Boutique residential projects offer resort-style luxury in a curated apartment setting. Discerning buyers increasingly seek these energy-efficient, quality designs with maximised space and light.
In this knowledge series, Neuron examines four key areas where services engineering can maximise boutique apartment value.
We do this with reference to a range of real-life case studies. How many can apply to your next luxury boutique project?
1. Sewage lines
When executed wisely, the ‘demolish and merge’ approach to site development can boost property value. It does this by maximising net sellable area of the site relative to the total allowable gross floor area (GFA). Sewage lines are an infamous risk in new developments, particularly when sites are being consolidated.
When considering a site/s for purchase, understanding sewage line locations is paramount. Buying a site without knowing this information is a huge, unnecessary risk.
The most common and most detrimental risk for sewage lines is that they run through the envisioned development footprint and cannot be moved or built over. In this case, the entire development needs to be re-designed to accommodate these fixed lines. This can lead to a substandard design that compromises the project vision, desirability, and property value.
Moving or re-directing sewage lines can also be an expensive and disruptive exercise that is best avoided where possible. Pouring money into fixing or removing sewage lines can lead to regretful value management decisions later on. Again, this can impact the project vision and value of the properties.
At a site in Neutral Bay, two adjoining waterfront houses were demolished to build a single luxury boutique development. The plans included generous 200 square metre penthouses with spectacular water views, high-end finishes, internal parking and lift access. Neuron's innovative software swiftly identified sewage lines. We offered viable design solutions to minimise the impact on the project vision.
Sewage lines for a new building and neighbouring properties must be resolved to receive DA approval and Construction Certificate(s). Assessing the risk in its entirety is a crucial step in the pre-acquisition phase of property development. Neuron can complete a full review of all service lines within 24 hours. This report includes concept designs and costings for proposed solutions. This is a significant reduction on the usual lead time of three to five weeks.
2. Solar panels
BASIX is a criteria scheme that covers sustainability measures such as rain tanks, water fixtures and solar power. As an energy rating tool, BASIX encourages the inclusion of solar panels, even for small boutique luxury developments. The aim is to reach a certain level of points to meet the BASIX criteria. Solar panels help meet these points to meet a minimum sustainability rating. There are quite a lot of points available for solar so its inclusion is often of dual benefit to the owner.
The challenge with traditional solar is it can only power common property elements such as lifts, corridor lights and automatic doors. On-selling solar power to apartment residents for personal use is illegal. When you consider the common property power needs of a small boutique development, a negligible amount is used compared to its power-generating potential. Luxury apartments could have 200-300 square metres of floor space requiring lighting, cooling, heating and all sorts of power. It’s a missed opportunity not to connect solar to the apartments themselves to benefit the residents.
The other prominent risk factor is that solar panels may rise too high and exceed the maximum development height. Often, especially for luxury boutique developments, the developer will maximise height limits to capitalise on floor space, apartment levels, ceiling height and outlook. This is understandable. Yet, to achieve both maximum height and enough panelling to meet BASIX criteria, a different approach to solar is required.
Spectacular water views at a Bondi Beach address prompted a maximised height design that left little room for solar panelling. Neuron devised an innovative panel installation method so the height of the development was not comprised.
Developments that reach the greatest height plane can consider lower profile solar panels. The panels remain relatively flush with the roof and do not add too much to the height. Lower profile solar panels are also layered at a 10-degree tilt to self-clean.
In the case that height is not an issue, a raised solar structure can also function as a pergola. This creates extra roof space for a shaded rooftop garden, an inclusion many buyers expect in such high-end developments.
One of the Neuron approaches is using innovative technology to reduce carbon footprint. The goal is to make even the smallest of luxury residential buildings sustainable. That’s how we scale improvement and see meaningful change across the board.
Besides being environmentally preferable, consumers actively seek out sustainable apartment developments. Norwest by Mulpha Group is a 1 billion dollar green carbon-neutral building. Its attractive sustainability inclusions led to an immediate sell-out.
