The changing face of housing

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THE contemporary home is bigger and more luxurious than its mid-1980s counterpart.

It also looks different, with its exterior likely to contain a mix of materials such as brick, lightweight materials and timber rather than just solid brick.

Henley Properties managing director Peter Hayes says the average modern residence is likely to offer 25 squares (234sqm) including a double garage.

“In the mid 1980s the average was about 15 squares (139.35sqm),’’ Mr Hayes says.

“Today they (houses) are about 50 per cent bigger in terms of living space. The standard (basic) level of fit-out in a home has also seen enormous change. Once upon a time it was a Linoleum kitchen benchtop. Now it’s vast amounts of reconstituted stone or similar as well as European kitchen appliances. Dishwashers in the kitchens and built-in robes in all bedrooms are now also standard (rather than an optional extra). Even glass shower screens are standard when a few years ago they were not. Garages are the biggest item (of change). Up until the mid 1990s they were not a standard item. The double garage is now standard.’’

The Henley chief adds another significant area of change is the design of homes to ensure they are more energy efficient and take advantage of natural light. “It’s all about the materials, such as insulation, used to stop temperature transference from inside to outside. Incidentally, insulation in the roof only became mandatory in 1992. Before that the majority of new homes had absolutely no insulation.

“The 1980s home was not designed to take advantage of passive solar energy. Now all new homes in Victoria must be at least 6-star energy rated.

“One way they are achieving this rating is the orientation of substantial glassed living areas to the northerly sun. In 2014 there is more glass and sliding doors to let the light in.’’

In the future, Mr Hayes believes homes will shrink in size marginally because they will be built on smaller blocks.

“Homes will shrink a bit as plots of land get smaller and smaller,’’ he says. “But builders are getting better at designing homes for them. There will be more townhouses and more efficient use of space. A lot of back yards are getting smaller but are more usable now. There are entertaining areas attached to the house that are covered – the outdoor room.’’

The Burbank Group’s managing director, Jarrod Sanfilippo, says home designs have evolved considerably over the years to accommodate the desire of people to entertain friends and relatives. “Large, open spaces which integrate the dining area with family/living zones and the kitchen make for easy entertaining, while separate dining rooms are out,’’ Mr Sanfilippo says.

“The kitchen is where the heart of the home is for most homebuyers.  They’re choosing large, 900 millimetre upright cookers rather than the traditional wall oven.’’
He adds that homebuyers are opting for walk-in pantries and are “dressing up’’ their kitchens with stone benchtops and glass splashbacks.

“In the bathrooms, homebuyers are going for double vanities and large showers, and upgrading to statement fittings like elegant tap ware and showerheads,’’ Mr Sanfilippo says.

“They’re also opting for spacious master bedrooms – much like a luxury hotel with room to move and relax, as well as sleep.’’

The Burbank chief points out that now

homebuyers are “technologically savvy’’. “So they are adding in media rooms or theatres for their big screen TVs and surround systems,’’ he says.

Master Builders Association of Victoria chief executive Radley de Silva says builders have “embraced’’ the new energy rating standards for new homes, “with many working solely in the area of green building where they exceed the regulation standards’’.
“Building materials have also evolved with more homes built using cement and concrete due to its durability and low cost, as compared to traditional bricks,’’ Mr de Silva says. “Concrete benches and flooring have even become a trend as opposed to ceramic tiles and laminate. Wood is also making a comeback with many home builders embracing the recycled materials evolution.’’

He agrees that homes are also getting larger with the average home now about 10 squares larger than 30 years ago. “Conveniences such as garages, dishwashers and ensuites are now also standard in many homes.”
Dennis Family Homes director Bert Dennis says in his early days of building, his company’s homes typically would be
three-bedroom, single-bathroom designs with an average overall size of around 135 square metres. “Today, the majority of our designs include four bedrooms and two bathrooms, with an average size more in the vicinity of 240 to 250 square metres.

“An integration of indoor and outdoor living has been achieved through the emergence in popularity of alfresco zones, which are now incorporated within many new home designs.’’
Metricon’s managing director, Ross Palazzesi, believes the mass volume-built market will move away from “the big house with the lot’’ to a more “niche’’ market, taking in higher density homes such as apartments.
“The detached market is going to diminish and the attached market is going to increase in whatever form,’’ Mr Palazzesi says.

At a glance – how housing has changed in 30 years

More living space.

  1. Garages are now a standard inclusion rather than optional extra.
  2. More upmarket level of fixtures and fittings.
  3. Covered outdoor zones attached to internal communal living areas.
  4. The home’s exterior is likely to contain a mix of materials including brick and lightweight cement panels/sheeting.
  5. New homes are now more energy efficient because of mandatory 6-star energy ratings.

By Andrew Brasier

Published in The Indian Weekly (First Weekly Indian news Magazine in Melbourne, Australia)