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The latest happenings in the Melbourne property market. For our Essays and The Secret Agent Report, see our Research page.


Category Archives For: Design

The Price of Better Designed Apartments

Illustration showing an A-grade apartment receiving adequate sunlight, having views outwards, cross-ventilation and sufficient private outdoor space.

How much more are we willing to pay for a cross ventilated, well-lit apartment with a balcony and open views?

In March this year, apartment design standards will be implemented into the Victorian planning system. Apartment design standards will ensure all future apartments in Victoria are desirable, safe, healthy and sustainable. New developments in Victoria will only be permitted a planning permit if they meet these standards. A 2015 community survey found that the top concerns of apartment amenity were “access to daylight, functional space, and natural ventilation”, as well as noise and energy efficiency. (DELWP, 2)

Standards have been made for 16 elements of design: Building setback, functional layout, room depth, windows, storage, noise impacts, energy efficiency, solar access to communal open space, natural ventilation, private open space, communal open space, landscaping, accessibility, building entry and circulation, waste and recycling, integrated water and storm water management.

It is logical to think that better design standards should produce apartments of a higher quality. This in turn should increase the sale price of these apartments. Secret Agent was engaged to determine the price premium of better designed apartments. That is, how much more are consumers willing to pay for an A grade apartment compared to a B grade and C grade apartment? Read the full post


New apartments: What to expect

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Key findings

  • 1 bedroom apartments will be 8% bigger on average.

  • 2 bedroom apartments remain the same size.

  • 3 bedroom apartments will be 4% smaller and remain rare.

  • Little to no 4 bedroom apartments are being proposed.

  • Most apartments meet the minimum balcony size.

Following up on our recent Supply report, Secret Agent wanted to dig deeper into what sort of apartment buildings are being proposed by developers. Using planning permit applications sent to local Melbourne councils, we sampled 1,680 proposed apartments from 34 buildings in 15 suburbs of metropolitan Melbourne.

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7 Reasons Future Apartments Still Disappoint

Size is yet again compromised in the apartments soon to be developed in Melbourne, but not just in terms of their total floor area. Here are 7 primary observations about the upcoming supply of apartments in Melbourne over the next 12 to 18 months.

1. Balconies remain small

Whilst most apartments will have a balcony, many will have one that is too small (less than 8m2 for a single bedroom and 10m2 for a two bedroom apartment).

2. Snorkel bedrooms are common

This L shaped layout is an ineffective way to provide light access to a second bedroom in two bedroom apartments. The snorkel is often too narrow to be habitable and the natural light often does not reach the actual room. These are still a popular option despite the waste of space.Blog-1  Read the full post


Inner Melbourne’s Smallest and Largest Apartments

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Inner Melbourne’s apartments are getting tinier with each new development. But, how small is small? Secret Agent’s updated apartment index reveals that the average size of a 1 bedroom apartment is only 47sqm, and for the more popular 2 bedroom apartment the average size is 73sqm.

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The Secret Agent Report – Urban Spaces

We have just released our latest Secret Agent report!

Cities with dynamic streetscapes make inner city living attractive to many, and inevitably stimulate the growth of property prices as demand becomes greater. Arguably, what makes a city liveable is the quality of its public spaces.

As Melbourne’s city apartments continue to grow in number, and yet shrink in size, it is important that we maintain the desirability of public, shared spaces for mutual enjoyment.

This month, Secret Agent wanted to find out what differentiates a great urban space from the rest.

Start reading this report by clicking on the link below:

Register to receive our report monthly and access the Urban Spaces report now!

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Horizontal-Travelling Elevators

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In the early 20th century it would have been hard to visualise our current urban landscape full of skyscrapers, cars and elevated walkways. Almost 100 years later, it is just as difficult to picture what our future cities will look like.

A glimpse at some of the projects in developmental stages would suggest that we have a lot to look forward to. Take for example what is being achieved with one of the most significant, yet restrictive, elements of modern architecture: elevators.

