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Meinhardt Imagin8 Seminar - Inner-city Chic: Next Generation Boutique Apartments

imagin8 is Meinhardt’s education seminar series designed to share the latest thinking in the built environment space, as well as provide an informal networking opportunity.

The most recent event was held last month on the topic of: ‘Inner City Chic: Next Generation Boutique Apartments’, with Urban Melbourne present during the evening.

Dubbed as one of the world’s most livable cities time and time again, Melbourne grows at the rate of more than 100,000 people each year. Consequently, demand for residential property is growing exponentially and the dollar value of Melbourne property investments has been more than doubling every ten years.

Tall buildings are getting all the press but they take time to deliver. With more infill sites being unlocked, smaller mixed-use developments are on the rise and the appetite for high quality inner city boutique apartments continues to grow. So what’s next?

Stream 1: New Global Trends in Residential Development (Richard Drummond, Knight Frank)

The first speaker was Richard Drummond who acts as Director of the Knight Frank Project Marketing division in Melbourne. Responsible for campaign development, offshore and local sales and marketing campaigns and operations of the team, Richard has been involved with the sales of more than AUD$5 billion of residential property from Australia to London and New York to Asia.

Richard touched on a number of markets both internationally (namely London and New York) and then focused on the state of the Melbourne market along with the changing needs and desires of prospective buyers. As an example the owner-occupier market has signalled a strong desire for more storage coupled with a particular appetite for larger apartments with generous living spaces.

Looking at the CBD and Docklands, Richard noted that 60-70% of buyers were offshore. As a point of difference Queens Domain has reached 70% sales at the time of the event with 50% considered retail buyers.

Stream 2: A Planning Formula for Success (Tom Harrington, Meinhardt Planning)

Next up was Tom Harrington, a qualified Town Planner with considerable understanding and experience in utilising Victoria Planning Provisions. He shared his Planning Formula for Success.

Tom made the point that a successful planning formula was replicable. The three key stages of Planning are as follows:

  1. Site Acquisition
  2. Pre-Application
  3. Application / Post Application

1. When developing boutique apartments it is critical that local nuances are understood - boutique apartments cannot be built anywhere.and that planning input ie. due diligence into site purchase is also critical.

2. During the Pre-Application phase Tom emphasised the importance of:

  • Planning input into concept design development, things like heights, setbacks, parking etc.
  • Engaging senior personnel at council for projects of scale
  • The planner and architect presenting to council planners together at the pre-app meeting
  • Using the meeting as a guide for the key issues council will consider
  • Not relying on in-principle approval from the pre-app meeting
  • Understanding how to position the application

3. During the Application phase it is critical to:

  • Use the planning system to your advantage
  • Consider development contributions
  • Consider trade-off's such as increased height in return for open space
  • Consider the use of roof space
  • Ensure if borrowed light is provided to apartments via saddle back/snorkel bedrooms that detailed drawings are provided which demonstrate how the internal wall is designed, the size of the opening/glazing,and the distance from the external light source

Current Boutique development Hot Spots identified by Tom included Brunswick, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Doncaster, Richmond, Hawthorn and South Yarra, with the City of Brimbank also offering great scope. Tom also touched on the 5 hot issues surrounding Boutique Apartments:

  1. Mandatory Height limits
  2. Apartment sizes
  3. Borrowed light
  4. Street Activation
  5. New fees and charges

Stream 3: From Structures to Services: Engineering Added Value (Ivano Piubellini)

Next was Ivano Piubellini - Meinhardt’s new Discipline Leader for Building Services with his session is also straddling building engineering disciplines. He had four new ideas that could help project teams produce better, cost-effective, more saleable apartment solutions.

These initiatives included Green / Blue roofs, Cistern foundations and Geo-exchange systems; each coming with its own associated benefits. For example green roofs result in a reduction in solar load and provision of green space while blue roofs aid in the reclaim of water and stormwater attenuation to the street with a combination of the two resulting in maximum benefits.

Cistern foundations are modular precast concrete cell systems normally employed under car parks / roads /pathways that can be utilised to form a waffle pod type foundation suitable for a typical 4-storey apartment building. The benefits associated with its use include:

  • Stormwater attenuation of flow to street drain
  • Rainwater collection and re-use
  • Fire service water storage
  • All located under the building and forming a secondary purpose.
  • Frees up the roof to provide more tenant amenity

And lastly Geo-exchange systems which allow for the elimination of unsightly air conditioning condensers and require lower energy use compared to air cooled systems. They can also be combined with building piling / micro piles.

Stream 4: Liveability and Amenity: Return on Green Space (Jon Shinkfield, REALMstudios)

Last but certainly not least was Jon Shinkfield,founding director of REALMStudios which is one of the nation’s leading urban design and landscape architecture practices. Jon’s portfolio of urban projects is framed by his interest in the relationship between water, people and place, including considerations of productivity, land use and modal transport. He is also President of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Victorian Chapter.

In the context of an increasingly urbanized and dense city model the need for available open space and occupiable streetscapes is central to our health and wellbeing. In providing for and servicing the needs of a growing population we are asking questions about spatial distribution, space typology, connectivity and function, public versus private.

Our private green places are diminishing, yet the deeply embedded Australianism of the backyard in the city is still alive and well!..a romantic view of freedom, play, growth and experimentation. But where is the new ‘backyard’ and what are its values? Are these the common or shared places in the densified city?

Jon Shinkfield

These new places are both public and private and out of necessity express multiple values and generate multiple returns:

  • Multifunction
  • Resilience
  • Productivity
  • Memory

They deliver:

  • Thermal comfort - heat and cool
  • Social cohesion – interaction, engagement, wellbeing
  • Productive place – producing energy, food and water
  • Biodiversity – nature and exchange.

And that wraps up another imagin8 seminar.

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