As someone responsible for the delivery of residential projects, Mark Percy is well qualified to observe and comment upon the importance of quality and design in major residential developments. To start this topic, I asked Mark if there were particular lessons or trends in recent developments that he would personally highlight.

“What I have observed over recent years is that the medium and high density residential market appears to have shifted substantially.”

Until a few years ago, it was rare to see a significant number of one-bedroom or studio apartments in the majority of developments. Previously a typical mix favored two-and-three-bedrooms, but that has changed. Today there are often few 3 bedroom apartments and significantly more 1 bedroom and studio apartments being marketed. From many of the trends we have already discussed, it is not a surprise that this has mainly been driven by affordability.  There are also major demographic trends, now very much in evidence, driving the demand for smaller homes, such as smaller families, more single person households and more couples without children or having children much later in life – these groups don’t want 3 bedroom homes but will compromise the larger dwelling for a location that has amenity and lifestyle benefits.

But this trend is not only limited to apartments – it is apparent that the same trend is impacting all areas of the housing market.  In an effort to address affordability and planning issues, the size of house building lots are getting smaller.  This requires house sizes to be reduced but consequently increases the need for high quality design outcomes to minimize any compromise in amenity compared to larger houses.

“Cbus Property and the industry have to respond to these trends, however budget driven developments may potentially create problems in the future if this results in quality and design being sacrificed or if there is a rush to deliver a particular type of product that results in over-supply.”

However, it is clear that Mark sees the roles of quality and design in major projects as a necessity, without room for compromise.  These are two areas where Mark has some very specific views that are supported by a depth of experience with some of Australia’s major developers that clearly inform his comments.

“I accept that design and quality are also two topics where opinions and views may naturally differ, many people have their own shared experiences and views, but I think quality should always be central, it’s not really subjective.

“In all projects, there is a need to have as a foundation for the project – design and quality.  Good design doesn’t always have to be headline generating.  It has as much to do with the little things, the everyday.As we respond to shifting demand we have to be sure the product still functions well and through thoughtful design, help to steer good quality outcomes.”

In an earlier post, Mark also made the comment that he believes that the local construction industry already has a focus on quality but there is always room for improvement.

“To help manage and evolve design for each Cbus Property project, we always have several design reviews –not just by those closely involved in the project.   The importance of a peer review from an architect who is not part of the project team cannot be underestimated.  It’s important to make sure that common sense items are not lost in the hurly-burly to get a project to market.  It’s the seemingly obvious points that are often overlooked such as the provision of a linen and somewhere to store the vacuum cleaner and ironing board that we should not loose sight of.

“An external design and functionality review by someone who looks at what is required for the apartment to function as a comfortable home, day in and day out, is a must.  The rushed design process can easily overlook this step or it is not seen as being important by some developers, which is important. This is an independent task away from the project team, but the design team needs to take such recommendations to heart and address the findings in their design.”

When Mark first reviews the design of an apartment project, he is keen to ensure the right feel of space and size.  For Mark, it’s like a sixth-sense -there clearly needs to be a balance so that the spaces created are appealing.

“Apartments need to be livable, the nuts and bolts need to be ticked off, and the quality needs to be there and, as already highlighted, the two are intertwined.  The delivery of quality will involve many people at many stages of the project.

“The entire project has to deliver quality – it’s a focus Cbus Property has from start to finish, that every member of the development team buys into, without reservation.  I think it’s important that this happens in such a complex environment as ours.”