Investigating Communityin Apartment LivingI.B. Fell Housing Research CentreFaculty of Architecture, Design and PlanningThe...
Social Isolationin Residential FlatsPilot ProjectI.B. Fell Housing Research CentreFaculty of Architecture, Design and Plan...
FOREWORDThe origins of the I B Fell Centre go back almost 50 years over which it has initiated manyhousing research and pr...
Table of Contents1.         INTRODUCTION.....................................................................................
1.     INTRODUCTIONThe purpose of this report is to document the outcomes of an applied social research project,undertaken...
Further, apartment developments need also to be welcoming and inclusive places, as a highproportion of residents of apartm...
interest groups, government, and a range of informal and formal meeting places”. There is awealth of sociological theory r...
3.       THE EVIDENCE BASE SO FAR3.1      What influences social isolation in apartment buildings?Approaches to overcoming...
For the purposes of this research what is important to note is that it follows from this that,while an ideal outcome, it i...
3.4     How does building design influence neighbour relations?Neighbour relations can be seen as the outcome of the inter...
Figure 3-1: Causes of Strata Scheme Disputes in NSW         Source: City Futures Research Centre (November 2010), page 35....
It is important to recognise that design alone will not in all cases be enough. Design simplyprovides the opportunity, it ...
proportions of families and seniors resident. It is also noted that current lifestyles        “work against producing soci...
3.7    Directions for researchA number of themes have been identified from the literature as areas which would benefitfrom...
4.       CASE STUDIES4.1      ApproachThis research project has its genesis in an opinion article published in an industry...
undertaken. In particular, reference was made to the measures of neighbourhood cohesion(such as the Buckner scale) as well...
4.3    Case study typologyFive buildings were examined as case studies:   1. A seniors’ living apartment building.   2. A ...
5.       RESEARCH FINDINGSThis section presents and discusses the outcomes of the case studies and survey tool.The survey ...
When combined the Buckner indicators form a scale to measure the sense ofcommunity/cohesion (equal to the mean of all 18 i...
Overall, residents of the case study buildings are not considered to be socially isolated11.The case study building respon...
5.2    What is the role of communal facilities in community       formation within the case study apartment buildings?5.2....
5.2.2 Does building size play a role?The typology of case studies utilised provided some degree of insight into one of the...
Guiding this, an intuitive direction from this study is that neighbour connections appear toweaken more noticeably above a...
Participants acknowledged a need for an outside force to ‘jump-start’ community formation.This could be in the form of org...
Spaces whose use entailed no physical exertion more widely utilised. The survey suggeststhat only a minor proportion of re...
6.       KEY DIRECTIONS FOR BUILDING DESIGN6.1      Summary of findingsA number of key messages can be drawn from the rese...
6.2    How can communal facilities best create community?The focus of this paper is on those changes to the physical fabri...
For example, poorly located common rooms appear to receive less use, whilst       similarly located gyms would not.   •   ...
•    Positioned to avoid becoming a conflict generator (due to noise or other amenity         impacts).The case studies co...
6.3    Policy recommendationsThe State Environmental Planning Policy No 65 - Design Quality of Residential FlatDevelopment...
7.     REFERENCESAppold, S., & Yuen, B. (2007). Families in flats, revisited. Urban Studies, 44 (3), pp. 569-589.       do...
Easthope, H., & Judd, S. (2010). Living well in greater density. Sydney, NSW, Australia: City      Futures Research Centre...
Holland, C., Clark, A., Katz, J., & Peace, S. (2007). Social interactions in urban public places.       Bristol, UK: Polic...
