Are you a locust or a bee? Those are the divisions appearing between residents in Australia as many of us move from the more acquisitive, self-centred lifestyle typified by the McMansion in the suburbs, to a more communal, sharing way of life that you increasingly find in apartments.
In this week’s podcast we talk to Chris Johnson, CEO of the Urban Taskforce, who predicts a more communal way of life as more of us move from houses into apartments.
Chris is the former State Architect for NSW and Urban Taskforce represents the top developers in the country, so he knows a fair bit about the subject. On top of that, he is as passionate about apartment living as we are – although from a slightly different perspective.
The discussion in this week’s podcast is wide-ranging and occasionally surprising.
We can’t ignore the issue of defects in new buildings, not least because of the damage that has done to public confidence. It could take years to recover but Chirs believes the only way is up – literally – as cities reach their physical and geographical limits.
He believes the days of the McMansion are numbered, partly because you can’t fit any more houses into the space available but also because there is a sea change in public thinking.
We are moving away from the “I, me, mine” mindset into more collaborative, sharing communities, he says. He cites a development in Roseberry where there is a childcare centre right on the ground floor, so it obviously attracts families.
However, those families take it a stage further, with parents taking turns to host “play dates” where all the kids can go to different unit blocks each of which has its own playground. It certainly gives the lie to the old thinking that apartments are no place for young families.
You can find out more about that in an Urban Taskforce publication about why people love apartment living.
Elsewhere in our wide-ranging discussion, Chris muses about why registration of architects and engineers wouldn’t have prevented the crisis at the Opal building – the internationally known architects and engineers on that project would “get registration with their eyes closed” – and why a return to council-based certification wouldn’t have prevented the issues in the Mascot Tower (it was certified by the local council).
However, Chris does think there’s merit in a continuing “duty of care” from builders to apartment owners while making every contractor and sub-contractor take responsibility for their work in the construction of an apartment block.
He also thinks the “missing middle” in home building is unlikely to be filled with town-houses, if only because of the flawed economics of replacing a single dwelling with two terraced houses.
Instead he foresees a spread of European style, medium-rise, four or five story blocks – small enough not to lose human scale and deter communities but tall enough to merit installing the lifts that down-sizing baby boomers will demand.
There’s all that and more in this week’s podcast.
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