Planning Should Match Buyer Expectations

In this post I’ll wrap up my brief look at the Apartment Design Guidelines issued by the NSW Department of Planning & Environment by exploring how well the Guidelines match key buyer expectations.

A reminder that the Guidelines were introduced to help deliver ‘the best apartments in the country’. It’s much too early to tick this aim as being achieved, still we know that planning issues will always attract a lot of attention, however if the Guidelines are seen as creating awareness and so making a positive contribution, then they are to be welcomed.

Following on from my previous posts, there are a few additional items to consider before summing up: natural light, utility, water conservation, waste management and building maintenance, are all basic yet important aspects of apartment design and they all directly impact residents.

Some Everyday Issues

Having just passed the shortest day of the year I am reminded about how important every buyer sees natural light, and even at the height of summer, natural light and plenty of it, is always high on the agenda of most buyers. The Guidelines pay some attention to this point and that also ties back to aspects of privacy mentioned earlier as a key area design needs to address.

Another everyday area that tends to pop up concerns water conservation. I often have buyers comment and ask about how local rainwater is managed and collected. Healthy good-looking gardens are connected to this topic and quality landscaping that’s well cared for always has strong buyer appeal, and so it’s no real surprise the Guidelines address this.

A big issue is waste management. I have commented here before that one common indication of a well managed apartment building is a clean and ordered garbage room.

Not the most glamorous subject, however poorly designed waste management has a big negative impact from day one. The topic is addressed and some simple design recommendations are made that will make a big difference to a building’s appeal to residents and we should not forget how waste management impacts the entire local community.

Streets packed with bins, or footpaths blocked with a discarded mattress looks terrible. Waste management, the collection of bins, how bulky items are managed, all need attention during the design stage of a project, and that brings me to a final point, building maintenance.

Long-term maintenance of an apartment project is a critical issue. If maintenance is not taken into account it creates problems and adds to costs long-term. A building that is not maintained or when its design makes it hard and costly to maintain, will impact the value and appeal of individual apartments. Design aspects of access, cleaning, repairs and materials used all need to be considered in combination.

Design Review

The Guidelines detail how the design review of projects should function, nominating various experts, architects, landscape architects and urban designers, and restricting councilors, council officers and council employees from the design review process.

Accepting that some aspects of design will come down to ‘personal taste’ the wider context of many of the issues outlined in the Guidelines are central and need to be canvassed.

Around planning issues, buyers frequently express their concerns about a few other core issues: how the project relates to an area, fits the community, access to open space and community facilities and always the density of an area.

Nine Key Design Points

The Apartment Design Guide lists nine key design pointers, that I would like to repeat, and in marketing any project or apartment I suggest these same points will always be important to buyers, the points are worth repeating: content and neighbourhood character, built form scale, density, sustainability, landscape, amenity, safety, housing diversity and social interaction and aesthetics.

If all of these in the Guidelines elements were addressed it would give us great results and now with benchmarks established that’s a positive start.