Ideas: projects, writing, research, thinking

Survey : Internal Bedrooms?

Posted by On Jun 04, 2013 In Survey Tags , , ,

You may have read Michael’s recent post on Amenity here; what it means, and how we value it at Redshift.

I was reading an article recently with some seductive images of a building. It looked great! But, as I started reading and looking at the plans it became apparent that there were internal bedrooms, not just inboard rooms looking through a living room with genuine borrowed light and ventilation but well and truly internal – a conventional hinged door to a windowless room as the second bedroom to a 2 bedroom apartment – imagine a large cupboard.

Admittedly the project was in Melbourne where this seems to be more prevalent and where SEPP 65 and the Residential Flat Design Code (or something like it) are not in force unlike here in NSW, but it prompted me to ask you; the reader, architect, layperson, member of the public, developer or real estate agent, what you think?

Are there circumstances where this is acceptable? Are these “beautiful” buildings that will stand the test of time, or are they our “future slums” (to put it provocatively)?

Are they the result of development pressure, inconsiderate architects, or naive planning controls? How does the market take to them?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, no matter what your background or predisposition.

3 Comments

  • Mr Anonymous on Jun 04, 2013 Reply

    It is bad design and creates a hierarchy in the apartment, which is bad for the end users and the versatility of the space. It is fine for a couple, but for two people sharing an apartment or a couple with children it is not a healthy long term proposition.

    On a practical level in Melbourne apartments have issues with dampness over winter. Moisture from showers, cooking and drying clothes builds up, allowing mold to grow etc. Mechanical exhausts are not effective enough and we haven’t got to the stage where heat exchangers are common so the only solution is to open the windows, which only happens on mild days, if at all.

    The problem would be best handled by Legislation, as developers are mostly concerned with returns. The best returns are by providing more apartments and more rooms, as the off the plan sales are critical to the project and the majority of purchasers don’t have the experience in reading plans and building a spatial picture, developers and architects can get away with a lot.

    Architects through an erosion in status throughout the building industry don’t have the required clout to stand firm on good design principals, if they want return business (and a good reputation) a clever architect will design up to and on the law.

    Town planning adds another layer of complexity, it seems to be a horse trading game. Propose something big then trade off setbacks, add articulation and reduce building heights with the council to gain support. The developer will want the same number of apartments as before, the pressure is put on to reduce apartment size and amenity for ‘keys’. The architect resents the project because it is no longer has the great things it used to have and should really be totally redesigned for the new building envelope but it is not feasible to go through council and VCAT again with major amendments as it will take another year and 6 figures in fees.

    A building gets built, the owners are a bit disappointed, but have a 30 year loan so make the best of it. The Architect drives the long way around to avoid it. The planner stands across the road and thinks how horrible it would have been being two stories taller, look at all that articulation. And someone upgrades their car to a Ferrari.

    • Michael Lewarne on Jun 06, 2013 Reply

      Thanks for your comments Mr Anonymous, you make a number of very fine points and observations. I would, however, disagree that architects don’t have the clout. Architects can be strong and effective advocates for these issues. It is not an easy path to follow, there’s the risk of alienating or losing important developer clients by refusing to follow instruction, but at the same time there’s no risk in advocating for what we consider to be a vital amenity. Life of course would be substantially easier for us with a statutory requirement to point to, but there’s no excuse for not making the effort. In our experience developers will at the very least least listen to your advice regarding design quality, they may even agree it’s valid and equates to added dollar value (maybe). You may not win the argument, but at least you had one! We’re hoping to continue it here, always keen to hear other people’s experiences and thoughts.

  • MIK on Jun 04, 2013 Reply

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Habitable rooms without windows is messing with people’s day to day quality of life. I think they happen because there is a lot of economic/development pressure to achieve deeper buildings (read more floor space enclosed by less expensive perimeter wall) and internal bedrooms is one of the ways to do this. The fault really lies with the BCA (or NCC) for allowing them to happen. Applied to its minimum standard, the BCA can produce some very mediocre spaces for living in. And whilst the Residential Flat Design Code increases the standard for many aspects of apartment design in NSW (for example ceiling heights, solar access and cross ventilation %s) it also doesn’t currently prevent these rooms being included. Fix the rules I reckon!

3 Comments


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