Customers are becoming more demanding when it comes to housing in Australia and Angus Kell offers his opinions on ways we can satisfy their needs in the future.
The common response of Australian home owners when discussing their requirements for housing is simple: they want more affordable housing options, better built housing that requires less maintenance and housing which supports their desire for a comfortable sanctuary away from the complexities of daily life.
This sounds like a simple task in this advanced age, especially with the combined resources of our architects, builders and certifiers with the support of the manufacturers of the building products and building solutions. We should be able to meet with ease; however, the reality is this: meeting these simple expectations is getting more and more difficult to resolve. In addition to the justifiable increasing owners’ expectation is the overlying requirements of intensifying levels of compliance, the need for improved buildability to manage increasing construction costs (particularly labour costs which in Australia is among the most expensive in the world), and increasing building performance requirements to reduce operating costs while providing better occupant comfort.
Today it could be argued that achieving equally affordable and durable housing solutions, while realising greater than minimum compliance in construction and building performance, is potentially getting out of reach of all but the bespoke level of housing. The original expectations of the consumer need not only be embraced but prioritised by the designers and builders as well as the manufacturers and product suppliers to ensure that as an industry we don’t just build standard houses but we can design and build quality houses, to ensure the occupants live in comfort and with peace of mind.
So how does the industry respond to achieving the housing goals of our customers?
– Initially by all participants in the industry having a better understanding of compliance in both construction and building performance and committing to exceeding minimum compliance and moving towards best (or at least better) practice
-Ensure that housing typologies and design are reflective of the demands placed by the local and often diverse environments of Australia
– Improve options for affordable housing (1)
– Develop building products and solutions which better reflect the building performance and installation practices of the local workforce. The historically applied idea that we only look overseas for ideas and products and assume these meet our concept of best practice is obsolete
– Engage the concept of buildability, the process of identifying possible obstacles before a project is actually built to reduce or prevent errors, delays, and cost overruns, to all housing types and standards
– Develop and specify products which improve productivity: whether through ease of installation, reduced on-site labour, or improved speed of construction, without reducing the quality of construction
– Preference targets for improved overall building performance that enhance liveability and improve occupant comfort.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australia’s population of 22.7 million people (as of June 30 2012) are housed in approximately 8.6 million households. With the combined effect of population growth and that the average house occupancy has dropped to 2.6 people per house (2011-2012), the projected number of households in Australia will increase to 11.6 million by 2031.
1. Based on these projections we need immediate action to ensure the future of Australian housing.