While Melbourne is home to an abundance of spacious, luxury apartments, the city is also home to many traditionally designed apartments. The Coronavirus lockdowns were certainly challenging for all of us and the periods of self-isolation have highlighted a number of design opportunities to improve apartment living for residents.
New planning rules are being enacted across Melbourne city to improve the day-to-day liveability for apartment dwellers. These rules will hold apartment developers to higher standards when designing and developing inner-city apartment homes.
The new standards will mean that any Melbourne apartment building with more than ten residences must provide a dedicated communal space, while apartment buildings that are five storeys or higher will be required to employ sensitive design practices to avoid ‘wind tunneling’. This will eliminate underused, windswept balconies on buildings taller than 40m, provide clearer design flexibility to these homes and offer more usable interior spaces - like winter gardens.
The new rules will also ensure apartments are designed to provide more natural light to residents, with balconies being encouraged to minimise overshadowing for apartments below.
Planning Minister Richard Wynn said the changes will ensure that Melbourne remains one of the world’s most liveable cities, commenting “these changes are about ensuring that residents of apartment buildings - both tenants and owner occupiers - get the full benefits of their community and their lifestyle is improved by clever design choices.”
Previously, there were no laws governing how Victoria’s apartments must be designed beyond the National Construction Code. In a 2020 interview with ABC News, RMIT University Professor of Environment and Planning Dr. Michael Buxton predicted that many apartments were designed poorly or too small which would negatively impact the residents’ lives when confined to them for long periods of time.
“We know that most of these apartments are one or two bedroom and they’re particularly small. People who are locked down in tiny apartments, often without balconies, over long periods of time are really going to be stressed, [this will cause] a whole range of problems.” He continued, “being shut away in these kinds of environments is going to severely affect a lot of people and have tremendous impacts on their wellbeing.”
Principal of John Wardle Architects, John Wardle also spoke to ABC News about the pandemic dramatically changing people’s relationships with their homes. He explained, “I’m sure everybody’s now in a state where they’re testing the efficiencies, character and amenity of their home with a different set of metrics. It’s not just a place to come and spend evenings and weekends, but for a period of time, it’s a place where we’re spending all our lives.”
He spoke about raising the quality of typical apartment living, “let’s hope pandemics remain 100 years or so apart, but it’s time to look at what an individual needs at home.”