The concept of the elevator was invented in the Middle Ages. It wasn’t until 1854 that a safety mechanism was designed that would prevent these lifts from falling if the hoisting rope broke. Skyscrapers could then become a possibility, and for the next 150 years or so, elevators would continue to become a staple part of multi-storey buildings. Without any further innovation, the elevator would remain a cable-hoisted box in a single, linear shaft, forcing buildings to comply with its limitations.

Enter ThyssenKrupp, a German industrial group who has developed the horizontal elevator. In 2014, ThyssenKrupp revealed their Multi elevator technology to the world. Using magnetic levitation technology (the same way Bullet trains are powered), the Multi lift system remains cable-free and is not limited to one elevator shaft. These elevators are free to move vertically and horizontally, with multiple units operating within the same shafts. The result is a more efficient transportation system inside and even between buildings.

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Orientation and Your Home

Click here to download Secret Agent’s orientation guide

This week, we’ve put together a short guide to help you maximise the benefits of passive design solutions by understanding orientation in your home. With a particular focus on light and wind, we break down each aspect and offer suggestions for a more environmentally friendly and comfortable home.

North

  • Mornings generally receive Northerly winds from the inland due to land breeze. During winter this is the dominant source of wind. In summer, Northerly winds can be quite hot.
  • Direct sunlight and an excellent source of passive heating.
  • Necessary to use shading methods, such as planting deciduous trees (which permit low-angle Winter sun through) or installing eaves and blinds.
  • Suitable for daytime, living and dining rooms or courtyards.
  • Ideal orientation of the home with the long side facing North, or 20-30° off from the center.

West

  • Be wary of hot Northwesterly winds in summer and cold Southwesterly winds in the cooler months.
  • Evening sun can be quite harsh and hot in summer.
  • Option to strategically plant trees and shrub to divert undesirable winds and provide shading in the evening.
  • Alternative is to place utility areas facing West (e.g. laundry, bathrooms, storage) which insulate and shade living areas.

East

  • Little to no Easterly wind all year round. Design should promote cross-ventilation from other rooms.
  • Direction of sunrise and cool morning light.
  • Suitable for kitchens, breakfast rooms or bedrooms, as morning light is beneficial to regulate our circadian rhythm (natural body clock).

South

  • Evenings generally receive Southerly winds from the ocean due to the sea breeze effect. Southwesterly winds in the cooler months can be quite harsh.
  • Indirect light, therefore requires little to no shading. Borrowed light methods include use of skylights or reflections off neighbouring buildings.
  • Should be properly insulated as there are minimal passive heating options. Active heating may also be necessary.
  • Suitable for bedrooms or artist studios, as South light produces cool and controlled colour values.

Lessons from Jan Gehl

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For the fifth consecutive year, Melbourne has been named the world’s most liveable city by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual survey. While the ranking is based on a range of factors such as healthcare, culture, education and infrastructure, Secret Agent believes that Melbourne’s success is due to thoughtful urban design.

We owe it to Jan Gehl, the Danish architect and urban designer who worked together with Melbourne City Council in the early 1990s to transform the city from, in his own words, “neutron-bombed, not a soul – not even a cat”, into a place for people. Much of our laneway culture and outdoor dining today can be attributed to Gehl’s visionary thinking and humanistic approach to urban design.

Three main principles can be drawn from Gehl’s work:

1. Design the city at 5km/h

Cities had always been designed for people, who move at a modest speed of about 5km/h, up until the boom of the automobile in the 1960s. New cities were then designed at 60km/h – wider, further apart, less accessible by foot. Gehl’s intervention in Melbourne applied the human scale of the older, 5km/h cities, giving birth to our laneway culture that is now inseparable from the city’s identity. Narrow, dense and brimming with life, there is a certain magic that comes with compact spaces.

Thanks to Gehl and planning changes, Melbourne CBD has gained 20 hectares of footpaths over 15 years. Designing walkable urban spaces encourages people to do so, resulting in a healthier population. Think about how far a person has to walk to get from A to B; is it a comfortable distance? If it necessarily becomes a lengthy walk, can it be a safe, pleasant and eventful journey?

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