Author: Gaurav Rajadhyax
A 2020 report by the Reserve Bank of Australia predicts an impending deficit of apartments in our major cities, as evidenced by the significant disconnect between build cost, and what a homebuyer will reasonably pay.
On average, it estimates that Sydneysiders fork out 68% more to purchase their apartment as compared with the cost to supply it, with a gap of 20% for the same in Melbourne. The paper identifies building restrictions and planning regulations as being the key factor in this disparity; hindering progress in rapidly densifying communities, while preventing developers and builders from capitalising on prime opportunities for profit.
The market for uncompromising, high quality apartments is further fuelled by a contemporary shift towards small footprint thinking, combined with steep housing prices in an economy reeling from pandemic fallout.
What was once a low-budget option for investors or those first entering the property market, in 2021, well-designed apartments represent a complete solution for a mixed market of retired downsizers, families and young professionals. With increasingly diverse demographics now pursuing multi residential living, now more than ever, design efficiency is crucial to ensure long term sustainability of the model.
At R Architecture, we believe that the predicted shortage can be addressed by optimising and streamlining each stage of the design process, as a way to ensure the ongoing viability of well designed apartment models.
Two recent developments planned for Essendon demonstrate our streamlined approach to multi residential design: to deliver profitable, value-driven apartment buildings by reducing complexity, costs and time in build.
Essendon 1 - Cooper Street
Bringing quality high density living to a quiet suburban street, the Essendon 1 Apartments are situated just a short stroll from retailers and businesses on Keilor Road. The area serves as a residential bridging zone, where the local commercial and retail hub meets suburbia.
The building’s confident three-storey form is articulated through neutral render, clean lines and rhythmic screens made of fine timber fins. Drawing inspiration from the look and feel of surrounding homes, this curated palette embeds the architectural contribution within its suburban context. Beyond aesthetic value, we make a conscious effort to keep specified materials local throughout all our projects, to reduce embodied energy as well as the impact of longer lead times and costs in the construction phase.
Softened by integrated street-facing landscaping, the low-rise building makes for a sensitive addition to the neighbourhood. An internal courtyard provides a green respite within the building, allowing natural light and air to penetrate the complex. While this sacrifices a portion of habitable floorspace to public use, we see that inner city properties particularly benefit from the inclusion of landscaped recreational space on site, increasing both liveability and market appeal.
Inside, a limited range of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments are designed to appeal to diverse needs, featuring ample inbuilt storage, sizeable living space and abundant access to natural light. Of the 40 homes on site, the 12 ground floor apartments offer spacious green yards, making use of peripheral space on site to provide outdoor amenity comparable to a standalone home.
With only a select few apartment configurations available, every design decision at Essendon 1 is made with a view to efficient building. This allows us to deliver a considered solution for both stakeholders and occupants, which in turn maximises yield, fits budgetary constraints and capably serves the needs of a growing community.
Essendon 2 - Mount Alexander Road
Situated alongside multi residential addresses on a busy inner city street, the Essendon 2 Apartments illustrate the potential for apartment buildings to become exemplary civic hubs, where a sense of community can be fostered through inclusive, efficient design.
Designed with its arterial streetscape in mind, its six-storey sculptural form creates a stepped, architecturally engaging built mass, with volumes set at strategic angles to capitalise on daylight exposure. Intricate perforated metal facades distinguish Essendon 2 from neighboring apartments, as a more architecturally considered address.
Comprising 48 apartments in 1, 2 and 3 bedroom options, the building is designed to comfortably accommodate a broad cross section of homeowners and lifestyles, in a mix of simply built configurations. This approach achieves efficiency by developing a limited selection of intelligent, easily produced apartment typologies, with locally sourced material palettes to enable minimal construction costs and time on site.
Once this streamlined build process is complete, the success of the project is measured by its ability to retain and attract buyers, with practical, easily marketable spaces. To this end, we sought every opportunity to maximise the function and amenity of each apartment. Our plans include cross-flow ventilation where the building allows for openings on opposing walls, generous trapezoidal balconies which far exceed required outdoor space, with wide frontages and windows to increase natural light.
Central to the marketability of this project is its mixed use, communal purpose integrated alongside its residential offering. Its ground floor hosts two commercial tenancies at the front, with apartments to the rear. These activate the building at street level, creating a thriving and approachable public interface. A shared rooftop garden casual dining and lounge area invites interaction between occupants and reinforces the project’s civic character.
Though scale and rationale differs, both Essendon developments are indicative of our approach across all multi residential projects - to create affordably produced, appealing apartment models to support diverse demographic groups, as our population grows.
By providing a concise selection of quality apartment typologies, and limited modulations for fit out and joinery options, we enable an easily replicable, swift design and build process. The resulting homes are liveable, practical spaces where a range of people can enjoy a full lifestyle.
We believe ambitious ideas implemented in small projects like these can contribute to sustainable project viability and affordability, as well as outlining a more inclusive picture of apartment living going forward.
Gaurav Rajadhyax Bio
Gaurav Rajadhyax is director and founder of architecture practice, R Architecture. During his 15 years as an architect, he has worked with some of Australia’s leading architecture practices on large, complex multi-residential, education, retail, and heritage projects.
Gaurav specialises in working with developers as well as early learning centre operators and educators to undertake site selection, feasibility, design and delivery of contemporary early learning centre facilities. R Architecture is currently undertaking projects in Sydney and Melbourne.