Prefabricated solutions required for greyfields development

Announcements by both Victorian and NSW governments that they would encourage the new housing development on the fringes of Melbourne and Sydney revealed that urban planning is yet to find a solution for unlocking the potential for redevelopment of housing in the middle suburbs of the Australia’s fastest growing and largest cities.

In the face of sustained growth of population, big cities in Australia continue to sprawl into the green undeveloped lands, despite the now recognised problems associated with poor job access, lack of amenity, higher infrastructure costs, car dependency, diminished open space and agriculture.

A model for directing investment and population inwards – to inner city brownfields – was established about 20 years ago thanks to the Better Cities program of federal government. Of itself, however, redevelopment of underused or abandoned commercial and industrial facilities will fail to deliver the net additions of infill planned housing.

The solution is in the greyfield areas – those ageing but occupied tracts of middle and inner ring suburbia that are environmentally, technologically and physically failing and which represent underused and undercapitalised assets. Attempts have been made to intensify transit oriented development projects and employment and housing activity centres. Outside of Central Business Districts, especially in Melbourne, these intended areas have tended to under-perform. City transport corridors have also been focused for higher-density development, but research at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research suggests that the new infill housing does not vary by access of public transport, with most remaining car dependent.

A new logic for urban housing development is required: the green urbanism. As conceived, this involves a new policy that positions regeneration of urban greyfields precincts: residential precincts, transport corridors and activity centres.

According to recent study for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, the innovation is needed to establish a viable development model in the providing affordable and attractive solutions to medium-density developments. This includes combinations of service systems and prefabricated solutions that can provide easy turnaround options for replacing low-density existing housing.