The biggest building sector hotspots in Victoria have been unveiled as the state has delivered a record year for the number of new residential and commercial buildings approved for construction.

Releasing its summary of building approval data gathered throughout 2014, the Victorian Building Authority says the overall dollar value of building approved during the year came in at a record $26.9 billion – 14 per cent higher than that approved in 2013 and 11 per cent higher compared with the previous record set in 2011.

Approvals rose across all regions, with inner and outer Melbourne accounting for the bulk of the growth in absolute terms but smaller regions including North Central, South West and North West delivering the highest levels of growth in proportional terms.

Approvals were also up across almost all sectors except for commercial (down 11.3 per cent), with domestic and residential  recording some of the largest gains in absolute terms but healthcare, industrial and retail recording the highest gains in percentage terms.

On a municipality basis, the City of Melbourne had the highest value of permits followed by the City of Wyndham and the City of Geelong. The largest permit by dollar value issued during the year was for construction of a laboratory, office, a plant and equipment building and storage and ancillary buildings valued at $210 million in the Horsham Rural City Council, while the second largest was $148.9 million for the Epworth Geelong Hospital building at Waurn Ponds in the City of Greater Geelong.

Much has been made in recent years about a boom in residential building. The overall number of housing starts which took place throughout the state has topped 50,000 each year since 2009/10 and multi-residential starts have topped 20,000 over each of the last five years (up  from barely 10,000 per year in the years before that) amid a significant apartment building boom concentrated primarily in Melbourne.

Despite uncertainty over the new government’s approach regarding planning, momentum shows little sign of slowing for now. In November, for instance, Lend Lease submitted plans for a $600 million waterside complex featuring 1,070 apartments in two towers at Docklands on a strip of land between Collins Street and the Yarra River. In December, Central Equity appointed Brookfield Multiplex to build its $135 million Australis Melbourne Apartments tower, which will feature 46 storeys of one, two and three bedroom units encased by a glass façade on Little Lonsdale Street.

What the figures show, however, is that activity has strengthened outside of Melbourne and beyond the residential sector and indeed is up across most regions and sectors throughout the state. Caution is being urged, however, when it comes to gleaning any longer term trends from these numbers as data relating to specific regions and sectors can be heavily influenced by approvals of one or several large individual projects as opposed to a broader upturn in activity. The jump in approvals in North West and South West, for example, was no doubt heavily influenced by the Horsham building and the hospital at Geelong.

Where the activity is

Compared with 2013, by sector:

  • Domestic rose 18.3 per cent to $13.7 billion
  • Residential (including high rise) increased 8.3 per cent to $4.1 billion
  • Commercial fell 13 per cent to $2.9 billion
  • Retail increased 14.9 per cent to $2.0 billion
  • Industrial jumped 28.0 per cent to $728 million
  • Hospital/Healthcare leapt 119.2 per cent to $1.7 billion
  • Public Buildings rose 2.5 per cent to $1.8 billion

By region:

  • Inner Melbourne increased 11.5 per cent to $12.3 billion
  • Outer Melbourne rose 14.3 per cent to $8.8 billion
  • Gippsland was 12.3 per cent higher at $812 million
  • North Central leapt 33 per cent to $1.3 billion
  • North East rose 9.7 per cent to $680 million
  • North West increased 21.8 per cent to $1.2 billion
  • South West jumped 21.9 per cent to $1.9 billion