This vast, brown land of ours might be sparsely populated when compared with some of the world’s other developed nations, and yet the urban crunch is just as apparent in Australia’s major cities as it is throughout the world. As populations soar and the clever use of resources becomes a mounting concern, what will Australian housing construction look like in 20 years, 100 years, and further?
Towering high-rises and apartment blocks are nothing new to city-dwellers, however we are seeing these types of structures make their way further out from our capital cities as land becomes scarce. The development of satellite cities, like Queensland’s Springfield Lakes, aim to take the pressure off their over-developed neighbouring cities and create hubs for business, industry and schooling, as well as shopping precincts. As more housing developments pop up within driving distance of our biggest cities, there’s no denying that construction principles are already changing. Solar panel installations, green spaces, eco-friendly apartment blocks and super-insulated dwellings are all part of the new wave of construction which is hoping to address not only the needs of our growing population, but also curb our resource usage and make the most of renewable energies, space, and light.
Lachlan Grant, managing director of Happy Haus who specialises in prefabricated housing design and installation, believes that smaller houses are more fit for purpose for our growing population.
“We think houses are oversized at the moment and that has a lot of implications, not only in terms of cost and affordability but also in terms of the ongoing costs to run those properties and in terms of the environment,” he told Domain in a recent interview.
Construction industry players like Happy Haus and their kin are getting the jump on a changing market by developing highly-engineered housing solutions which look at cost, maintenance and sustainability as key foundations for their projects.
“People are after features such as solar panels and cross-ventilation,” he tells Domain. “They also want systems that support a more green approach such as grey-water and thermal heat pumps.”
Reducing housing sizes and doing away with traditional space-wasters like double garages and enormous living rooms are all pieces of the downsizing puzzle which – while a bitter pill to swallow for some would-be home buyers – mean more affordable homes. This new-age focus on the clever use of space means keeping heating and cooling costs down, and ultimately a smaller carbon footprint.
The construction industry itself is making progress in the march towards quicker, renewable and more sustainable building solutions with the development of new materials like insulated bricks, gel insulation and even shock-proof concrete. Meanwhile, pre-fabricated construction offers a solution to the decreasing trades workforce, as the economy moves towards a more service-based model. The use of advanced technology like CNC machines means that manufacturing and installation are fast, free from human error, and cost a fraction of the price to deliver.
Many of the futuristic housing construction solutions envisaged by industry leaders are already being introduced, and we are sure to see a rapid increase in the development of ‘smart homes’ over the next several years. As materials become scarce and the new technologies become more affordable, it is likely that we will see smaller homes, which make better use of their limited space with functional, energy efficient spaces.