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How Efficiency In Apartment Design Generates Broader Social Good

Author: Gaurav Rajadhyax

More than just a low-budget option for investors or those entering the property market – in 2021, well-designed apartment buildings provide a complete solution to higher density living for a mixed market of retired downsizers, families and young professionals.

The ongoing demand for uncompromising, high-quality apartments for homebuyers from all walks of life is also driven by a contemporary shift towards small footprint thinking, combined with steep housing prices in an economy reeling from pandemic fallout.

With an increasingly diverse, discerning demographic now pursuing multi residential living, now more than ever, design efficiency is crucial to ensure long term sustainability of the apartment model.

At R Architecture, we seek to optimise and streamline each stage of the design process for all groups involved in our projects: from developers building and selling, to those buying and living in the communities we create.

Two recent developments planned for Essendon demonstrate our streamlined approach to multi residential design: to deliver thoughtful homes that provide real, enduring value to its inhabitants, while reducing complexity, costs and time in build.

Essendon 1 – Cooper Street

Bringing quality high density living to a quiet suburban street, the Essendon 1 Apartments are situated just a short stroll from retailers and businesses on Keilor Road. The area serves as a residential bridging zone, where the local commercial and retail hub meets suburbia.

The building’s confident three-storey form is articulated through neutral render, clean lines and rhythmic screens made of fine timber fins. Drawing inspiration from the look and feel of surrounding homes, this palette embeds the architectural contribution within its suburban context. Beyond aesthetic value, we also make a conscious effort to keep specified materials local, reducing embodied energy as well as the impact of longer lead times in the construction phase.

Softened by integrated street-facing landscaping, the low-rise building makes for a sensitive addition to the neighbourhood. An internal courtyard provides a green respite within the building, allowing natural light and air to penetrate the complex. While this sacrifices a portion of liveable floor space to public use, we see that inner-city properties particularly benefit from the inclusion of landscaped recreational space on-site, to increase overall liveability and encourage organic interaction.

Inside, a range of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments are designed to appeal to diverse homeowner needs, featuring ample inbuilt storage, sizeable living space and abundant access to natural light. Of the 40 homes on-site, the 12 ground floor apartments offer spacious green yards, extending liveable floor space while providing similar outdoor amenity to a standalone home. Here, the efficacy of space underpins every design decision, exploring ways to optimise functionality and deliver a considered solution for stakeholders and occupants in a building that capably serves the needs of a growing community.

Essendon 2 – Mount Alexander Road

Situated alongside multi-residential addresses on a busy inner-city road, the Essendon 2 Apartments illustrate the potential for apartment buildings to become exemplary civic hubs, where a sense of community can be fostered through inclusive, efficient design.

The six-storey sculptural form creates a stepped, architecturally engaging built mass, with volumes set at strategic angles to capitalise on daylight exposure and encourage natural dialogue with the streetscape. Intricate perforated metal facades provide a striking visual detail, and privacy between adjacent apartments while maintaining airflow and connection to the outdoors.

A key aspect of this project is its mixed-use, communal purpose integrated alongside its residential offering. Its ground floor hosts two commercial tenancies at the front, with apartments to the rear. These activate the building at street level, creating a thriving and approachable public interface that gives back to the neighbourhood. A rooftop garden complete with a casual dining and lounge area invites interaction between occupants and reinforces the project’s outward-looking community character.

Comprising 48 apartments in a range of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom configurations, the building is designed to comfortably accommodate a broad cross-section of homeowners and lifestyles. Our approach achieves efficiency by developing a selection of intelligent, simply produced apartment typologies to enable minimal construction costs and time.

Crucial to the success and sustainability of the project is its ability to retain and attract occupants, with practical, sensitive designs that cater realistically to human needs. To this end, we sought every opportunity to introduce function and enjoyment to each apartment. Our plans include generous trapezoidal balconies which far exceed required outdoor space, dual aspect apartment designs that provide cross-flow ventilation and wide frontages and windows to increase natural light.

Though scale and rationale differ, both Essendon developments are indicative of our approach across all multi-residential projects – to create considered, replicable, easily installed apartment models to support diverse demographic groups, as our population grows.

Intentionally inclusive of various needs, these homes are affordable, liveable, practical spaces where a range of people can enjoy a full lifestyle. We believe ambitious ideas implemented in small projects like these contribute to a bigger picture of sustainable apartment living in Melbourne and beyond.

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