Social isolation pilot project
Social isolation pilot project
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Social isolation pilot project

  1. 1. Investigating Communityin Apartment LivingI.B. Fell Housing Research CentreFaculty of Architecture, Design and PlanningThe University of Sydney
  2. 2. Social Isolationin Residential FlatsPilot ProjectI.B. Fell Housing Research CentreFaculty of Architecture, Design and PlanningThe University of SydneyResearch byJames Lette, Associate DirectorBBC Consulting Planners55 Mountain Street, Broadway, NSW 2007JANUARY 2012
  3. 3. FOREWORDThe origins of the I B Fell Centre go back almost 50 years over which it has initiated manyhousing research and prototype projects. The particular focus has been on the interrelationbetween social issues, architecture and planning. During recent years there has beenincreasing concern about serious problems of social isolation, in some part as a result of theway residential flats have been designed. On the one hand the overall standard of amenityhas markedly improved, but on the other the physical organization of buildings all toofrequently discourages residents meeting even their immediate neighbours in the sameresidential block. The problem may be more extreme in high-rise developments in centralurban areas, but is all too common in other apartment types.BBC Consulting Planners was commissioned to investigate the issues and has workedclosely with I B Fell in carrying out the research. It is a modest pilot project and identificationof case studies in which anecdotally the design of apartment blocks facilitates a sense ofcommunity has proven to be unexpectedly difficult. But the observations do give somevaluable indicators that we hope will be useful in suggesting directions for future designs andfurther research. The Centre welcomes comment and would be grateful for suggestions inrelation to future research in this area.Emeritus Professor Peter WebberChair, I B Fell Housing Research Centrefell@arch.usyd.edu.au
  4. 4. Table of Contents1. INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................ 12. THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL ISOLATION........................................................................ 13. THE EVIDENCE BASE SO FAR ............................................................................... 4 3.1 What influences social isolation in apartment buildings? .................................... 4 3.2 What is the role of neighbouring? .......................................................................... 4 3.3 What are the forms / stages of neighbouring?....................................................... 5 3.4 How does building design influence neighbour relations? .................................. 6 3.5 What can be done to increase neighbouring in apartment buildings? ................ 7 3.6 What are the physical and design features which are thought to encourage social contact? ...................................................................................... 8 3.7 Directions for research .......................................................................................... 104. CASE STUDIES....................................................................................................... 11 4.1 Approach ................................................................................................................ 11 4.2 Limitations .............................................................................................................. 12 4.3 Case study typology .............................................................................................. 13 4.4 Nature of participants in the research .................................................................. 135. RESEARCH FINDINGS ........................................................................................... 14 5.1 What ‘community’ exists within the case study apartment buildings?.............. 14 5.1.1 Measuring cohesion ........................................................................................................ 14 5.1.2 Indicators of social isolation............................................................................................ 15 5.2 What is the role of communal facilities in community formation within the case study apartment buildings?.................................................................... 17 5.2.1 How does community form within apartments? ............................................................ 17 5.2.2 Does building size play a role?....................................................................................... 18 5.2.3 People or facilities? ......................................................................................................... 19 5.3 What makes an effective communal space? ........................................................ 20 5.3.1 How do residents use communal spaces? .................................................................... 20 5.3.2 How can buildings/ communal spaces be improved?................................................... 216. KEY DIRECTIONS FOR BUILDING DESIGN.......................................................... 22 6.1 Summary of findings.............................................................................................. 22 6.2 How can communal facilities best create community? ....................................... 23 6.3 Policy recommendations ....................................................................................... 26 6.4 Further steps .......................................................................................................... 267. REFERENCES......................................................................................................... 28APPENDICES Appendix 1: Detailed Case Studies ............................................................................ 31 Appendix 2: Reprint: Turnbull, J.A.B., (1985). The habitability of communal spaces in high rise buildings for the elderly.............................................................................................................................................. 53 Appendix 3: Survey Tool ............................................................................................. 67
