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Innovations in Apartment Living


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Apartment living is becoming more popular according to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, with around 10% of the population living in apartments. Of these apartment dwellers, 48% were families, and 42% were single people living alone. Group Households made up 9.6%.

The census for 2016 also showed that by far the majority of apartments were being rented rather than owned. What’s more, on average, the income of those living in apartments was lower than those in freestanding homes. 

The census for 2016 also showed that by far the majority of apartments were being rented rather than owned. 

Research by CoreLogic in its 2017 Perceptions of Housing Affordability found: “By every measure, housing affordability has worsened over the past 15 years. The cost of buying a dwelling currently takes 7.2 times the annual income of a typical household — up from 4.2 times income 15 years ago.”

In short, there are many reasons apartment living is on the rise — whether out of preference, convenience, affordability, or necessity. 

Susan Dugdale of Dugdale Associates and a judge at the recent Australian National Architecture Awards noted when it comes to apartment living, innovations have not kept pace: “Multi-Residential properties still have a long way to go when it comes to volume built properties.They are still struggling to get it right. Houses that work on a smaller footprint will be good exemplars for higher density living in the future.”

Jobsite investigates some of the emerging trends both here and overseas that are making waves in the world of multi-residential living. 

1. Micro-Apartments. 

With the growth in single occupancy living, coupled with housing affordability, Australian designers could take a leaf from Hong Kong, where micro-apartments are on the rise. There are many different styles and concepts. Broadly, they share the values of multi-functional space, fixtures and fittings to make the most of every available square inch.

One apartment prototype in Madrid, designed by PKMN Architectures, utilises sliding stacks, much like you might find in a library. You can use them to create or reduce rooms, making the apartment much more versatile. Beds and storage are neatly tucked away in stacks, creating multi-functional spaces. Only the wet areas, meaning kitchen and bathroom, with fixed plumbing stay in situ. 

Hong Kong, with its space restrictions and high dependence on high-rise apartment living, has mastered the art of the micro-apartment. Architects there are creating multi-functional magic in spaces as small as 266 square-feet (and no doubt smaller). The furniture pops up when necessary; hidden storage cupboards or area that can be reconfigured for another purpose quickly. You can spot there solutions such as an underfloor table, hidden storage, or an office and kitchen that can easily slide away from view.

2. Reconfigured space for changing circumstances. 

Micro-Apartments are all well and good for young urban singles, but what happens when they partner up? Songpa Micro-Housing has solved the problem by creating 14 ‘unit blocks’ where residents can either claim a single micro-apartment or where a couple or friends can recombine the apartments for larger living spaces. The flexibility of the Songpa approach allows for changing life and work situations, meaning residents can occupy the building longer and, therefore, more sustainably. The apartment complex also has communal spaces to create a sense of community.

3. Gen-Y Specific housing.  

Architect David Barr has recently created a hybrid of an apartment building and freestanding house. The Gen-Y Demonstration Housing Project is a complex of three micro-apartment buildings that blend with their surrounding suburban context and are small enough to be located on a standard-sized residential block. It addresses a growing community trend by providing generous shared, external, and semi-external areas. Amalgamated productive gardens and gathering spaces create an  area that is shared between units and with the street.

4. Co-Operative Housing. 

The concept of co-operative housing is going gangbusters the world over, where architects and builders are addressing the need for affordable accommodation and the desire for a sense of community. In Western Australia, Spaceagency Architects are creating the concepts for stacked homes with no common walls, dubbed Baugruppen (after the German Co-operative housing concept). The apartments can be one to three bedrooms and can be stacked in any arrangement on a vertical grid. The idea of the co-operative housing concept is that a group of people can get together to purchase a building jointly and create the perfect living arrangement and shared space.

5. Co-Living Spaces. 

Another concept that combines micro-apartments, shared spaces, and a sense of community. Co-Living is becoming popular in urban centres. The Collective in London is home to more than 500 apartments, but still maintains the sense of being part of something more personal. 

Tenants can remove complexity from their lives by paying a single bill that covers everything — from rent, to power, water, and internet. Co-living can be in smaller apartments but with plenty of communal spaces, such as shared kitchens, tastefully designed shared kitchens, group entertainment spaces, luxury facilities, gyms, and dining rooms for private and social events. Regular cleaning and linen changes are offered as standard, and there’s often a concierge on hand to help tenants. Co-Living spaces often host tenant drinks, movies, and events to foster the sense of community.

Smaller Co-Living spaces are also popular, such as Roam in Ubud, where a boutique hotel has been converted for apartment living surrounding a pool. Tenants share kitchens and communal spaces. It caters for both long-term and shorter-term residents, offering co-working spaces, uninterrupted wifi, communal kitchens, and activities like yoga.

New trends for apartment living are interesting and diverse. Regardless, of their title, they seem to share common themes around sustainability, space, and community.

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