“Australia is a capitalist society, but one that is being spoilt by greed and fear of the consequences for change,” according to Archicentre Australia director Peter Georgiev.
Worthwhile change in Australia’s residential housing industry ought be driven by government regulators taking heed of the common-sense, practical and energy efficient solutions offered by community-based architects.
“Architects can facilitate this process in a cost-effective manner,” he says, adding, “but the real impediment to this are vested interests of major building organisations and a “head in the sand” approach by regulators.”
“This process needs to embrace change on at least two fronts – firstly, attractive design alternatives as far as existing and new residential accommodation is concerned, including build-to-rent, co-living, more effective medium density development and more efficient use of space in the in-demand inner city areas, and secondly, more rigourous consideration of appropriate construction techniques that will serve communities over generations rather than requiring re-development within 10, 20 or even 30-years time, “ says Georgiev.
Georgiev feels that governments at national, state and local levels are much too fearful of building industry vested interests to bring about change.
“In this instance their fear overcomes any desire to better serve constituents – the ones that put them in power and the ones suffering most from under-performing residential accommodation,” he says.
Performance based building regulations – whilst appearing to offer opportunities for innovation – often become exploited in a way that disadvantages the end users.
Matters of appropriate construction for fire protection, acoustic/noise control, waterproofing and constructional certainty of footing/slab systems regardless of founding soil type – these are the typical areas where deficiencies are paramount compared to previous eras where building codes were prescriptive.
Other examples of regulatory barriers involve financial matters – including tax structures, particularly land tax, and impediments to the way managed investment trusts are permitted to invest. The trusts are unable to invest in residential property unless it is affordable housing.
Australia has a massive pool of capital in its superannuation industry, but Georgiev says regulatory constraints mean this is unable to be used for attractive alternative housing solutions, such as build-to-rent, and this is a huge missed opportunity.
The transformation of personal transport with rapid strides being made in development of automated vehicles, indicates the change taking place and housing in the future will need to address this as well.
“We can learn from history and the time-honoured approaches to human habitation arising out of antiquity – rather than producing what Architectural Review magazine has termed “Notopia” – a sameness and lack of architectural vision throughout the western world.
“By harnessing their understanding of the confluence of driving forces that have resulted in the build-to-rent and co-living models, architects can work creatively to broker innovative non-standard design solutions with regulators and encourage change,” says Georgiev.