As debate heats up about the proposed introduction of minimum apartment standards under the Victorian State Government, at a time when affordability continues to slip eve further away from first home buyers, leading architecture firm, Plus Architecture has proven that borrowed light bedrooms and size doesn’t dictate liveability with its innovative 43sqm apartment.
A vocal advocate for apartment living, Plus Architecture Director, Craig Yelland believes strongly in apartment liveability, so much so that he has purchased a 43sqm apartment in a Plus Architecture designed apartment building, ‘Element’ in Elsternwick, and is renting it out to one ofhis graduate architects as a case in point.
Mr Yelland has conducted feasibility studies into the proposed introduction of apartment standards and says creating minimum apartment standards will be disastrous for the local market by pushing up prices and reducing supply, and all for the sake of an extra 7sqm – 10sqm the majority of young renters and buyers simply don’t want or need.
Yelland says, “Under the proposed guidelines, purchasers would be forced to pay an extra $100,000 for a one bedroom and $200,000 for a two bedroom apartment and renters an extra $400 per month, for an extra 7sqm they simply do not need."
“I love apartment living. I myself live in an apartment so I wanted to showcase that size is not everything. In fact, I wanted to buy an apartment that stood in stark contrast to everything the proposed apartment standards advocates for – this particular apartment has no cross flow ventilation and uses borrowed light for the bedroom."
“On paper this apartment sounds unliveable but in the flesh it’s just the opposite; this apartment is a great representation of why there is no need for minimum size guidelines in Victoria. You can sit in bed and look at a lovely view of the city and feel a breeze on your face, regardless that your bed is 5m from the window."
“It proves that smaller apartments, if well designed, are incredibly liveable and desirable, providing easy access to all of the amenities a young couple would want. Why should we take away this choice by forcing buyers out of the market due to inflated prices and mandating extra space that may not benefit your lifestyle?” he says.
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The 43sqm apartment is situated in a building known as Element, an 11 storey development on 221-229 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick, that was designed by Plus Architecture’s award winning team.
The smaller than average apartment may feature borrowed light in the bedroom using adjustable glass louvers, but has been cleverly designed with ample storage and features an enviable panoramic view of Melbourne city, which is visible from the 8sqm balcony.
Yelland, who recently launched a campaign against the proposed standards, which seeks to force NSW's design standards on Victoria. (Known as the State Environmental Planning Policy 65 – Design Quality of Residential Flat Development (SEPP 65) guidelines, which were introduced in Sydney in 2002), he says that if the guidelines are introduced, apartments like this would not make it past the planning phase.
“Under the new guidelines, there would be a minimum size of 50sqm for one bedroom, mandatory cross ventilation and no borrowed light apartments. Whilst this sounds great it comes with significant extra costs for apartments in Victoria. If we follow the NSW design standards we will also follow their inflated apartment prices"
Katherine OByrne, a 27 year old young professional and Plus Architecture employee, lives in the 43sqm apartment with her partner and says that they would struggle with the rent rise from $350 a week to $450 a week should the guidelines come into play.
"We simply wouldn’t be able to afford the rent under the new guidelines and would be forced to live further out of the city, which doesn’t currently suit our lifestyle needs."
“Having lived in this one bedroom apartment for two months, we couldn’t be happier. We both grew up in large houses in Tasmania, but if we wanted to go for brunch at the weekend, we had to get in our car and drive to a café."
“We are happy to compromise on space to maximise our lifestyle options, which is why Element works for us; we are situated right next to Elsternwick Station and have access to at least six incredible cafes within five minutes of our apartment,” says OByrne.
With the unveiling of the 43sqm apartment at Element, Yelland is encouraging further participation in the robust debate, asking the question of whether paying money for additional space and an external window will be worth it.
“The extra space will not come for free and I do not think that lifestyle choices should be compromised for the sake of 7sqm. Global cities such as London and New York can survive with similar sized apartments, so why can’t we?” adds Yelland.