Wednesday, 4 July 2007

New trend in lateral living

It might be particularly interesting for planners and architects in the state of New South Wales, Australia, to consider the implications of this piece of news from Britain. The snippet comes from World Architecture

Just when we thought the only way was up and town houses were hip, a report in the London Evening Standard this week has uncovered a new trend in lateral living. Top developers Candy and Candy have found that apartments with no stairs can command significantly higher prices. This new development in Chesham Place in London’s elite Belgravia district has expanded sideways, instead of the usual upwards and is achieving some 30-40% higher prices than their vertical neighbours. Candy and Candy service the super-rich residential market and have been breaking new ground in many areas including using ex SAS consultants to advise on security arrangements. Property agents Knight Frank confirmed the trend, “Lateral conversions on the Knightsbridge squares are in very limited numbers. I could sell 10 times more than I have to offer.”

Why is this news from one of the world’s most exclusive enclaves of apartment living of interest in far off Australia?

One of the noticeable consequences of progressive planning controls for energy efficiency in New South Wales has been an emphasis on cross-ventilation of apartments. In the local Residential Flat Design Code, this has found expression as a ‘rule of thumb’ that requires openings for different rooms can be in opposite facades. In bigger residential buildings, this is regularly putting pressure on the designers to favour ‘cross-over’ apartment plans. It is often necessary to create a significant number of such dwellings over two levels, because it is the only way to access the elevator cores on longer floor plates.

And while there was an initial excitement relating to the multi-level designs, the marketplace is beginning to show a marked resistance to these multi-level apartments. Developers are finding that buyers in all socio-economic groups do indeed favour apartments without level changes. The resulting conflict between local authority planners, who are only looking at the number of apartments with nominal compliance to an unsubstantiated ventilation requirement, and the developers, who are resisting the design implications, is leading to bottlenecks in the approval process.

Perhaps it’s time to look again at what makes a good apartment? And particularly whether the cross ventilation performance does indeed translate into the desired comfort conditions. I suspect the good folks in Belgravia know something about the reason we choose to live in apartments in the first place……