Using solar to cover utility bills for apartment owners is the next frontier. It's one Neuron has already resolved in collaboration with SolShare. SolShare enables the legal and evenly-distributed generation and supply of power to apartments. This highly marketable inclusion will make luxury apartment developments stand out from competitors.
3. Rooftop & plant space efficiency
Given the value-add potential in providing access to sunlight, leisure facilities and views, rooftop amenity is a highly desirable inclusion in luxury developments. Progressive councils, such as the City of Sydney, consider green roofs and amenities as part of DA consent conditions.
As attractive and desirable as green roof amenities may be, it does pose design challenges from a plant and services perspective. Where does the plant go if we can’t put it on the roof? How do we design beautiful, functional green roof amenities without exceeding the height limit?
Incorrect services spatial design can be disastrous. Risks and consequences compound as a project progresses into the design and construction phases. Undersized mechanical plant, for example, can be difficult to upgrade given the general shortage of space on the roof. On the other hand, over-allowing for spatial is a massive lost opportunity if discovered too late.
One luxury apartment development in Bondi Junction allowed twice as much space required for condensers. Unfortunately, the realisation came too late as the structure had been poured and access to the location was impossible. 80 square metres of space was wasted. Such a space could have delivered a plunge pool and respite gardens with views of Sydney Harbour.
Missed opportunities are far too common and are a result of the high demand for engineering consultants and a shortage of supply. Value optimisation opportunities are easy to overlook when a consultant cannot manually calculate optimised designs in an efficient timeframe.
Neuron software easily picks up over- and under- estimations of space, such as the one described in the previous case study. Neuron removes the likelihood of missed opportunities by reducing the time of analysis from several weeks to several minutes. Once our analysis achieves the best services design for a project vision, we facilitate a handover to external engineers who can begin documentation ahead of the next phase of the project. It’s an easy and efficient way to streamline the DA process, so you can focus on the important things.
4. Early services coordination & design considerations
Another crucial aspect of luxury developments is incorporating infrastructure like fire boosters and gas meters while not taking away from a dramatic street view of a beautiful building. Potential buyers and approving councils want the wow, and it’s no wonder. Visible plant and services can detract from the most beautiful of buildings, and in some cases, make apartments un-sellable.
Finding ways to hide plant on small luxury developments is extremely challenging and needs to be in the building form design from day one. Common services that present significant opportunity and risk include:
- Gas meters
- Air conditioning condensers
- Fire/water booster assembly sets
- Water meter
- Swimming pool water filtration equipment
- Car park ventilation louvres
How do we hide large, bulky plant and equipment? Optimising and adding value for both the developer and buyer is a complex and laborious task to complete without Neuron’s software.
A recent collaboration with Rheem on a Randwick site saw Neuron redesign a hot water system with storage tanks relocated from the roof to the basement. This freed up space for solar panels and rooftop amenities while adding to the street appeal of the building. The design was also executed without impacting parking space. This is the kind of innovative design thinking that councils and buyers alike want to see in luxury boutique developments.
For small luxury boutique developments, coordination of services to the roof through a wrap-around penthouse can get tricky. Unexpected shafts, columns and bulkheads not detailed in the initial designs can lead to disappointed buyers and potential legal ramifications. Before you sell something, you need to be sure that it can be delivered.
To do that, you need to start coordinating early.
“Form follows function” is a famous axiom by Sullivan and a touchstone for many architects. Design excellence in a boutique development, therefore, goes beyond architecture. It is reflected in the services engineering and resolution of the design and project vision.
Before buying a luxury boutique development site—or any site for that matter—we recommend a pre-acquisition report. Neuron can produce these in less than 24 hours. It is an easy and cost-effective way to reduce the inevitable risks that come with site acquisition.
Protect your investment. Neuron’s technology is best used at the concept stage where it can identify opportunities for innovative spatial design. Early intervention sets a project up for success now and in years to come.
Get in touch with Neuron today for a free demonstration.