  5. 5. 1. INTRODUCTIONThe purpose of this report is to document the outcomes of an applied social research project,undertaken for the IB Fell Housing Research Centre (‘IB Fell), examining the role ofcommunal spaces in combating social isolation in residential apartment buildings. Thisresearch comprised the examination of a number of case study buildings.This report outlines the key findings arising from consideration of the case studies and makesrecommendations outlining the spaces, places and facilities which have been demonstratedto be effective (or have significant potential) in addressing social isolation.The focus of this report is on those changes to the physical fabric of buildings which canpotentially act as a catalyst for positive social interaction which have marginal constructioncosts and function irrespective of the socio-economic profile of residents and independent ofproperty management, both of which are subject to constant change over the life of abuilding.The report concludes with suggested guidance which could be included into the StateEnvironmental Planning Policy No.65: Design Quality of Residential Flat Development (SEPP65) and the Residential Flat Design Code to incorporate effective communal spaces intoresidential apartment buildings.2. THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL ISOLATIONInexorable increases in population in large Australian cities have led to significant changes inthe types of dwellings in which we live. Urban consolidation has become an environmentalimperative and a major proportion of new housing will be medium and high density.The policy framework established in the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy seeks to increase theproportion of residents living in high density building forms from 35% in 2001 to 45% by 2031(or around 512,000 of the 640,000 new homes required) (Randolph, 2006). The strategyaims to deliver 70% of new housing within the walking catchment of existing urban centreswith good access to public transport. A further 10% will be delivered in new centres (NSWDepartment of Planning, 2010, p. 15, 23).Whilst the urban renewal necessitated by the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy is not simplyabout increasing housing densities, this strategic policy objective will only be achieved byhousing more people in higher density building forms, particularly apartments. Higher densityliving can take many forms and sizes, not simply large high rise buildings but alsotownhouses and 3 or 4 storey low rise buildings.If such urban consolidation is to succeed and be accepted by the community, a currentlycontentious proposition, apartment developments need to not only be environmentallysustainable, but they also need to be socially sustainable. As recognised in the NSWPlanning (2010) discussion paper "Good design and building quality .. is vital to the successof urban renewal". Apartment developments need to be places in which people choose tolive, and are happy to live, rather than places which people settle for when they cannot forreasons of affordability or proximity achieve the quarter-acre cultural ideal. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 1
  6. 6. Further, apartment developments need also to be welcoming and inclusive places, as a highproportion of residents of apartments comprise groups which are more vulnerable to socialisolation. Occupants are often single, whether young and mobile, lone parents separatedfrom partners, or elderly, and many residents are living away from their extended familysupport networks.Social isolation is an increasingly prominent issue in apartment living. Social isolation hasbeen variously defined but includes low levels of involvement in community life/ havingminimal interaction with others combined with the absence of satisfying relationships (orloneliness) (Findlay and Cartwright, 2002). At its extreme, social isolation can lead to tragicconsequences, reported increasingly frequently in the media. As noted by the UK SocialExclusion Unit (2005) “Social isolation leads to depression, loneliness, anxiety, which in turnstop people from interacting with their local community and accessing services they need”.This issue is one not only of importance to those people who live in apartments – the loss ofsuburban backyards (considered in detail in Hall, 2010) is making communal spaceincreasing important in the suburbs.The reasons for social isolation are many and complex, relating to a variety of personalcircumstances. Necessarily, the responses which can be taken are also varied, primarilyrelating to a range of community development interventions.A key way of overcoming or preventing social isolation is to establish a ‘sense of community’in an apartment development. This is supported by evaluations such as that of a QueenslandGovernment (2009) project, which concluded that the ability to access social connections andactivities is a protective factor against social isolation.Increasing community within residential apartment buildings has a number of positivebenefits. As noted by Easthope and Judd (2010): "Social interaction and communal activity can engender shared values and cooperation which may be especially important in higher density environments where issues of privacy, security and considerate behaviour with regard to noise attract particular attention. A spirit of community can increase the likelihood of good communication, tolerance and collective problem solving (Mulholland Research and Consulting, 2003, p. 17-18). For example, a UK study on neighbour noise found that community cohesion – identified by participants as people looking out for one another and feeling involved in the community – was associated with less complaints about noise (MORI Social Research Institute, 2003, p. 29, 32). A well-developed community could also enable residents with common interests, needs or concerns regarding their development to mobilise and collectively address them (McKenzie, 2004). Conversely, higher density living environments lacking these social characteristics could be more vulnerable to disputes, dissatisfaction and reduced resident wellbeing". (p. 22)Social isolation is also linked to the concept of ‘social capital’, with a key indicator of it beingthe inability to get help or assistance when needed. It has been demonstrated that highersocial capital may, amongst several positive outcomes, protect individuals from socialisolation (Whiteford, Cullen, & Baingana, 2005). Although there are many definitions of socialcapital it has been defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004, p. 5) as relating to“the resources available within communities in networks of mutual support, reciprocity, andtrust. It is a contributor to community strength. Social capital can be accumulated whenpeople interact with each other in families, workplaces, neighbourhoods, local associations, IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 2
