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Brisbane’s newly built apartments are mostly over-glazed hot boxes that will increasingly cost more to keep cool and be uncomfortable to live in, due to poor design and a focus on “the view”.
Associate Professor Rosemary Kennedy, of QUT’s Design Lab, told the QUT-hosted International Conference on Energy and Environment of Residential Buildings Brisbane's new apartments’ design were not well suited to subtropical living, and called for better design and a review of Brisbane’s Multiple Dwelling Code.
“We studied the plans of 15 contemporary five to 30-storey apartment buildings approved after 2011 and found few achieved the Brisbane City Council’s Multiple Dwelling Code’s acceptable outcomes associated with design for sustainable subtropical design,” Professor Kennedy said.
“We found four areas which most commonly didn’t meet the code’s goals: lack of design for cross ventilation; extensive use of glass on facades regardless of solar orientation; unsophisticated use of shading; and limited private outdoor living areas.
“We know from our previous research with apartment occupants that they prefer natural cooling methods to air-conditioning. They told us they want choice in how they control their indoor environment.
“Rather than having to use air-conditioning all year round, residents like to be able to open windows and let breezes in when conditions are conducive.
“But we see many apartment blocks laid out with a central corridor which does not allow for cross ventilation – a primary strategy for natural cooling of a home.
“Furthermore large expanses of glass in balconies and floor-to-ceiling glass facades can produce unwanted heat gain and glare. These issues can be avoided if glass is shaded before the sun hits it or if there is less glass in the facade.”
Professor Kennedy said another issue was privacy.
“In our climate, we like to use our outdoor living areas for many normal, everyday activities, for example, relaxing, cooking, gardening or drying laundry – fully glazed balustrades offer no privacy for these activities on apartment balconies.
“New apartments’ big selling point has been the view but a view can still be appreciated without an entire wall or balustrade being glazed.”
Professor Kennedy said capitalising on orientation to the sun, capturing breezes and views, and dealing with urban noise were important for creating comfortable interiors without resorting to mechanical means.
“We need to see more use of fundamental architectural principles that are suitable for the city’s subtropical climate and lifestyle, or continue to have to use energy-intensive technology to compensate for generic designs.
“An architectural approach uses passive strategies and appropriate orientation with active participation of occupants to regulate the flow of heat and air, and control noise.
"On the other hand, the mechanical approach relies on strategies with a high-energy load and gives occupants little choice to regulate their environment according to their own preferences.
“Many apartments under construction now will be less attractive to future occupants as energy costs rise. Without access to energy they will be extremely uncomfortable places to live in and I predict rents will drop as people seek better-designed, low-energy alternatives.”
The Health Housing Conference featured researchers from Japan, Portugal, Vietnam, China, Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the US and New Zealand.
Research presentations from QUT researchers included:
An evaluation of stakeholder management approach for improving energy efficiency outcomes in housing - Sherif Zedan
Building the business case for sustainability in housing - Dr Wendy Miller and Dr Connie Susilawati
Community centre improvement to reduce air conditioning peak demand – Lei Liu
German-Australian research collaborations in housing and energy - Dr Wendy Miller
Low-cost sensor network for indoor air quality monitoring in residential houses: lab and indoor tests of two PM sensors – Xiaoting Liu
The role of simulation in improving the thermal comfort and energy performance of existing aged care facilities – Dr Zakaria Amin
Regenerative sustainability and geodesign in Byron Shire – Amrita Kambo
This subtropical life: are new apartment buildings providing locally appropriate outcomes for apartment living in Brisbane? Dr Rosemary Kennedy
Understanding Australian real estate agent perspectives in promoting sustainability features in the residential property market – Shi Yee Wong
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Associate Professor Rosemary Kennedy