There are many positive aspects to living in established residential areas of cities and large towns, including transport accessibility, medical and educational choices, proximity to work, nearby coffee shops, restaurants and bars, and existing recreational facilities.

In fact, if you are attracted by these attributes, there is no need to compromise on liveability with your home, according to Archicentre Australia, the national architect’s advisory service.

“When considering future residential requirements, many Australians listen to the ‘spin’ espoused by volume-based builder and developers about making a ‘fresh start’ on the suburban fringes without taking into account the benefits of established areas,” says Archicentre Australia director Peter Georgiev.

“Even if you ignore the spin and choose to live in existing suburbs closer to the centre of cities and major towns, the predominating approach of most builders and developers is to knock down the existing residence, after all this serves their interests.”

Peter Georgiev says the issue then becomes what is the original building replaced with. “Often this is a blob or box, not in keeping with the area’s aesthetics and not always built to last, with leaking showers and balconies, cracking ‘waffle pod slabs’, little or no consideration to solar aspects … the list goes on.

“It really pays to have a dispassionate conversation with an experienced design architect about the options.

Options include:

  • “Renovate the devil you know on the site and in the neighbourhood that suits you,
  • redevelop on the site,
  • or move to a new estate at the urban fringes and a long way from the city’s amenities.”

An existing building needs to be pretty poor to really justify pushing it over, according to Peter Georgiev.

“There is usually a fair bit of embedded energy in its existence – and often far better materials and features than a new building will offer, for example old growth forest timber strip flooring, and/or higher and more spacious rooms.

“The idea is to retain the good bits and enhance them with 21st Century goodies, such as insulation and improved sealing for better thermal performance, including fresh and expanded electrical services.

“Then apply solid site planning to new sections of the building to enhance passive and active solar design, and this comes naturally for a competent architect.

“Building image can follow a natural order of how original and new come together.

“Then engage with your architect and a cost planner,” he says, “and belt out a buildable solution. It takes work but you’re in control.”

Peter Georgiev says if there is nothing redeeming in the existing structure – poor siting, major structural distress, too many mistakes made by previous home owners – then demolish it and move on.

This is where a conversation with an experienced architect sets the agenda – addressing what you need as opposed to what the volume builders want you to want, which often equates to ‘gadget driven’ accommodation.

He says in this current epoch where there is no client or a heavily constrained client, it is generally left up to developer/builder driven enthusiasm. “This is often a cynical and faddist interpretation of what ‘customers’ want. It is evident that these customers, far from securing solid dwelling solutions, are being treated as ‘punters’.

“Engaging with an architect ensures that a design can be tailored to the site, aspect and your needs – and then accommodation and building costs can be optimised.”

The Archicentre Australia director says before putting down a deposit it is highly recommended that alternative methods of building procurement be considered.

“While many of these will require additional effort, research and time, they can lead to decisions that impact far more positively on future living, investment and cost.”

He adds, the essential message is: “Update yourselves with knowledge behind decision making rather than spin.”

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This media release has been written and distributed by:

Archicentre Australia

Peter Georgiev, Director

Level 1, 9 Strathalbyn Street,

Kew East, VICTORIA, 3102

Phone: 1300 13 45 13 | 03 9859 9950