  7. 7. interest groups, government, and a range of informal and formal meeting places”. There is awealth of sociological theory regarding the social variables involved in the functioning ofsocial capital. Beyond providing a brief context to the study, there is little value in offeringanother review of this literature, and it would over-complicate the issue being considered,divorcing it from this paper’s intended aim of producing straightforward and practical designguidance.Fundamental to the establishment of a sense of community is the concept of ‘neighbouring’ -the strength of the relationships between neighbours (social cohesion) present in a building.However despite this need it is evident that neighbourliness is declining in Australia, not onlyin apartment buildings but in all communities. A recent survey (Pure Profile, 20091) identifiedthat only 22% of people know all of their neighbours first names, 47% rarely haveconversations with their neighbours, and 35% report that they are too busy to get to knowtheir neighbours. This negative trend is more strongly prevalent amongst younger agegroups, a core apartment dweller.Neighbouring can be promoted in many ways. However an aspect which is often overlookedis the opportunity presented by the design of the physical environment. The design of atypical residential unit block takes little to no account of the problem of social isolation. Largerdevelopments may provide central landscaped areas which are valuable for relaxation andsometimes childrens play, gymnasia and swimming pools, but very few individual unit blocksare consciously designed to include communal space and places where residents will meetinformally and naturally - spaces which can act as catalysts for the formation of mutuallysupportive social networks.Indeed there is little guidance available to the development industry as to the places anddevices which are likely to work effectively. In NSW, State Environmental Planning PolicyNo.65 (SEPP 65) and the Residential Flat Design Code draw attention to the need toaddress social issues in residential apartment building design, but specific advice is lacking.There is a clear need to identify an evidence base and provide design guidance on how thisissue can be addressed at the design stage. In NSW a number of SEPP 65 advisory panelsare strongly advising Councils and developers to take heed of this issue. It is also an issuebeing driven by the market, with purchasers looking beyond the apartment to the building asa “nice place to live”.A core aim of residential apartment building design should be to build social capital (“the gluethat binds communities together” (Falk, c.2007, p. 35). In the long run, it is more costeffective to design informal socialisation opportunities into a building, rather than to laterimplement community development approaches or seek to change structures in response tosocially dysfunctional housing layouts.1 A poll of 2100 households by Pure Profile for NRMA Insurance. (Christiansen, Courier Mail, 23/12/2009) IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 3
  8. 8. 3. THE EVIDENCE BASE SO FAR3.1 What influences social isolation in apartment buildings?Approaches to overcoming social isolation are many faceted, involving both communitydevelopment and physical design responses. Research such as Chou et al (2002) andHugman (2001) tie a residents’ satisfaction with their personal space to their level of socialinteraction with other residents (this is particularly so amongst the elderly).The fostering of community through resident interaction is an issue with a long history(Cooper Marcus, 1992, Turnbull, 1985, Lewin, 1967), but it is an issue which is only recentlyreturning to prominence. Since we commenced this project a number of research studieshave been published on aspects of the subject (Whitzman and Mizrachi, 2009, Easthope andJudd, 2010).Summarising Australian and international literature, Easthope and Judd (2010) review thefactors which affect quality of life and resident satisfaction. This review can be synthesisedinto several categories: • resident diversity - norms and expectations tend to vary according to different demographic characteristics and lifestyles affecting their demands on space and their relationships with neighbours (ie. behaviour). • neighbour relations - that is, neighbouring discussed previously. For example, in the 1960s environment-behaviour studies considered behaviour (B) to be a function of the interaction between personal factors (P) and the environment (E), which was summarised in the equation B = f (P, E) (Lewin, 1967). • management - as identified by Falk (c.2007, p. 14) “The management systems in use ... have a real influence on the way people from different backgrounds get on”. For example, the link between strata title and resident discord is well documented2. • building and apartment design.It is clear that the development of community in apartment buildings is not just reliant on abuildings spaces, but also the nature and demographic characteristics of the residents(which are arguably more determinative). However, it is the building’s design which tiesresidents together in space and provides the forum for their interaction, on which theirrelationships are developed.3.2 What is the role of neighbouring?Research consistently recognises that a key aspect of resident satisfaction and their qualityof life is the sense of community present in an apartment building. This community is basedon ‘neighbouring’ - the strength of the relationships between neighbours (social cohesion).It is important to understand that there is a difference between neighbourhood (the physicalenvironment) and neighbouring (the quality of local social interaction between neighbours)(Forrest and Kearns, 2001, p. 2130), which as noted by Crawford (2006) debates aboutsocial capital tend to combine. The lack of strong social ties does not of itself result in chaosor disorder (Crawford, 2006). Rather their presence is a feature of a resilient community anda mechanism by which the community can adapt and respond to such disorder.2 See Christensen, S et al (2006). IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 4
