Why Melbourne needs strict rules for apartment design

As the population in Melbourne is set to rapidly increase over the next few decades, our attention now turns to housing and how we will need to house approximately 100,000 more new residents every year.

Apartments will be playing a vital role in this strategy, with 42,000 new homes required by 2031; however with the lack of rules for apartment design and development in place, what are Melbourne tenants really getting?

When you compare Melbourne apartments to Sydney apartments, Sydney has more stringent planning rules in force and less flexibility than Melbourne. Some of these rules include:

Minimum Floor Space

The minimum floor space in Sydney is 50m² for a one bedroom apartment and 70m² for a two bedroom apartment. This is similar to other cities including Adelaide and London. In comparison, there seems to be no rules for Melbourne apartments, but generally apartments do tend to be smaller in size. A one bedroom apartment in Melbourne could be just 42m², whilst a two bedroom apartment could be as small as 52m².

However, the Victoria’s State Architect was considering new rules in 2014 to have a minimum floor space of 50m² for a one bedroom apartment and 65m² for a two bedroom apartment.

Apartments that are too small might not be adaptable or flexible over time and may not be large enough to accommodate furniture or offer enough ventilation or storage space. A smaller space also reflects on social factors, with less room for guests and friends to come and visit.

Ceiling Heights

Sydney also has strict rules in place for ceiling heights, and the minimum height for a habitable room in Sydney is 2.7m. In Melbourne, this minimum required height is just 2.4m, but has been proposed to increase to 2.7m.

Balcony Space

Sydney also has rules for balconies, which must have a minimum depth of 2 metres. In contrast, there are no rules in Melbourne for this.

With such flexibility being offered to Melbourne developers, there are some apartments that are poorly designed with low ceilings, bedrooms without windows, no cross ventilation and even too many apartments per level. It is important to note though that this is not the case of all apartments in Melbourne.

As larger apartments cost more money to build, developers are able to use this flexibility to their advantage to build more smaller apartments allowing them to increase their profits.

However, if stricter rules were enforced this would make development costs more expensive and apartments would have to go up in price, meaning that more affordable apartments become harder to find, which has become the case in Sydney.

One of the key reasons behind the smaller apartment design is the large amount of investors in Melbourne. Approximately 85% of apartments within Melbourne are bought by investors who are looking for affordable prices in areas of growth.

Developers want to appeal to this market and therefore build and design their apartments with the investor in mind as they know these types of apartments sell.

What should Melbourne be doing?

With Melbourne recognised as one of the most liveable cities in the world, it is important that there are high quality living standards available. Everyone involved with delivering housing from the architects, developers and investors to the government and communities need to share the high core value of quality design. Without a focus on design quality, there is a risk that new homes will compromise residents’ living experience and will not be adaptable or flexible enough to meet future needs.
Published on 14th of April 2015 by Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich


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