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Spring Street releases long-awaited draft apartment design standards

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has released the long-awaited Better Apartments draft design standards and with its release, the final round of public consultation has kicked off ahead of a scheduled December 2016 introduction timeframe.

The draft design standards set out "to address the specific apartment design and amenity issues raised through public consultation". They are broken down as follows:

  • Building setback
  • Light wells
  • Room depth
  • Windows
  • Storage
  • Noise impacts
  • Energy efficiency
  • Solar access to communal open space
  • Natural ventilation
  • Private open space
  • Communal open space
  • Landscaping
  • Accessibility
  • Dwelling entry and internal circulation
  • Waste
  • Water management

At a media conference held in a 1 bedroom, 48 square metre apartment in Lendlease's 888 Collins Street, the Minister was keen to emphasise the draft design standards are intended to focus on enabling good design.

The key areas that the community told us that need to be changed were to ensure that you actually get natural light into the building, that you get decent ventialiation into the building that you have sound attenuation in the building and that you have storage in the building as well.

And if you look at say, the apartment we're in now, a Lendlease apartment, you'll see that it doesn't have a minimum size like Sydney - which has 50 sqm for a 1 bedroom mandated - this is actually a 48 square metre apartment which I think achieves and in fact improves upon the standards that we are putting in place.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne

For the record, here's a floorplan of the apartment the media conference was held in.

888 Collins Street, 1 bedroom: 48sqm internal, 6sqm external. Source: REA Group

When pressed about minimum apartment size standards, the Minister ruled them out.

We will not be mandating minumum sizes because we want to ensure that good design is a part of the solution to ensure that we get quality developments. This is about offering flexibility, and the opportunity for developers to respond to the guidelines that we are putting in place.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne

Another question from the media pack: "What's going to stop developers from going even smaller?"

The opportunity for is obviously there, but the market will drive these outcomes. When we came to government and I came to this ministry, many of the applications that were coming before me were in fact for 1 bedroom apartments, but the market has entirely shifted.

We've now got 1, 2, 3 and indeed 4 bedroom apartments and this of course is reflected in the fact now that the government is going to have to look [to build] a school in Docklands, because families are now taking up the opportunity of apartment-style living.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne

See the Better Apartments overview and Better Apartments Draft Design Standards on DELWP's website. The deadline for submissions is 5pm, September 19, 2016.

As always, Urban Melbourne is also interested in community and industry comment. Use the comment section below or email the editors: [email protected]

22 comments

Bilby's picture

The apartment floorplan shown wastes space in quite an obvious way. Why not flip the bathroom layout left to right and utilise the dead space at the end of the corridor for floor to ceiling storage / linen cupboard?

If this is meant to be an examplar of "good design" then I think the Minister has been somewhat misled.

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Alastair Taylor's picture

Somehow, I think you'd never be satisfied Bilby.

Yeah, thought as much.

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

It's an efficient layout for services that requires fewer penetrations in the slab for all the plumbing. The kitchen and bathroom share a single services riser.

Beyond that it's actually a good layout as a minimum and the only thing I'd add is an island bench adjacent to the European laundry that doubled as a dining area

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Aussie Steve's picture

I agree with Bilby here. The layout isn't great. And too much dead space that should be better designed.

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theboynoodle's picture

The only dead space is the corridor.

On the one hand corridors are a waste of space - and, where apartments are effectively bought and sold by the sqm, a valuable one.

On the other hand, there is *some* amenity to space which must be left empty. I lived in a small one-bed back in the UK and it was incredibly efficiently laid out, but felt crowded because there was *only* room space. Those little pockets of space 'in between' aren't necessarily as dead in reality as they seem on a plan.

The bathroom itself looks reasonably sized, and I don't see any different layout increasing the living area, so what could be achieved? Storage is good (personally I think it's overrated and over-used, but that's because I am a Marie Kondo fundamentalist). If this design could have been reconfigured to get the laundry to the back of the bathroom (double benefit there.. more kitchen space/storage, and the noise of the washing machine moved further from the living area) then that would be a good win... but I think you'd end up sacrificing kitchen floorspace for that.