  9. 9. For the purposes of this research what is important to note is that it follows from this that,while an ideal outcome, it is not necessary to seek to build a strong community in apartmentbuildings - what is important is the establishment of what are known as "weak ties"3. Asnoted in Crawford (2006): In sum, policy interventions based on assumptions about neighbourhood-based social capital might be better aimed at working with weak ‘bridging’ ties that stretch across social groups and extend beyond the neighbourhood, rather than focusing on the support and strength of strong ‘bonding’ ties. Porous, outward-looking neighbourhoods rather than solid, introspective communities may be more conducive to tolerance, respect for difference, trust and an absence of prejudice.Henning and Lieberg (1996, cited in Crawford, 2006) found that "weak ties provide security, asense of identity and a feeling of home, as well as practical and social support". Weak tiesare "often the most useful form of social organisation for getting things done" (Crawford,2006) as they "perform an important function in the routines of everyday life and theseroutines are arguably the basic building blocks of social cohesion" (Forrest and Kearns,2001).Weak ties are particularly important to those who are more vulnerable and at risk of socialisolation. Strong ties can have a negative, exclusionary effect on new-comers and “may leadto less trust and reciprocity to those outside the group” (VicHealth, 2005).3.3 What are the forms / stages of neighbouring?Easthope and Judd (2010, p. 22) identified several stages (or forms) of neighbouringbehaviour: 1. acquaintance (a level of recognition and/or courteous greeting of neighbours); 2. reciprocal helping (a level of trust and availability to, for example, borrow something off a neighbour or have them look after a pet when absent); 3. participation (participating in structured community activities and events, like a barbecue or play group); and 4. socialising (making friendships with and visiting neighbours informally).Regular encounters are seen by much of the research as the first steps towards friendship oras the beginning of a community. For example, Dines et al (2006) concluded that “Fleetingand more meaningful encounters in public spaces were both beneficial in sustaining people’ssense of community, or raising their spirits”. Some literature considers even eye contact andnodding (passive contact) as social interaction. Others find whilst recurring visual contact canestablish initial social ties, it is weak, often not leading further. This is in essence thecommencement of the ‘weak ties’ outlined above.This research further investigates how a building’s design can assist residents to developthrough each of these stages of neighbouring.3 Defined by Henning and Lieberg (1996:6) as “unpretentious everyday contacts in the neighbourhood”. Forrest and Kearns (2001) consider that "these kinds of contact range in their terms from a nodding acquaintance to modest levels of practical help (taking in a parcel)". IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 5
  10. 10. 3.4 How does building design influence neighbour relations?Neighbour relations can be seen as the outcome of the interaction of resident diversity withbuilding design. Such interactions can create positive or negative outcomes. Points of conflicttend to commence where there are differing resident norms and expectations. These issuesare heightened in apartment buildings “where spaces have to be shared, particularly whenlarge numbers of people with different lifestyles come into close proximity, particularly ifpeople are competing for space in a poor location” (Falk, c.2007).It is the position of this paper that these issues predominantly arise where design isinadequate to the needs of users. Further, the impact of such resident behaviour can eitherbe worsened or mitigated by appropriate design. It is a particularly important issue asneighbour tension acts against effective community cohesion. If design reduces points ofconflict it makes socialisation and the building of community easier.The points of conflict faced by residents of apartment buildings are well documented both inacademic research and in mainstream media (see, for example, data on complaints to NSWCommunity Justice Centres from apartment residents in 2008-094). The predominantproblems that are known to lead to conflict are – • Noise (the most fundamental issue); • Children (13.4% of complaints in NSW) and pets’ (16.6% of complaints in NSW) behaviour; • Use of common facilities (7.4% of complaints in NSW); • Privacy; • Car parking competition; and • Rubbish removal (i.e. differing standards).This is supported by a survey conducted by the City Futures Research Centre, UNSW(2010) of strata executive committee members in New South Wales. Whilst not arepresentative sample, respondents identified the range of disputes that occur in strataschemes, as identified in Figure 1.Design and construction standards are the starting point for much of this conflict. It must alsobe noted that there are three areas in which interventions addressing conflict in apartmentbuildings have an effect - physical, social, and management. Their interaction is complex,and their separation poses difficulties in any assessment of occupied buildings as casestudies.A diversity of norms, behaviours and lifestyles can be effectively accommodated within anapartment building, as long as the design of the building can successfully prevent, limit andmanage any conflict which arises from that diversity. As noted above, a more cohesivecommunity is more tolerant, better able to communicate and solve issues as they arise.4 Daily Telegraph 19/9/10 IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 6
  11. 11. Figure 3-1: Causes of Strata Scheme Disputes in NSW Source: City Futures Research Centre (November 2010), page 35.3.5 What can be done to increase neighbouring in apartment buildings?Typically the research identifies community building responses which can be classified in thefollowing broad terms: • Physical design which supports or encourages social interaction. This can be either through - o more formal activity spaces which have been the traditional focus of planning / design (e.g. common room, gym, pool, BBQ area); or o elements which facilitate incidental interactions ("serendipity"5). • Community development approaches, such as those currently used in low density greenfield estates - o organised activities which get residents interacting; o communication avenues, including digital ones; or o communicating expectations of appropriate behaviour up-front, to avoid conflict later.5 Discussed further in Foth M (2005). IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 7
