By Kirsten Wilson | 19 Dec 2016

At Urbis, we pride ourselves on our thought leadership and our ability to undertake high impact, high value work that adds demonstrable value to your new community and greenfield projects.

Here, we highlight a few key observations and some new thinking, as a sample of the creative ideas our multi-disciplinary team have about the design of housing, parks, streets and open spaces, which may inspire you and add value to your next new communities project.

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The changing demographic nature of the modern Australian society is challenging the traditional ‘home owner’ of the greenfield development market.

As new communities are increasingly developed on the outer fringes of cities, the traditional model of working in an office in the city CBD becomes less realistic.

As technology improves and becomes more adaptable, the ability to work from home (SOHO housing products) or community enterprise/incubation hubs helps promote a new attitude towards how and where people work.

The changing demographic nature of the modern Australian society is challenging the traditional ‘home owner’ of the greenfield development market.

The buyer profile is now breaking into niche groups ranging from singles, single parent families, couples with no kids or no kids living at home, multiple adults, retirees, ageing adults, university graduates who live at home, and immigrants with diverse cultural values, language and housing needs.

New communities must respond to the needs of these groups by providing a range of housing products, social infrastructure and support, distinctive lifestyle opportunities and amenity features which cater to all ages, abilities, wants and needs.

Delivering only the traditional detached residential product types is not a future-proofed way to design for housing demand. We are starting to see exciting new typologies emerging such as multi-generational homes and dual occupancy products, in addition to the increasing demand for Plexes, Nano and Urban Homes.

A 'house for life' with flexibility built in to the structure is an innovative idea and may work for some. However, a more realistic and practical approach for the long-term is to create 'houses for circumstance'; and a community for life.

A ‘house for life’ with flexibility built in to the structure is an innovative idea and may work for some. However, a more realistic and practical approach for the long-term is to create ‘houses for circumstance’; and a community for life.

The benefit of a model which provides housing options throughout a new community which fit different lifestyles or life-stage is that as circumstances change, there is the opportunity to shift around within their familiar environment to housing, which better suits their needs.

House designs can also cater for minor changes such as room additions, reductions or room conversions to allow for changes such as children leaving home, parents moving in, or working from home. This provides longevity and resilience in new communities by allowing people to adapt (or shift close-by), rather than move away. In product diversity, also lies stability.

Projected population growth by age 2011 – 2031 (source: id the population experts 2013)

Family On Cycle Ride In CountrysideWith people living longer and having healthier, more active lifestyles, there is a need to offer ‘retirement’ living which is not necessarily a ‘retirement village’. People retire at 65 and are generally looking to downsize their homes, enjoy their retirement and newfound permanent ‘holiday’ lifestyles.

Integrating smaller, more urban-style lots into the community which require less maintenance and have good access to amenity and community hubs will help bridge the gap between retirement and elderly age.

Lifestyle, adventure and alternative sports have also risen in popularity over the past decades due to people becoming more physically and mentally health conscious. People want walking trails, running tracks with distance markers, commuter and recreational cycleways (reducing car dependency), fitness stations, and multi-use courts and fields and are eager to keep fit and participate within a community environment.

Suburban houses, Robina, Gold CoastThe location of lots, more specifically, if they are adjacent open space or have a view, has a great impact on their marketability, and therefore return. Aligning particular housing with the right amenity proposition is important.

Depending on the market, the focus can be either on larger lots fronting amenity for a higher return per lot, or on smaller dwellings with slightly lesser value, but more yield. Understanding the demographic and target market will give a better indication of how to locate products.

The design outcome of a community cannot be forced. Every site is different, and we must respond to the context and characteristics which make the site unique, and enhance these features through good design. A finished design should have a simplicity to it, and an air of inevitability – like it couldn’t have been designed any other way.

To cope with the growing demand for new housing, Australia (the home of the big backyard) has had to change its perception about compact homes and the way people live within their community.

We understand the issues around smaller homes, narrower streets and reduced backyard spaces and are always aware of:

  • on-street visitor car parking (narrower lots mean less room for car parking in between driveways)
  • privacy for residents
  • lack of storage for homes (sometimes residents will park on the street in order to use their garage for storage, creating greater strain on the streetscape)
  • the design and building controls of the dwellings to ensure suitable soundproofing, etc.

To create an integrated, holistic design approach, collaboration is needed between urban designers, engineers (traffic, civil, earthworks, acoustic), landscape architects, and architects.

Historically, amenity benefits from the public realm can be overshadowed by technical requirements that are driven by engineering or Council needs. Streetscape clutter is becoming more of an issue due to the increased density and narrower streetscapes being delivered.

Aspects that need to be considered include street trees, civil services, light poles, visitor car parking, driveways, and water treatment/drainage.

Australia is facing high levels of water, energy and food consumption in the near future, and it’s not looking very sustainable.

As technology advances and our views about the environment become more sympathetic, new communities are focusing on methods to reduce our footprint and become more self-sustainable, such as:

  • food production, urban farming and agriculture
  • water harvesting
  • generating and storing renewable energy
  • solar street lights
  • pneumatic waste
  • collection systems
  • glow in the dark pathways/cycleways (pebble lighting)

Collaborative consumption and this form of trading is resulting in new businesses that are changing how we consume.

Car sharing and driverless cars have the potential to reduce private car dependency and the way we design and use streets. It could see the removal of some local streets altogether and change the way our houses are designed where no garages or driveways are required. Driverless cars and buses will increase safety for drivers, plus could also change our transport planning requirements by requiring less road surface and different road geometry.

Aerial View of Suburban Streets

The rise in the digital economy, rapid growth in knowledge industries and exports, and acceptance of technology into our daily lives will have profound impacts on the way our communities function.


Some new cities and communities are being planned with smart infrastructure and sensors built in such as:

  • garbage truck alerts when bins are full
  • car park space alerts to available locations
  • intelligent street lighting
  • ‘event detection’ by cameras to notify authorities of an emergency
  • garden auto-watering.

Our complete guide on building the new communities of the future through strategic thinking and design, Shaping New Communities is available now. If you’d like to receive a copy, please submit your details below.

Shaping New Communities

For more information on how we can help you on your next new communities project, please contact our experts below.

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