Michael Spartalis, EEKOS director, talks about the trends that are affecting the longevity of today’s buildings.
There are big shifts occurring in the property and building market; we are becoming increasingly aware of how good and relevant design can directly impact our lives; whether through affordability, the environment, or benefits to our health and happiness. The drivers of new buildings in Perth are rapidly changing and we must give greater consideration to how ‘resilient’ design can be used to meet the requirements of our clients and of the community, both now and in the future.
Are we building obsolescence into our buildings?
That’s the big question. A building is constructed to last 50 – 75 years, but did you know that much of the housing stock built during the 80s and 90s is already obsolete and being pulled down? This is primarily due to poor energy performance, high operation and maintenance costs, inflexible internal planning, and a lack of vision of evolving density allowances. In office design, fitouts now turnover every 5 years rather than 10 – 15 years due to not allowing for workplace density increases, and not providing adaptive fitout designs to adapt to the way we do our work. These are the symptoms we are seeing in a building industry suffering from pressures imposed on good design at the beginning of a project. The result? Developments become obsolete long before they should. This means poor returns on investment, and high costs financially, socially and to the environment, simply because we fail to consider designing for longevity. We must consider that advances in technology, in the way we work and in integrated health care are now the biggest influences on design resilience. Acknowledging the trends, and backing this with data and evidence-based design, allows us to give our projects a resilient future – but to see the financial and environmental benefits, greater importance must be placed on the design process.
Understanding & Vision
We’re acutely aware of high housing prices and rental affordability, but there is also a growing trend towards people choosing to live in smaller homes if the location facilitates a healthy and happy lifestyle. This is leading to pressures on zoning densities around main streets, transport nodes and main road arteries. Compounding this, Australian Census data tells us that we have an ageing population; people over 65 years of age will increase by 47% in the next 13 years. So we can’t keep thinking of a new building lasting for 75 years if it can’t satisfy our needs within the next 13 years. Developments must allow us to stay in our neighbourhood or home for longer, contain a greater diversity of housing types that allow for downsizing, and have intelligent structures that facilitate these changes - and they need to be affordable. Importantly, to maintain a good quality of life these developments must be located close to opportunities for social interaction, happy and healthy work and lifestyle choices, and basic amenities such as healthcare and shops - this is what creates the safe, diverse, multigenerational vibrancy that is intrinsic to the places we love to live in.
Good, Resilient Design
The financial, social and environmental benefits of good design are real and measurable. Design has the power to nurture healthy, productive and active lifestyles and the benefits of this touch all aspects of our lives. By considering flexible solutions for home or work, spaces that can be opened, closed, expanded or compacted just by the end-user adding or removing a wall, we can create designs that allow for a variety of uses, and for regulations that may change completely in the next 5 - 10 years. We can design spaces that give us the ability to work at home, to sub-divide a small apartment, or opt to downsize but still stay in our home, and we can create efficient designs that respond to the environment because we want to pay less to run our house or office. We want to live closer to work. We want to be closer to cafes, culture, entertainment and good, local markets. We want quality places to live at the various stages of our life. These are the considerations that make for good, resilient design and are examples of how we can implement resilient design practices across all sectors of the building industry.
Join the Discussion
The biggest costs facing us in the future will be a result of built-in obsolescence, in all it’s forms, being built into current developments. We’d like to hear about your experiences on the subject by commenting on this article which is located on our website, or by getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.