These comments on some of the design challenges for apartment architects and developers were somewhat seeded by a recent article (that I read in the Sydney Morning Herald) concerning the costs associated the price variations between 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom apartments and how this was forcing some buyers out of parts of the market. In particular the increasingly popular and important inner-city apartment market.

 The provision of a third bedroom may not be so much a design hurdle but certainly is a matter of cost and possibly planning.

While in some suburbs there is now the emergence of varied flexible or dual-key apartments. This design which offers (under a single title) a combination 2-bedroom and 1-bedroom apartment, able to provide varied forms of dual occupancy. Either a combination of home and investment today, that later changes to a single larger 3-bedroom apartment, or provides accommodation for a couple and a parent or older child.

Planning plays a big part in design and councils have for their part been very active in for example dictating how parking numbers and controls will be met in developments, they have also influenced the provision of storage. Both of these changes can be traced to the wider social impact. Mainly driven by utility, which for example in the 1920’s and 30’s gave rise to some older apartments having the provision of a utility or ‘trades’ entrance. Parking and storage, while very straight forward items, have become and will continue to be marketing hot-spots.

The environmental is also having an impact: and a place to dry clothes, other than in a cloth dryer is now an item on the agenda. Here it might also be back to the future with the idea of open-air lines on the roof of buildings; an appealing ‘green’ incentive that may well draw the eco-friendly buyers.

The size and location of balconies is another key design issue, because of the possible smells associated with smoking and a BBQ. Also as we look to market developments in ever more densely populated areas, design issues of privacy, solar access and noise are big issues.

Apartment design is evolving, as clearly evidenced by the bedroom debate outlined, and like the housing market, the goal must be to avoid cookie cutter solutions, that are only driven by cost, or the reluctance of the sales and development teams to embrace new designs and ideas.

Councils too must be quicker to approve designs that are outside the box, so that planning delays does not frustrate good design. But it’s also a good idea to involve, as part of the design team, those of us who will be charged with securing end buyers for the final product.