The era of hyper-local, responsive multi-residential development is here. Australian architects and designers are embracing a granular understanding of urban microclimates, harnessing the power of salvaged materials, and prioritising resident empowerment as they forge a new frontier in sustainable design. 

This isn't just about ticking sustainability boxes – it's about shaping multi-residential buildings that are as dynamic and nuanced as the environments and communities they serve. Here, we take a closer look at the key trends shaping this pivotal shift. 

Hyper-local design

Multi-residential design is shedding its uniform approach, embracing the nuances of the urban microclimate. Architects are meticulously mapping development sites to pinpoint zones prone to heat build-up, influencing material choices and landscaping for resident comfort. Building forms and communal spaces now respond purposefully to the environment, mitigating harsh winds or channelling cooling breezes for natural ventilation.

Dynamic facades are the new frontier: operable louvres, responsive awnings, and lush green screens adapt to control solar gain, optimising indoor comfort across seasons and throughout the day. This approach transforms buildings into responsive organisms within their urban context, enhancing liveability and reducing reliance on mechanical systems.

Reclaimed materials shape multi-res

Multi-residential developments are embracing a unique intersection of creativity and sustainability: the upcycling of salvaged materials. We're seeing salvaged brick, timber, and prefabricated elements repurposed as striking architectural features, reducing landfill waste and infusing buildings with history. Salvaged fixtures and fittings find new life in common areas and apartments, adding character and reducing demand for new materials.

This trend goes beyond aesthetics. Architects and designers are proactively partnering with deconstruction firms, baking reuse potential into projects from the start. They're sourcing unique materials from demolition sites, ensuring a second – or even third – life for elements with rich stories to tell.

Connection cultivates sustainability 

Multi-residential buildings are breaking free from the confines of isolated units, becoming vibrant hubs where shared spaces foster connection and sustainability. Rooftop gardens and communal farms where residents grow their own food or flexible, multi-purpose areas for everything from co-working to social gatherings, are becoming standard practice for this typology.

This community-first approach is creating spaces that encourage interaction and a sense of belonging – and this shift not only enhances the resident experience but also promotes responsible urban living through shared resources, skill exchange, and a collective drive for sustainability.

The “x-ray” building

As the focus on embodied carbon intensifies, a nuanced approach to material lifecycles and data-driven decision-making is crucial for sustainable multi-residential development. We're witnessing a shift towards Design for Disassembly (DfD) where modular construction systems facilitate future deconstruction, renovation, and relocation, minimising waste and extending component lifespan. An example? A building where steel beams are bolted together rather than welded, allowing easy disassembly. Digital material passports track a beam's lifecycle, providing data on past uses, and informing future reuse potential. Blockchain technology verifies the origin and processing of building materials, empowering developers to choose low-impact options. 

These strategies combat planned obsolescence, transforming multi-residential buildings into dynamic material repositories. By prioritising disassembly, tracking material health, and leveraging blockchain for transparency, we move closer to a circular construction economy where 'waste' from one project becomes a resource for the next.

Right to repair

Multi-residential buildings are becoming easier to fix – and it’s the residents who are encouraged to look after them. Buildings now feature clear access routes for plumbing and electrical systems, making it easier for residents to tackle basic maintenance themselves. Digital platforms provide residents with real-time information on their building's energy use, potential maintenance needs, and even inspire them to start their own sustainability projects. Plus, the rise of shared workshops and tool libraries gives residents the resources and workspace they need to repair appliances, share skills, and keep things out of the landfill longer.

But this trend isn't just about saving money, it's about residents feeling empowered to take care of their buildings for the long haul. It means less waste, more community connection, and a whole new way of thinking about sustainable living in multi-residential settings.

Smart tech

Between a washing machine that knows exactly how much water it needs for each load, and a dishwasher that waits until the energy grid is less busy to run its cycle, the potential of smart appliances in multi-residential buildings cannot be underestimated. They are convenient, and they're serious water and energy savers. They can make a real difference in apartment buildings where lots of people share resources and by running on off-peak power – or using energy generated right on-site with solar panels – smart appliances help lower costs for everyone.

The result? Residents get the convenience and savings of smart technology, and the whole building benefits from a smaller environmental footprint.

These trends signal a profound shift in how multi-residential buildings are designed, built, and inhabited. It's a move away from homogeneity towards solutions that are deeply connected to their environment, rich in history, and designed to evolve over time. By embracing hyper-local design, the power of the reclaimed, and resident-driven stewardship, Australian architects and designers aren't just shaping buildings – they're shaping a more sustainable, resilient, and human-centred vision for the future of urban living.

The 2024 Sustainability Awards jury is looking for innovative and functional designs that prioritise sustainability and community, while also delivering an outstanding visual appeal. 

Don't miss out on the opportunity to showcase your project and contribute to a better future. Click here for more information.


Image: Ferrars & York by Hip V. Hype.