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Report Building design and performance Built environment and design Environmental sustainability

Delivering sustainable apartment housing: New build and retrofit

Final Report No. 400

Date Published: 08 Jun 2023

Authors: Hazel Easthope Jasmine Palmer Andrea Sharam Megan Nethercote Gloria Pignatta Laura Crommelin

This research investigates how Australia can supply new and retrofit older apartments so that they are sustainable, that is they are comfortable; deliver cost reductions for householders while minimising consumption and waste; and maximise energy efficiencies and energy management, both in their construction and throughout their lifecycle (including through the adoption of renewable energy technologies).

There is demand from residents for more sustainable apartments but speculative strata titled development means what gets built is not necessarily what consumers want.

One key problem is that there are different stakeholders between the development and use phases of the building lifecycle. Design and construction decisions, impacting sustainability, are made by the speculative developer whose priorities for short-term project success differ from those of long-term residents, often perceiving sustainability features as value-add items rather than essential attributes of apartment buildings. 

There are also issues for owners considering retrofitting building for sustainability, including that they often only prioritise immediate issues (such as repairs and maintenance) and do not have the capacity to allocate time to forward planning, including planning for sustainability retrofits. Successful sustainable retrofits in strata buildings need to be driven either by an individual owner champion or a sustainability sub-committee made up of interested owners.

The research identified six key shifts that are needed in order to produce more sustainable apartments: development teams embed sustainability in project feasibility; the design and construction of delivered apartment buildings reflects what was designed and approved; property valuation reflects building performance; the potential benefits of physical inter-dependence and shared services are realised; consumers have access to adequate information about building performance; and sustainability initiatives influence all joint decision-making. 

DOI: 10.18408/ahuri7128201

Published by: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited

ISBN: 978-1-922498-67-0


Easthope, H., Palmer, J., Sharam, A., Nethercote, M., Pignatta, G. and Crommelin, L. (2023) Delivering sustainable apartment housing: new build and retrofit, AHURI Final Report No. 400, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne,, doi: 10.18408/ahuri7128201.

Easthope, Hazel
Palmer, Jasmine
Sharam, Andrea
Nethercote, Megan
Pignatta, Gloria
Crommelin, Laura