Developer calls for new products to meet changing times

Posted on 30/05/2009  

A leading property developer says Australia’s apartment landscape needs to change to cater for a rapidly evolving demographic.


Nectar Efkarpidis, managing director of Molonglo Group, says developers haven’t changed what they do to adapt to smaller households and different household structures. He says developers tend to purse a “lowest common denominator” approach - and have failed to think about and respond to changing needs in society.


In one of the most refreshing statements I’ve seen from a developer, Efkarpidis urges the property industry to “think outside the square” and provide developments which are better suited to the current population.


“If we look at existing multi-unit residential housing typology as it exists across Australia, it hasn’t changed very much in the past 50 years,” he says. “It’s based on a certain family nucleus.


“I don’t think we’ve spent enough time as architects, developers and planners to take the time and pause for a moment to see how life has changed, particularly in the past 15 years with the introduction of the internet and how that should inform apartment living”.


His comments reflect my views, often expressed on this website, that developers and their representative bodies spend too much time complaining about approval processes and government charges, and not enough time adapting their products to modern times.

Efkarpidis says everything from women-only, student and gay-only floors to studio spaces for artists could be considered.


“There are a lot more single mothers around today and I would think that family structure would dictate a different housing typology which may mean that there are women-only floors,” he says. “If you created a floor for single mothers, then you should provide an area for looking after those children or for the children to play together in a safe environment.


“All of these things don’t get considered, because it’s always the lowest common denominator approach that we have.


“How do we address the needs of those people? At the moment they’re being shoehorned into a square peg and I think we need to be more responsive and redefine the spaces and the buildings and the services to meet those needs.


“We are certainly interested and continually thinking about our developments in a way to address the needs of the market and look at it as a whole but also stand away from the traditional models, structures and processes.


“People who love music should have access to a building designed to reflect that need with acoustic rooms, jam rooms, and communal performance spaces.


“The more people that do it – the more benefit it will be to the community as a whole.”


Efkarpidis has travelled extensively throughout Japan - a country he says has got it right.


“When they look at housing they do think about it in the context of life and how life is changing – they respond to that,” he said. “There’s an approach and openness in not taking the status quo.


“They’re looking at new models and new structures and new ways of doing things which I think we need to do.”


Efkarpidis says he would like to see the introduction of community spaces on every floor so clusters of neighbours could get to know each other.


“Everything from the internals right through to the public areas and services need to be reconsidered,” he says. “I don’t have all the answers but I think we need to look at ‘what’s next’.


“Our lives are very much starting to take place in the digital realm. So the places and spaces we build need to facilitate that.”

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