Vertical dwelling is now mainstream

By Janette Corcoran, Apartment Living Expert

In Australia, the past three years have seen high-rise residential apartments (ie builds greater than nine stories) comprise 32 per cent of all new dwellings.  

This change is well-evidenced in our major cities with the City of Sydney now having more than 80 per cent of its residents living in apartments while the City of Melbourne pips this by having more than 83 per cent of residents being “high-risers”.  

In view of this, one would think that our vertical living preferences should – and I’m not saying will  – have close attention paid by those involved in apartment design and increasingly, redesign. 

Indeed, with many existing apartments already aged in double digits, and with a sizeable proportion of these fast approaching their twenties, many vertical villages are in need of some “refreshing”.

So the question is, what apartment trends might we see our fellow vertical villagers incorporate when refreshing their abodes in the year ahead? 

Here are three trends that are likely to make an appearance: 

In-built, multi-function and adaptable spaces:  We vertical dwellers have long appreciated the benefits of furniture that pulls double duty, like our coffee console that converts into a dining table.

But the bar has been raised and what is increasingly demanded are more integrated facilities which can transform a space to what is needed at a particular time. IKEA’s latest response to this takes the form of a robotic wall called, Rognan. 

The transformational power of this automated wall comes from its ability to move (thereby providing up to an additional eight sqm of living space),  and its capacity to incorporate different facilities on each side. One side, for example, may have a desk (which requires the wall to be in one position), while the other side might have an entrainment system (requiring the wall to be in another position).  

The idea is that when you are working, you do not need to see your TV, and vice versa.   While not yet in Australia, the promise is that it is “definitely” coming down under.

Downsized facilities: In direct contrast to the ground-bound (ie house) sector, which are seeking banks of double ovens in their over-sized kitchens, we vertical dwellers are increasingly opting for a simpler kitchen layout. 

This is not merely because we have less space but that we are also preferring to exert less effort when preparing our food. This claim is supported by the tremendous growth in services such as Hello Fresh which delivers pre-portioned fresh ingredients and recipes, Lean Cuisine which delivers prepared frozen meals, and Uber Eats which delivers ready-to-eat restaurant meals. 

Combined with our proximity to actual restaurants, this ease of access to prepared food is seeing apartment dwellers demand less of their kitchen spaces and a preference to reallocate any excess space to entertainment activities. 

Shared amenities: To date, new builds have sought to offer an increasing array of in-house amenities – multiple pools, theatrettes, specialised gyms, diverse entertaining areas, etc. 

However, these amenities come with significant and ongoing maintenance costs. In addition, it has come as a surprise that many residents do not frequently use these in-house offerings, often preferring to socialise outside their buildings. 

This is prompting a rethink of about in-house amenities and we are seeing the emergence of two distinct approaches.  

One approach is towards a user-pays option which requires monitoring “who uses what” and for how long. 

The other approach involves negotiating reciprocal access arrangements with nearby facilities (including neighbouring apartments). For example, one apartment building may offer the use of its theatrette in exchange for access to another building’s conference facilities. 

However, both these scenarios require significant changes to common property access (and existing by-laws), and so this trend is more likely to manifest in sites undergoing major redevelopment. 

If sufficient numbers of residents embrace these trends, the coming year may see some vertical villages fundamentally reinvent themselves, while others (with low adoption rates) may start to be regarded as “fading”.   

However, installing robotic walls and changing floor layouts requires the involvement of an owners’ corporation. And this brings into play both possibilities in terms of benefits from group procurement as well as challenges in terms of regulations and permissions – both of which are topics to be explored in 2020!

And until then, I wish all vertical dwellers a Merry Christmas.

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