  12. 12. It is important to recognise that design alone will not in all cases be enough. Design simplyprovides the opportunity, it cannot make people interact, let alone create community. It is amatter of resident choice and preference - the influence of resident diversity discussedpreviously. As discussed, it is clear from the research undertaken that community formationis dependent on who lives in an apartment building, their demographic characteristics, butalso their personalities and preferences. These will change over the life of a building.The focus should be on providing design elements regardless of the nature of a buildingsinhabitants.3.6 What are the physical and design features which are thought to encourage social contact?Easthope and Judd (2010, p. 23) identify a range of research which supports the argumentthat "the design of the physical environment in higher density environments can increase ordecrease the frequency and quality of social interaction, and that facilities and spacesdesigned to support contact and proximity can greatly enhance neighbourliness andcommunity". It is not the role of this paper to consider these arguments in detail, however thefollowing conclusions, which hold a number of important implications for building design, canbe drawn from the research base: • Social contacts between neighbours seem to be enhanced by the presence of three variables in neighbourhoods: the opportunity for passive social contact, proximity to others, and appropriate space to interact (Festinger et al., 1950; Fleming et al., 1985)6. • It must be recognised that people dont use common spaces or congregate just for the sake it. They require a purpose when doing so - facilities give purpose to a space and enhance its social vitality (Dines et al, 2006). • Design needs to consider how people circulate within a building and its site, spatially arranging amenities to encourage residents to cross “paths” whenever possible. • Whilst it is important to encourage group activities (Easthope and Judd, 2010), there is a need for more than simply a common area. The common area is not always a convenience for residents because, for example, they have to travel to the ground floor (Walicki, 2006). Some literature suggests that in larger complexes each floor needs to have an individual identity and features which enable people to congregate in or adjacent to movement areas. Huang (2006) found that significantly more social interactions are found in circulation spaces, and significantly fewer social interactions are observed in seating and vague spaces. • Design needs to provide an environment which facilitates "accidental communities", that is “communities which spring up naturally when like-minded people gather in an area that offers activities that they either like to do or have to do” (Patnaik, cited in Rafter, 2005). The basis for this is recognising the activities which people need to do and building socialisation opportunities around them. It could include gardening, or pet exercising. • Continued, regular use of common areas is instrumental in developing good relations (Dines et al, 2006). • It is important to also recognise that the future residents are not necessarily those envisaged by design. It is no longer solely renters, the young and the less advantaged who live in apartments. The demographic character of apartment dwellers is projected to continue to dramatically change into the future with increasing6 Cited in Skjaeveland O and Garling T (1997) IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 8
  13. 13. proportions of families and seniors resident. It is also noted that current lifestyles “work against producing social capital naturally” (Falk, c.2007, p.36, citing Putnam, 2001). • Design must be inclusive of people of all social and age groups (particularly children and older people). • Spaces must be designed so that they are adaptable to changing activities or the space required (“more important than the facilities themselves are the things you do in those facilities”7). • Building quality standards are required which design out the points of conflict previously identified. For example, providing spaces where noisy activities can occur (such as an acoustically treated common room). As identified by Dekker and Bolt (2005), people who like the place where they have chosen to live may actively seek out their neighbours. • Common areas need to be pleasant, inviting spaces where people want to spend their time. People are drawn to spaces that offer interest, stimulation, comfort and amenity (Holland et al, 2007). Sullivan et al (2004) found that trees / green space not only increased a spaces level of use, but also increased the amount of social interaction which occurred within them. • The layout of a space is more important than its size. The sense of a space offering the freedom to linger is important (Dines et al, 2006). Sarkissian and Kerr (2003) recommend avoiding formal demarcation in common space and ensuring direct connections between commonly used spaces. • Seating needs to be adequate, in appropriate locations, and orientated in a way that facilitates interaction (O’Connor, 2006). • Places should be design to foster the perception of safety (“trusted spaces” in which people can mix (Lownsbrough and Beunderman, 2007)).Guthrie et al (2009) posited the aspects of communal open space which was consideredimportant to families living in apartment buildings. Listed below in order of importance, thislist has broader applicability to all apartment residents.Theme Sub-factor1. Design and Comfort Layout and Size Microclimate Physical Features (Facilities; Materials; Lighting; Extent and type of greenery; and Useability throughout year) Accessibility2. Diversity and Scope of potential uses Opportunity Appeal to different user groups Aesthetic Quality3. Safety Surveillance (seats, tables, windows to facilitate) Safe Physical Features Maintenance of Communal Open Spaces4. Sociability Facilities Accessibility7 Theo J M van der Voordt, Dick Vrielink and Herman B R van Wegen (1997) IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 9
