Over the past decade Australian cities have been experiencing dramatic growth in medium-rise residential development. The most recent Census report shows inner and middle suburbs across the country have seen the construction of over 150,000 medium-rise dwellings from 2001 to present. Typically these buildings range from three to eight levels, and are built in neighbourhoods with established transport and entertainment hubs.
With Australia's five largest cities accounting for 61% of the country's population, the ongoing need to develop appropriate infrastructure is clear. The rise in high density, medium-rise living can be attributed to this need, as maintaining amenity in our existing low-density neighbourhoods while absorbing growing populations calls for a delicate balance.
According to recent Urbis statistics the increase in medium-rise housing in recent years is tangible – up 16.2%. Due to its ability to incorporate a variety of housing configurations in the same development, medium-rise housing has also been able to provide for a broad variety of demographics. For some, it provides an opportunity to break into the property market in inner city locations, for others it is an option when looking to downsize but maintain access to all the desired amenities.
Along with low density development in outer-urban areas and inner-city high rise towers, well thought out medium-rise developments centred around already established suburban infrastructure offer a welcome middle ground solution to the ongoing challenge of accommodating a city’s growing populations.
Development in low-density areas has been a controversial issue, with residents often objecting to building proposals and seeing developments as eyesores. Recently however, Victoria's planning minister, Matthew Guy has enabled individual councils to distinguish what style of development suits their specific community, councils are now able to consider the existing, emerging and desired character of a neighbourhood.
A recent report from Urbis, Australia’s Embrace of Medium & High Density Housing, gives insight into statistics and factors that are driving this shift. With increasing land values and a renewed focus on living in close proximity to city centres, apartment buildings have become an accepted and embraced style of housing stock for city residents.
Urbis also found that focusing on the actual design of the building and its landscaping were crucial. With residents and councils commonly objecting to developments either for their enormity or for being “ugly”, focusing on good design was helpful in reducing concerns of planning authorities and delivering successful developments.
Shane Rothe, managing Principal of Melbourne architecture firm ROTHELOWMAN says architects have also seen the move to mid-rise, and understand that good design is the key to delivering mid-rise developments that unlock the conflict between councils, developers and residents.
“Everyone agrees on the concept of increasing population density around transport and activity hubs. So when you present a development that is sensitive to the neighbouring environment, it better enables the community and councils to see the benefits of new residential and mixed-use infrastructure in their area. In low-rise neighbourhoods, we can still increase density without going tall."
Urbis Director, Rebecca West says, "Medium rise developments are increasingly providing a key element of housing within our cities. Most planning schemes have now identified locations for this type and scale of housing development which has the benefit of supporting existing activity centres, providing increased housing and diversity and relieving pressure from established residential precincts."
ROTHELOWMAN is currently working on two medium-rise projects, Linea 8 in Elsternwick and the Tip Top site in Brunswick. Both epitomise sensitively designed medium-rise residential complexes in both inner-city and middle suburbs. The Tip Top design builds on the existing commercial bakery façade already established near the Lygon Street shopping precinct in East Brunswick, to offer a residential, office and retail site. While Linea 8 draws on Elsternwick's local character to anchor the building in the existing community, offering 81 apartments and lower level retail frontage.
Tapping into the demand for high density via medium-rise development will allow Melbourne and other Australian cities to provide an alternative to both outer suburban and high-rise living – and as our cities grow, the demand for this middle ground will undoubtedly grow with it.
Established in 1991 by founders Shane Rothe and Kim Lowman, ROTHELOWMAN WHITE is a dynamic architectural and interiors practice. With offices in Melbourne and Brisbane, the practice is helping to shape Australia's commercial, residential and hospitality landscape, by creating solutions that deliver long-term value for clients, their clientele and the broader community.
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