Architects in Victoria have pushed for higher design and quality standards for apartments as the state moves to elect its new government this weekend.
Ahead of the election, the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects has called for both major parties to act on recommendations from a recent Legislative Assembly inquiry into apartment design standards.
David Wagner FRAIA, AIA’s Victorian Chapter President, said the importance of quality design should not be underestimated.
The apartment design decisions made today will impact at least the next two to three generations of Victorians,” Wagner said.
“Too many apartment complexes currently being built in Victoria are poorly designed.
“We need to ensure there are sound processes in place to support good design to deliver fit-for-purpose apartment complexes that stand the test of time.”
The latest call comes amid ongoing debate about the quality of apartment design around Australia and including in Victoria.
This followed concerns about poor design practices during an apartment building boom which occurred during the middle of the last decade.
Such concerns included widespread existence of single‑aspect south‑facing apartments, rooms and corridors with little or no access to natural light, poor natural ventilation, too many apartments per level, and buildings that were in close proximity to adjoining developments.
In 2017, the Victorian Government adopted the Better Apartment Design Standards (BADS) as well as a series of apartment design guidelines.
The initial standards (16 in all) focused upon the sitting and arrangement of buildings (building setback, communal open space and landscaping), building performance (noise, energy efficiency, waste and recycling and dwelling amenity (functional layout, room depth, windows, natural ventilation and accessibility).
A subsequent update to the standards issued in February 2021 focused on green space through landscaped communal open space, building materials for high-quality facades, safe and useable street frontages, preventing excessive gusts of wind from tall buildings and private open space through balcony design and location.
In August, the final report of a Legislative Assembly Environmental and Planning Committee inquiry found that the standards had delivered substantial improvement in apartment quality.
But it made 66 findings and 35 recommendations which it said could help to improve apartment design and planning further.
The government did not respond to this report prior to the caretaker period (it has six months from the date the report was handed down in August to provide a response.)
In response, the AIA has called for improvements to apartment design.
In particular, it supported the Committee’s recommendations that apartment design should be verified by a qualified architect, mandated settings for design review process and a state-wide framework to support local council design review panels to improve standards and innovation.
It says this is particularly important as apartment living is expected to grow in popularity on account of an anticipated doubling in the state’s population by 2050 and growing concerns about affordability and urban sprawl.
“Dwindling housing affordability and increasing demand mean apartments are increasingly becoming a mainstream housing choice for many people,’’ Wagner said.
“The incoming Victorian government should commit to these recommendations and rigorously pursue much higher quality design standards for apartments.”