  14. 14. 3.7 Directions for researchA number of themes have been identified from the literature as areas which would benefitfrom further research. These themes, which have shaped the pilot study and informed thedevelopment of the research tools utilised (detailed in Section 4), are: • What is (and isnt) an effective communal space? Why is it effective? Whats valued about it? • What level of neighbouring is necessary for an apartment building to reduce social isolation, one component of a socially sustainable building community? How can this best be achieved? • How can community development best be encouraged? What are the triggers? • Do design features work across all lifestyle/ age groups or does design need to be tailored? What is the role of resident characteristics? • How can communal spaces be made adaptable? • What is the role of building size? Is there a critical mass needed (number of residents in building)? Is there a tipping point which is too many? • What is the role of building management (e.g. strata committees) in community formation? • Are recent trends in building design more beneficial to the formation of community? (namely grouping several buildings together to provide larger, better quality and higher order communal spaces in centralised locations). IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 10
  15. 15. 4. CASE STUDIES4.1 ApproachThis research project has its genesis in an opinion article published in an industry magazineCity-scape News (Webber, April 2008), which outlined the issue driving the research,established potential directions, and sought to gather together practitioners interested indiscussing the issues. This was followed up by the convening on 30th July 2008 of acolloquium with designers, local government representatives and housing providers todiscuss the issues. This colloquium confirmed a need for a research project of this kind, onewhich provided practical guidance and was based on real world experience. The IB FellHousing Research Centre determined to undertake research to develop such guidance,utilising case studies to investigate the issues.Within the limitations noted below, an initial ‘long list’ of case study sites was identified,drawing heavily on the assistance of the IB Fell team, 2008 colloquium participants, and theircontacts. A representative selection of case study sites was then selected, whichcharacterised a broad typology of building types and social environments. The case studiesselected were located within inner Sydney due to project resource constraints. The buildingsselected had been occupied for some time in order to allow social networks the opportunity todevelop.A variety of case studies were suggested, but for a range of reasons (particularly access),they could not be included in the pilot study.A detailed examination of each case study building was undertaken via resident discussion(focus groups) and administration of a survey of participating residents. It was initiallyplanned to architecturally document each of the case study buildings, however due toresourcing issues this did not prove to be feasible. Documentation was instead limited toevidentiary photographs and the completion of a building assessment checklist.Focus group discussion themes included:- • exploration of the sense of community in the building, for example, how well neighbours know each other, how any relationships developed and the role (if any) of communal spaces. • exploration of the value and role of communal facilities in the building, for example, whether or not residents utilised communal spaces, how they use them or why they didn’t, the types of communal space they prefer to use, what they value about their communal spaces, which aspects work well and how their communal spaces could work better.As identified in the literature review, it is important to also understand the characteristics ofresidents in order to contextualise the study and understand what influence it has on the useof communal space8. Further, a focus group is not an appropriate forum to gather certainpersonal information and view points.Accordingly, a survey tool was also developed and administered to the focus groupparticipants. In order to enable the survey results to be broadly comparable to other datasets,the survey tool was developed by reference to other similar surveys which had been8 For example, in terms of length of residence, AHURI research confirms that older residents that move in later in life find it hard to find community or family connections (McNelis et al, 2009). IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 11
  16. 16. undertaken. In particular, reference was made to the measures of neighbourhood cohesion(such as the Buckner scale) as well as indicators of social isolation and neighbouringbehaviour (such as those used by the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia(HILDA) survey).4.2 LimitationsA number of key difficulties were faced by this project, the principal of which was that, as asmall research project, the number of case studies which could be undertaken was limited.However a number of important methodological challenges were also faced.Firstly, the identification of appropriate case study buildings proved problematic. Despite wideconsultation with industry participants, ranging from building designers to approval agencies,few people were able to confidently nominate buildings which they believed functioned wellfrom the perspective of fostering community interaction. In part, this could be explained by adisconnect between theory and practice - between the development process and an ex-anteunderstanding by industry participants of the actual living experience which eventuates postoccupation. If so, this is an important conclusion which further supports the need for researchof the type undertaken here.However, it may also be that current industry practice does not widely reflect best practice.As noted in the literature review, the generally accepted principles by which community canbe fostered in apartment buildings have been established for some time. It may be thatcommercial imperatives outweigh design intent. If so, this points to a need for establisheddesign guidance which has regulatory force but also a need to demonstrate that thenecessary design improvements have only marginal affects on construction costs.Once a building was identified a second challenge faced was gaining permission to accessthose buildings and convening a meeting of interested residents. This challenge could not beovercome in a number of instances, necessitating the exclusion of several buildings from theproject.Gaining meaningful attendance at focus groups was a further challenge faced, howeverresidents were on the whole very keen to express their views on their living experience inapartments and adequate numbers were achieved at each focus group convened to ensuremeaningful and diverse discussions.While the overall number of research participants is small, making it difficult to accuratelygeneralise to the wider population, it does provide a basis for examining the physical qualitiesof the case studies and to act as a pilot study. A basis is also provided for initial designguidance for further discussion by those involved in the sector. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 12
