RESIDENTIAL

 

RESIDENTIAL.

The housing boom from the mid ninety’s has involved everyone in this industry with a huge workload. But not all housing projects are easy to get approved and underway, when they involve big, inner city shifts in land use.

This consultancy headed several very large housing projects through the often torrid approval process, dealing with difficult Councils like Sydney’s famed Leichardt. Similarly difficult approval processes were undertaken in the land use changes, from industrial to housing in Sydney waterfront areas like Exile Bay. Some of these approval processes ran over several years, and more than one court case. Under such pressure, the need to manage the design process within the legal parameters, allowed little or no room for even the smallest error, and the role of project manager became one of managing a legal and town planning team, in the preparation leading up to, and during court hearings. Whilst approval by court case is no fun, this consultancy has todate not lost a case.

A planning and environment case over Rod Davis’s Boathouse was notable for its precedent setting win, requiring legislative repair by the public sector. After 18 years of experience in town planning law, Davis ‘swapped sides’ for 4 years, was elected, and went on to rewrite the town plan in his North Queensland region, sweeping up the 2007 State Planning Institute Awards, and setting new benchmarks in dealing with difficult planning issues , like the Daintree Rainforests, and climate change.

Whilst still studying for a Degree in Building at the UNSW in the late 70’s, Davis was busy in the inner city housing revival, in locations such as Sydney’s Kirribilli, on projects involving the hands-on renovation of older, Victorian Terrace houses. Interestingly, terraces which we once renovated, sell now at prices 25 times higher than what we had initially paid.

In the mid 90’s, Davis built a few small projects of his own, including a tropical, open stud version of the Victorian terrace, called Fullmoon Terraces, in Port Douglas. This was an interesting project, which to this day has an exterior appearance of a traditional exposed stud, Queensland weatherboard building, but which is actually a concrete framed, masonry building.

A similar composite construction was used on another second of Davis’s personal projects, known as the Boathouse, again in Port Douglas, where the building bases were in a lime washed masonry, whilst the lofts were all in light weight weatherboard. Both the Boathouse and Fullmoon Terraces are indeed quite pretty buildings, in a style that is arguably timeless.

The budget end of the housing market is one where Davis did many years work for the Wollongong developer Miltonbrook. Low cost, simple and attractive units were the then trademark of Miltonbrook. Design management, working to a super a tight budget, is the interesting and demanding part of low cost housing management. Davis does volunteer work in some aboriginal housing areas, as well as Tsunami aid work, and these situations bring out the best in clever, low cost design management.

The larger, medium density housing projects, parts of which are included in the adjacent photos, are mainly located in the inner city rings, such as the earlier mentioned Leichardt and Exile Bay, where Davis’s role was in the difficult planning and approval stages. In many ways, the planning of the revitalization of these large housing projects on former disused industrial sites, was ahead of its time.

Apartment building in tropical Australia has seen Davis deliver hundreds of apartments which are used partly for full time use, and partly as overnight accommodation. The low budget, but attractive Mango Lagoon apartments at Palm Cove are indeed a great example of what can be done with $10M, if you get the timing right….ie, there is an outstanding amount of floor space in this 2005 project, for its sub $10M price, whereas by comparison, the newer Accor apartments built in the expensive 2007-08 market, across the road, deliver a lot less floor space, for a similar price, reflecting the building industry’s tendency to price itself out of the market at the same time as real estate prices are dropping. Timing is indeed important.

Renovation work is also a part of the housing cycle, and new and affordable means of getting value in boom times have created some interesting solutions. For example the 120 ‘villa’ renovation of Port Douglas’s Reef Terraces required a threshold price that the body corporate could sustain, and after many failed quotes looked like sinking the project, a team with expertise in the Chinese buildings supply market was engaged, and nearly every single item in the renovation was imported from China, direct to site, reducing costs by near to 40%, at time when the Australian build prices were punitive.

Precast methods have also been studied and deployed to minimise building price by this consultancy. Davis’s university thesis examined the precast markets many year back.

In his role as an elected official, Davis did considerable work on evolving planning codes that address climate change, which in the tropics, translates to design codes that keep the buildings cool without too much air conditioning, using shading, insulation and natural ventilation. Davis has considerable experience in the enviro planning area, winning recent Planning Institute awards. Davis is also project manager for the TRYBRID marine project, which aims to launch the world’s fist closed loop, mechanised transport, that makes its own energy via photovoltaic array, to then electrolyse hydrogen, which then powers the fuel cells, and which in turn, powers the hybrid fed, electric motor. In the new energy fields, Davis is becoming fairly expert, as a logical adjunct to years of work on behalf of the natural environment.