Calm after the storm
The 2010s brought us two royal weddings, the ice bucket challenge, #metoo, Game of Thrones, and the first image of a black hole ever captured. For the team tasked with bringing proud Frasers Property communities to life, the past decade also ushered in a new era of challenge and innovation. We sat down with three senior designers from Frasers Property to find out what the next phase of evolution looks like for the average Australian community.
I spent quite a few years working in China on projects with colossal scale compared to what I do at Frasers; developments over a million hectares in size where you’re planning vast cities and infrastructure. But what I’ve learned is that regardless of whether you’re designing at a large scale or looking at a single building, the guiding principles and the conversation you’re having around design are the same, and always at the forefront of decision making.
Our pursuit as developers is for customer understanding. We undertake a great deal of exploration through questioning, where we then find the value in design. We establish open dialogue with our customers to understand who they are and what they need and want. What are they doing day to day? In what ways do they use their home, their private spaces, or shared communal facilities to live happily and more efficiently? We look at the human needs and desires and go from there.
The headline issue remains affordability and how to get more people into their own home. Land is scarce and getting more expensive to develop, so naturally we need to think about higher density living. The key for us is how we engage our customers and alleviate the fears that come with higher density living, and to make that design so rich in experience, amenity and adaptability that its value versus price is overwhelmingly in of the purchaser.
I’m currently working on an innovation project within the business to tackle the question of adaptability and affordability in apartment design. We’ve done extensive research in this area and it doesn’t matter which age group you’re talking everyone would love more flexibility in their home. So, whether you’re upsizing, downsizing, subletting or running a home office, how can you get more out of the space you’re living in? If we can solve this issue for customers, I think it opens up options in the market that haven’t previously existed.
There was a point in time where density was considered a dirty word. You would say ‘density’ and people would immediately think compact and really awkward. Over the last ten years it’s gone from a dirty word to a new kind of community living where people experience shared spaces and take traditional backyard activities out into the public realm.
When I first came to Frasers I worked on the project, which is quite a high-density project that really focusses its efforts on the public domain. Initially we had a bit of pushback from the community who felt the density didn’t suit the outer suburbs. We trusted our gut and proceeded with the project and five years later, we have people coming in droves wanting to be a part of that community.
It’s taken a while and it’s very much an ongoing evolution of thought, but people are definitely starting to see the benefits of a community that has good amenity, great access to transport, walkability and shared outdoor spaces. People are coming around to the potential of what a high quality, mixed-use community can be.
We’re also busier than ever, so the environments we put ourselves in are crucial. The kind of low-maintenance lifestyle that you get in a medium or high-density community with on-site amenity is really well suited to the way that people are living today.
Stakeholder expectations have definitely grown in the last decade, and with that has come a greater appreciation for the effect that sustainability can have on the financial outcome of a project. It’s no longer seen as an impediment or a hassle, it’s actually helping the project better satisfy the expectations of the customers.
A sustainable home is not just better for the environment, it’s also better for the end user. It’s healthier, more comfortable, more resilient and reduces the cost of living. Our biggest challenge is communicating how those benefits accrue over time, so they’re well worth the initial investment.
Frasers is leading the way in geothermal heating and cooling. There’s a study underway with Climate-KIC in partnership with ARENA, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and a few leading universities. It’s a living laboratory where we’re studying the benefits of geothermal at Fairwater over a three-year period. So far, preliminary results show that there’s a significant saving for residents when it comes to running air conditioning. It’s also more reliable during times of extreme weather conditions, which we’re starting to see more of as our summers get hotter.
For more Live Proud stories, have a read through our latest edition of the Live Proud magazine below.