until around 12 months ago, low levels of building activity had meant conditions within the architecture and design profession within New South Wales had been extremely challenging.

Now, however, housing has picked up and a flurry of new commercial developments are underway.

Accordingly, anecdotal evidence suggests conditions have picked up. National level figures from employment agency Seek, for example, show that the number of employment advertisements posted on its site for interior designers was up by 40 per cent in 2014 compared with 2013, and that broader architecture and design sector ads were up 42 per cent year-on-year in the month of January (much of which most likely occurred in NSW, where building activity is strongest).

Meanwhile, a recent Hays report which covers architecture and design combined suggested that the number of contract roles on offer throughout New South Wales specifically had shown a notable build up, though the near-term outlook for the market in 2015 is not yet known for certain.

Moreover, momentum looks set to continue going forward. In a new forecast, the Housing Industry Association (HIA) says it expects the state to break ground on more than 50,000 new houses and apartments in 2014/15 and for historically elevated levels of new residential construction to persist for at least three years.  Reasonably strong momentum is also expected in office, retail and industrial and accommodation segments, according to the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) – albeit with more subdued conditions expected in construction of new hospitals and schools. Furthermore, Sydney is leading the way in converting office space into hotels and multi-residential apartment buildings.

Accordingly, the overall business climate for interior designers should remain reasonably strong notwithstanding subdued expectations regarding activity in renovations of existing homes.

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Key areas of opportunity include:

  • New housing: Conditions in the market for new residential construction are expected to remain extremely strong for the next three years. Detached housing markets are especially buoyant in Sydney’s western suburbs whilst multi-residential markets in Sydney are also extremely strong.
  • Offices: According to ACIF, the dollar value of building work done on commercial office space throughout New South Wales will rise from $1.694 billion in 2013/14 to more than $2 billion by 2016/17. Major upcoming projects in coming years include the $10 billion redevelopment of Sydney Central Station precinct, the Bays Precinct urban renewal development and the $660 million Quay Quarter Sydney project.
  • Retail & Industrial: These are the other areas where design opportunities arising out of new construction should be reasonably strong. Significant upcoming projects include the Horsley Park Employment Precinct, Albion Airport Business Park/Illawarra Region Business Park, Greenhills Shopping Centre, Westfield Parramatta and the Castle Towers Shopping Centre Precinct.
  • Hotels & Accommodation: The dollar value of work done is expected to rise from $334 million in 2013/14 to $483 million by 2015/16, with opportunities set to arise from projects like the Anvil Creek Residential & Golf Resort in Allendale, the Moorebank Units Relocation Project (military housing) in Holsworthy, the Shaolin Temple Residential and Tourist Development at Nowra and the Nelson Bay Tourist Development at Nelson Bay.
  • Office Conversions: As well as new construction, Sydney is the leading city in Australia in terms of conversion of older office stock into new hotels and multi-residential accommodation – another area of opportunity for designers. As at last November, Jones Lang LaSalle reported that the city had seen more than $1 billion worth of stock purchased with the intention of redevelopment or conversion in that year – albeit with issues associated with existing tenancies meaning that not all of these will go ahead.

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