Better Apartments at the Australian Smart Skyscraper Summit 2017

In light of the recent release of the Victorian State Government’s Better Apartments Design Standards, architects, designers, builders and the industry as a whole will look to reconfigure apartment design, in order to conform to new government regulations.

Among changes to standards, the guidelines dictate that apartments will have to provide for daylight access, outlook and privacy through building setbacks. A functional layout will see the dimension of bedrooms and living areas provide space and functional internal areas. Apartment room-depth-to-ceiling-height ratio of habitable rooms, such as living areas and bedrooms, must also provide adequate daylight according to the guidelines.

Architects and engineers will have to ensure that habitable rooms have adequate daylight from a window in an external wall. Functional and accessible internal as well as external apartment storage space is also a crucial feature of the new guidelines.

Noise impacts, energy efficiency, solar access to communal open space, natural ventilation, private and communal open space, landscaping, accessibility, safe building entries and circulation, waste and recycling facilities and integrated water management systems must all be considered in apartment design with the implementation of the new regulations.

On the implications of the Better Apartments Design Standards, Michele Pasca di Magliano at Zaha Hadid Architects commented that the regulations present a “difficult challenge with no easy fix”.

Magliano is the Project Director of 600 Collins Street, a $300 million mixed-use high-rise project, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects that will see the legendary Pritzer Laureate’s legacy live on in a stunning new structure.

“The 600 Collins planning application was granted in June 2016, before the Better Standards were introduced. In general standards aim to raise the average level but risk diminishing opportunities for innovation and we can't restrict architects to design by the book without really challenging the quality of the designs and architectural envelopes which become such an important presence”.

The 54-storey tower project will house 420 apartments.

The regulations may also impact the construction industry. George Argyrou, Managing director at the Melbourne-based construction firm Hickory, believes that the prefabricated building industry offers improved solutions to accommodate the new guidelines compared to traditional modular construction. Hickory has undertaken major construction works on Australia’s tallest prefabricated structure, the La Trobe Tower.

“The increased standards will change the way apartments are designed and improve liveability and sustainability.”

According to Argyrou, Hickory Building Systems offer greater flexibility than other modular systems, and enables innovative apartment design.

“The beauty of the HBS method is that there are no fixed module sizes or standardised design elements – everything is flexible and we build to the project’s specification, rather than trying to mould the project to meet ours. In this way we don’t anticipate that Hickory’s prefabricated projects will be overly affected by any design changes that are implemented across the industry, as we already build each project on a case-by-case basis.”

While the Better Apartments Design Standards may not impact prefabrication practices, other construction companies may have to readjust in the wake of the regulations.

“Hickory can’t speak for other prefab and modular builders, who through the nature of their systems often have to build to strict parameters and standard sizes. These suppliers may find that they need to adjust their designs and manufacturing practices to meet the new standards. With HBS, our system is a bespoke construction method that uses interchangeable, flexible componentry,” says Argyrou.

Both Magliano and Argyrou feature as speakers at the upcoming high-rise construction and design industry Summit, the Australian Smart Skyscrapers Summit, which presents delegates and industry players with an invaluable opportunity to explore best practice solutions to apartment design with expert speaker input.

George Argyrou will discuss prefabricated construction processes in the ground-breaking La Trobe Tower project as well as why system flexibility and continuous innovation is imperative to implementing prefabrication on a larger scale.

Michele Pasca di Magliano will profile Zaha Hadid Architect’s spatial and urban approach to high-rise design at the Summit as well as examining skyscrapers as catalysts for social interaction.  

Urban Melbourne is a media partner of the Australian Smart Skyscrapers Summit 2017.

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