If it was my space I'd do as Laurence suggests and put an island/bench in to split the kitchen and living area. But that would mean no dining area. Developers seem to like to be able to show dining areas though, and, I guess, if a bench is something the owner can add if desired then there's no great loss.

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Alastair Taylor's picture

^ Just a quick note - the apartment did have an island table in it and I 100% agree with

Those little pockets of space 'in between' aren't necessarily as dead in reality as they seem on a plan.

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Bilby's picture

Seriously? Would you rather have a longer corridor, or a 1/3 bigger bathroom?

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Alastair Taylor's picture

How many minutes a day do you spend in a bathroom compared to a living area, kitchen or bedroom (whether awake or asleep)?

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theboynoodle's picture

Seriously? Would you rather have a longer corridor, or a 1/3 bigger bathroom?

Seriously? If my bathroom was already big enough then i'd take the corridor. And by 'big enough' I really just mean that it's not tiny.

It's a matter of preference, of course.

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Bilby's picture

Ok, Theboynoodle. But I don't really get it. What's the benefit of an addition 1 x 1m square of corridor vs making the bathroom area more spacious?

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Mateusz Gwozdz's picture

I'd opt for the corridor. I dislike bathrooms/toilets that open directly into open/public space. Albeit small, the corridor creates another dimension and lessens the sense the living area is a box.
I'm not sure there is much to gain from an extra square meter in the bathroom either.. 99 times out of a hundred I'm in a bathroom alone and don't need a great amount of room.

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Adrian's picture

This is a very interesting discussion about the benefits of dead vs usable space. Having lived in a tiny apartment for near 15 years and moving into another that won't be a lot bigger this has been a big deal for me. I see the benefit of having both but ultimately given the choice I'd choose usable space each time.

I currently have the added dilemma of a decent sized balcony which barely gets used except when visitors come over and spill onto it. In my new place I made the choice between two very similar apartments to trade a winter garden for extra enclosed bedroom space given the percentage of times I'd use both. The above apartment poses a very similar dilemma.

Of course a big thing rarely considered is ceiling height. I have a friend who has a large 2br apartment (>80sqm) but the combination of excessive dead space in form of long corridors combined with low 2.5m ceiling height makes me feel more cramped than in my own little 45sqm apartment that has high ceilings, little dead space and a lot of building frontage letting plenty of natural light in. Fortunately my new apartment appears to be very similar in that respect.

I agree with Bilby on the first comment above the bathroom door should be flipped and you'd gain extra cupboard space absolutely no reason to have it in the corner otherwise and it still wouldn't open directly into living space. I also like that apartment for having the front door open into the kitchen wasting very little entryway space - though I agree with sentiments of having empty space around entryways so people don't just enter directly into your living space.

In apartments this small you don't have much to compromise with so I think overall the above is a pretty good design.

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Bilby's picture

It certainly has been an intriguing discussion - I'm genuinely surprised to hear people are attached to corridor space in an apartment this size. I'm not saying that corridors are always dead space - but in this case, it is hard to see what use the extra bit of corridor serves. Just for the record, I have been living in a 30m2 apartment space since December last year, and plan to keep doing so for another 6 months or so.

I have room for a table next to the kitchen (just) and a bed and that's about it, but the space has high ceilings (3m) and a wall of windows, which makes all the difference. It's far from ideal, but it is interesting to see how it is possible to adapt to a tiny living area.

The main problem for me with an apartment like this has been the lack of opportunity for physical movement while at home. My previous place had stairs and opportunities to move around the space more. So, the issue of health and wellbeing does indeed seem to be connected with tight living environments, in my view (although I do get out and walk whenever I have time).

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theboynoodle's picture

Ok, Theboynoodle. But I don't really get it. What's the benefit of an addition 1 x 1m square of corridor vs making the bathroom area more spacious?

Mateusz puts it really well. But the alternative view is perfectly understandable.

