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The ‘missing middle’ of housing design a future option for Brisbane

Ms Volz said she was proud of the creative ways her students had designed buildings that were reactive to the landscape and to the needs of modern life, rather than sticking to the traditional three-bedroom design.

The internal design of QUT architecture student Bronwyn Horn's 50-square-metre building.

The internal design of QUT architecture student Bronwyn Horn’s 50-square-metre building.Credit:QUT

Only 36 per cent of homeowners now are a nuclear family (mum, dad, 1.5 children), Ms Volz said. Instead, the needs of split families, housemates and friends living together is far more complex.

Ms Volz said she was inspired to set the task by flexible planning designs in the United States, around cities such as Portland, where backyards were opened up to a different kind of density.

“It’s a nice, kind of gentle response to density, without building townhouses or bigger structures,” she said.

“What that means is people can still have their backyard … and it provides that flexibility for people.”

One student, Bronwyn Horn, designed a “work from home oasis” to allow a two-person small business to operate from.

QUT architecture student Jayden Choi's design for a 50-square-metre building.

QUT architecture student Jayden Choi’s design for a 50-square-metre building.Credit:QUT

Another student, Jayden Choi, designed a space to “challenge the current housing trend of being overly concerned with privacy rather than actively engaging with environment and community”.

Allowing residents to build small dwellings in their backyards directly improved housing affordability in those American cities, Ms Volz said.

Density in Brisbane has become a hot topic in recent years with Brisbane City Council banning townhouses in low density zoned suburbs in a bid to “save the back yard”, a move met with criticism from urban planners and developers.

Ms Volz said allowing smaller dwellings in backyards on such a small footprint was one way to tackle the issue of density and affordable housing.

The challenge is altering planning laws to allow and even encourage such smaller dwellings and spaces to be built in suburban streets, rather than a single large house or a set of townhouses.

“Perhaps we do need to see more architects involved in housing, starting to think about housing innovation and providing these housing solutions,” Ms Volz said.

“We do need to see a bit of a shift in planning laws, because there are limitations on building accessory dwelling units or granny flats in Brisbane at the moment.

“I think if we really look closely at what’s happening in Brisbane at the moment, we’d see a lot of people are just working around that current legislation, and I think in some cases that’s not great.”

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