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Brisbane apartment ‘hot boxes’ not suited for local climate, QUT research suggests

Brisbane apartment ‘hot boxes’ not suited for local climate, QUT research suggests

Dec 3, 2016Jim MaloProperty reporter

Does size matter? Domain takes a look at some clever ways the make the most out of a tiny apartment.

Much of Brisbane’s new apartment stock is not built to handle the city’s sub-tropical climate, leaving residents short-changed in an attempt to keep cool, new research suggests.

Of nearly 4000 planned apartments in 15 developments studied by QUT Associate Professor Rosemary Kennedy, the majority did not have necessary architectural solutions to deal with sub-tropical heat. The largest developments were the worst offenders, she said. None of the buildings examined were in the CBD.

Apartments in Brisbane tend to be more focused on views and glamour, Professor Kennedy said.

Professor Rosemary Kennedy has concerned apartments under construction will be ‘ bot’ boxes’. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

“I think the supremacy of the view is being used as a marketing tool,” she said. “They seem to be designed for short-term living.”

Sustainability consultant Valerie Bares, of ESC Consulting, agreed with Professor Kennedy.

“From a developer’s side of things there’s a perception that building a climate responsive building will be more expensive, so they won’t make as much profit,” she said.

Apartment blocks continue to shoot up along the Brisbane skyline. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

“I think we’re starting to see a trend now where people are becoming more environmentally aware but I don’t think that’s yet translated to demand for that type of product.”

Professor Kennedy is concerned the long-term value of the houses would take a hit as energy costs continued to rise and climate control became more expensive, Professor Kennedy warned, adding that many residents would pay for energy they did not need.

“In our climate in Brisbane, 80 per cent of the year, the natural conditions are quite conducive to not having to use air conditioning,” she said.

Professor Kennedy said buyers would eventually choose apartments with design that allow natural cooling. Photo: Glenn Hunt

“As better designs come on the market and people will vote with their feet.”

Future buyers could even shun the developments altogether, Ms Bares said.

“The generations that are coming up are going to be a lot more discerning in terms of what they’re looking for,” she said. “Millennials are more environmentally aware and will be more demanding in what they buy.”

The choice of whether to open a window or turn on the air conditioning has the potential to make or break a sale.

“If you can decrease that cost by moving somewhere else, where you can take that opportunity to stay cool in other ways, you may take that opportunity,” Professor Kennedy said.

She said the Brisbane City Council needed to step in to fix the problem before it reached crisis point.

Developers are guided by outcomes in the Multiple Dwellings code, but Professor Kennedy said acceptable outcomes should be strictly enforced.

“It’s just guidelines but it goes in the right direction and eventually they can build on that and make it mandatory,” Ms Bares said.

The council was contacted for comment.

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