My current home is configured a bit like the one shown. It's a two bed, so it has more at 'both ends' but it has the little corridor space running from the living area along the bedrooms and to the bathroom. I like my little corridor. I like the few steps between my primary and other living areas. The space is clear (it has to be) aside from pictures on the wall and i'm kinda glad the layout forces me to have that. It's a little 'pause' point, and I think it makes the whole home feel a bit bigger.

I had an entrance hallway in a place I owned in England some years ago. It's not especially comparable to the sorts of spaces we're discussing here (the apartment was a conversion of an old building, the hallway was larger in every direction and lit by a lovely huge window) but it was still a space that couldn't be 'used'.. and it was my favorite part of the home (which is saying something, because the rest of it was brilliant).

So I absolutely see the value of that space and what it would add to my living experience. On paper, at least. From then it's just a case of whether I could sacrifice it to get anything better. More bathroom space (and it would only be space, not usable space) doesn't give me anything.. with the aforementioned proviso that the bathroom, as is, is not too small.

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George D's picture

People often imagine balconies in the best possible circumstances. The reality is that for nine months of the year, they're of very little use except for smokers (and that section of the population is rapidly shrinking), and represent an expensive reduction in usable apartment space.

They're unpleasant in any kind of wind, and the higher they are the less enjoyable they are. Balconies are also a safety risk for falling objects and (I hate to say it) suicide risk, which deserves some consideration.

I would be much happier with lesser balconies, and more usable public space in the form of gardens, public parks, and the like.

As with all optional amenities, those who want balconies will have the option of purchasing them.

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Adrian's picture

^^ George D - exactly my situation. Balconies on high-rises really are for the most part a wasted space. That said I do *love* going out there occasionally and soaking up the city view and air from it. But for the percentage of time each week I do that I'd still rather have it as interior space or at least convert 2/3rds of it (I have a wide but shallow balcony).

I think people missed the point of the bathroom reconfig above. If you moved the door to the other end towards living room you would gain a big cupboard space at the end of what is now the corridor, the bathroom still would not be opening into any common public area and the bathroom would remain exactly the same size and you would still get a reasonable amount of corridor - who wouldn't want all that ?

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

^That's missing the point about constructability and efficiency in the layout of services and penetrations. Moving the door as suggested would mean flipping the whole bathroom layout.

Additionally the vertical servicing and stacking of apartments needs to be understood and considered beyond just a single apartment floor plan. There may be a differently configured apartment above this but the service rises stack most efficiently with this bathroom in that particular configuration.

Anyone that has worked on a multi-residential project would be aware of that.

Increasing the length of the bathroom and having the door at the end of the corridor would also add further cost to the apartment - more materials, more waterproofing and acoustic substrates, more labour which would then be passed on to the purchaser.

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Mateusz Gwozdz's picture

^^ I see value in that, but as Laurence explained this would require another slab penetration which drives up cost. That leads to the question, how much would you pay for a cupboard?

I use under bed shelves for linen storage, so find the one built in robe I have is sufficient, but can see how someone else might find this amount of storage space lacking.

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theboynoodle's picture

Increasing the length of the bathroom and having the door at the end of the corridor would also add further cost to the apartment - more materials, more waterproofing and acoustic substrates, more labour which would then be passed on to the purchaser.

Point of order, your honor..

No it wouldn't. Apartments are not sold at cost+ pricing, they are sold at market price.. and the market doesn't give a stuff what it costs to build. Any increase in constructions costs are worn by the developer and/or the landowner.

Incurring additional construction costs that increase the value of a property (by, in effect, making it desirable to a higher bidder) is cost-benefit decision for the developer.

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Bilby's picture

The services riser is beside the point here. Assuming the designer was aware of the problem at all, why design the building with the riser in this particular location, and not as part of a floorplan module set in against the west wall?

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

I think an architect would have designed this one and I know that there are 100 different considerations when it comes to where these services go beyond minimising the length of corridors.

No building is perfect and no apartment has a perfect layout. The whole point of the controls is to design liveable apartments not perfect apartments.

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krzy stoff's picture

As cosy as can be, with this new apartment standard, I can forsee some apartments popping up around Melbourne similar to Elwood's Chicago flophouse: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S65lJGs7YC8>

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