The state is looking to the past for inspiration in addressing its present housing issues by announcing the development of a “pattern book” for home designs that will expedite the building process.
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The NSW government architect Abbie Galvin is leading a process of developing the pre-approved list of designs, which will involve working alongside private-sector architects and engaging in community consultation.
To canvas for unique and suitable designs, the government is launching an international competition, calling on Australian and international architects and architecture schools to design a best-practice Sydney terrace and mid-rise apartment for the 21st century. The winning designs will be included in the pattern book.
Ultimately, the book is expected to contain numerous designs for both low-rise and mid-rise buildings, up to six stories.
The development of such a resource was a key measure recommended by an advocacy body established earlier in the year, called Housing Now!
Consisting of representatives from Business NSW, the Health Services Union, the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, Sydney YIMBY, and the Committee for Sydney think tank, the group noted that some of Sydney’s most iconic architecture was a result of a pattern book from the city’s early years.
“The Federation houses of Haberfield, the Terraces of Paddington, and the Art Deco apartment buildings of Coogee – all pattern book designs,” the alliance stated.
In announcing the forthcoming building guide, the government noted that while the patterns will in no way be compulsory or given preference, developers who choose to adopt the endorsed pattern book designs will have an accelerated approval pathway.
Premier Chris Minns said that he hopes the development of the pattern book will significantly cut down on some of the time being spent on the approvals process.
“I’ve heard builders and other stakeholders explain some of the long approval times they encounter. What I’ve announced today is the start of addressing those delays,” Mr Minns said.
The state noted that NSW has been completing fewer new builds on a per capita basis than Victoria or Queensland. NSW last year also recorded fewer overall completions than Victoria, despite NSW’s higher population.
In light of these figures, the state’s Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, said it was clear that Sydney needed to speed up its building time, while also increasing density.
“We want to ensure density is done well, and this package will ensure that happens,” Mr Scully said.
At the same time the state is looking to speed up its production of homes, it is also looking to ensure that it has learned from the mistakes made in the past as well, taking pains to ensure that buildings are constructed to higher standards of safety than ever.
In the years since the residents of Mascot Towers were forced to flee their homes as the building risked collapse, NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler has been making moves to clean up the sector.
Now, he will have new tools at his disposal to carry out that work, as on the heels of announcing its pattern book plans, the NSW government also publicised its intention to expand the building commissioner’s powers in order to crack down on construction failings.
Laws set to pass Parliament in the coming weeks will give the commissioner power to enter apartments or free-standing homes in NSW to check for compliance. This will give the commissioner the power to uncover defects before completion of buildings and compel builders to get them fixed.
Building Commission NSW also set to receive a $24 million funding boost alongside this legislation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.
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