Greyfield Precincts – a new design model for more sustainable, liveable suburbs

Greyfield Precincts

Australia’s major centres are striving to provide 50–70 per cent of new housing requirements through strategic infill redevelopment. Current metropolitan plans emphasise intensification of large land assemblages in nominated activity centres and high density redevelopment along transport corridors. Despite these formal policies, implementation of strategic development projects has proven onerous; in reality very little “on the ground” progress has been made when compared to the informal, small-scale housing infill taking place across our middle suburbs.

A recent review of Victoria’s development activity (2004-2008) revealed that 60 per cent of all residential projects were small infill redevelopments, most of which yielded 1-2 dwellings. Surprisingly, it accounted for one quarter of the total housing supply in that period. In its current form, small-scale infill is of inadequate density and quality to contribute to the sustainable transformation of our cities.

Two principal factors for this are individual ownership of residential allotments hindering assembly of suitable development sites and an absence of design expertise within the projects that are delivered. This paper examines an approach to middle suburban infill that recognises the difficulty of consolidating land parcels in these contexts and proposes a redevelopment model that operates over a field of non-contiguous allotments.

The precinct-based approach reconsiders conventional infill design to achieve better quality, greater diversity and higher density housing outcomes while responding to the realities of small-scale development delivery. This design-led investigation explores several interrelated strategies ranging from the scale and configuration of rooms to achieve more compact and flexible dwellings, to the distribution of buildings, amenity and services across a proposed precinct.

With appropriate design, infill redevelopments could provide new opportunities for higher density housing that also enhances environmental and social outcomes in the middle suburbs.

Prof Shane Murray is Dean of the Faculty of Art Design & Architecture at Monash University. He is an award-winning architect and academic in the field of architectural design who spoke at the Urban Design Conference held in Sydney in 2013

The 2014 conference is in Adelaide from Monday the 1st to Wednesday 3rd of September 2014.

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