The move towards lifelong apartment living across Australia has been stronger than predicted. In a time of change, how do we future-proof property development to ensure we’re building apartments that are great places to live?
Kyle Reeve, development manager at ICON, shares his views here ahead of the Designing for Life panel taking place later this month.
How important is innovation when it comes to designing multi-residential developments?
It’s very important. As property developers, we need to commit to doing something different and taking a bit of a risk to ensure we’re ahead of the trend. Historically property development has been about yield, cost and investment returns, but now we’re really seeing a push towards considering who the purchaser is and how they live to create a quality product for the owner-occupier, and that’s really exciting.
How do you build apartment buildings for different people?
I think having a variety of product helps to attract different types of buyers and create a sense of community. For instance the range of people who have bought into our 122 Roseneath Street development in Clifton Hill is quite unbelievable. There are couples, young families, downsizers, first home buyers, social workers, doctors, etc.
What we’ve found is that the people who have bought into this development have done so for the sense of community and because they want to be around similar people. Being similar doesn’t mean age or demographic, but instead it’s more psychographic similarities.
In the case of 122 Roseneath Street we found that engaging with buyers from the outset was a crucial part of designing an apartment building that could be many things to many people. For instance we developed a waiting list of prospective purchasers and asked them via a questionnaire what they were looking for, which actually informed the design of the final product. Interacting with future purchasers gives you real time information and ensures you’re creating something that truly caters to their needs.
The challenge is that some purchasers don’t actually know what they want, and in this case it’s the role of developers and architects to guide them with good design.
Do you think purchasers and developers should be more collaborative?
Consultation with purchasers is an important part of the process. Whilst it adds time onto a project, it ultimately reduces that sales risk because you’re able to deliver something people have asked for. It’s so important to take what people want on board and design around that.
Buyers are also more informed than ever, probably because more people have lived in apartments as renters and know what’s worked for them and what hasn’t. When it comes to multi-residential design, they are undoubtedly an invaluable part of the process.
With lifelong apartment living becoming a reality in some Australian cities, how do you cater to the length of time the buildings must now serve?
The stages of life change so significantly that a single apartment might not be able to cater to your different needs, but you can have a building that can. In the US and UK we see buildings that are adaptive to people’s changing needs and often accommodate people moving from say a a two bed to a three bed to a one bed, all within the same building. We feel this could be a trend that we start to see here in Australia as we build more diverse apartment buildings.
What’s the best way for architects and property developers to work together to achieve good design outcomes?
People often say design is driven by architects, and I generally agree, however the decision-making authority ultimately sits with developers. To create a strong partnership, the developer must really appreciate the architecture and the architect should understand the commercial constraints to ensure a good design outcome is created.
Collaboration with architects is the way of the future and it’s at the core of our work. At ICON, we are currently working with six of Melbourne’s leading architects to ensure we’re creating design-led buildings that are unique and innovative. We don’t want to keep building the same thing.
In terms of the apartment market, what’s the future?
We are seeing the shift is towards high-end apartments, and our George + Powlett development in East Melbourne is leading the way in that regard. I think in designing apartments for owner-occupiers, naturally it is going to be design-led. People are discerning buyers, they shop around and look at lots of different projects before making a commitment. As a result, it’s becoming more and more important to come up with a great product that will not only be a great place to live but will also stand the test of time.
The Designing for Life panel event will take place on 18 July, as part of the Collectivity Talks series presented by Communications Collective, in partnership with Open House Melbourne. Tickets can be purchased here.