  17. 17. 4.3 Case study typologyFive buildings were examined as case studies: 1. A seniors’ living apartment building. 2. A small building of walk-up flats developed in the post-war period. 3. A large multi-building residential complex with shared facilities, which was recipient of a number of industry design awards. 4. A townhouse style building with a high proportion of renting residents. 5. A townhouse style building with residents who have a high level of socio-economic advantage.In addition, a public housing building previously analysed by IB Fell in Turnbull et al (1985)was included for comparison.These case studies represent a broad typology of building types (from small to large), designstyles (1940s, 1970s, 1980s and 2000s), and social environments (a variety of socio-economic levels, and a mix of owner-occupied and rental buildings).4.4 Nature of participants in the researchWithin these buildings, 23 residents participated in the research. Whilst as a proportion of allresidents of the buildings this represents only a small proportion of their occupants and is alimitation of the research, adequate numbers were achieved at each focus group convenedto ensure meaningful and diverse discussions.There are other characteristics of the research participants which also influence theinterpretation of the studies findings - • Participants were older, all being over 30 years of age. This is likely to be a result of the case studies selected, which are proximate to the city and have higher property values. Half were over 55 years, which is influenced by the inclusion of a seniors living building within the study. • For similar reasons most are engaged in professional occupations or are retirees (40%). • The gender of participants was slightly skewed, being 45% male. • Just 5% of residents rented. • Residents were not new to apartments. Over half the residents had lived in apartments for over 5 years in their lifetime. Just 10% had lived in apartments for less than a year. • Most had resided within the case study buildings for some time (15% for less than a year). IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 13
  18. 18. 5. RESEARCH FINDINGSThis section presents and discusses the outcomes of the case studies and survey tool.The survey tool was administered in order to seek information on aspects of participantswhich could not be discussed in a group format. As such it is intended as a supplement to,rather than director of this study. In reading the analysis of the survey tool it is important tokeep in mind the limitations identified in Section 4. Due to the small number of surveysadministered, discussion of exact response rates has been avoided where possible, withtrends being identified instead. There are not enough respondents to provide statisticallysignificant findings and statistical analysis has not been undertaken.5.1 What ‘community’ exists within the case study apartment buildings?5.1.1 Measuring cohesionThe sense of community and social cohesion present amongst the case study buildings wasvery high.This is further supported by the survey data, which incorporated 18 indicators ofneighbourhood cohesion developed by Buckner (1988). Buckner discerned three dimensionsof neighbourhood cohesion - sense of community ("residents sense of community felt withinthe context of neighborhood)", attraction to neighbourhood ("residents degree of attraction tolive and remain in the neighborhood") and neighbouring ("residents degree of interactionwithin the neighborhood"). Buckner’s ‘neighbourhood cohesion instrument’ is considereduseful as, "When evaluated at the neighborhood-level of analysis .... (it) exhibited gooddiscriminatory power and evidenced criterion-related validity in the assessment ofneighborhood cohesion."The survey suggests that: • Over half of respondents strongly agreed that they were very attracted to living in this building. No residents disagreed. • Around a third of respondents strongly agreed that they felt they "belong to this building’s community". No residents disagreed. • All respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that "living in this building gives me a sense of community". • All respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would "work together with others .. to improve my building". • There was a high level of loyalty amongst residents (three-quarters agreed or strongly agreed, and none disagreed). • Two thirds of respondents planned to remain resident for a number of years (only 5% did not). • However, respondents were more ambiguous regarding the sharing of other people’s plans (half neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement, "If the people in my building were planning something Id think of it as something "we" were doing rather than something "they" were doing"). IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 14
  19. 19. When combined the Buckner indicators form a scale to measure the sense ofcommunity/cohesion (equal to the mean of all 18 items). The limited survey data has a meanof 3.89.This high level of resident satisfaction with their building and its community supports thebasis for the selection of the case studies, that is buildings recommended to the project teamby housing industry participants as having a good sense of community and well thought outaspects to their community facilities components.In order to provide some relative context to the limited data obtained through study survey, itis beneficial to compare the survey results to other available data sets. Some data for theGreater Western Sydney region (GWS) has been published in Stubbs et al (2005), andcompared in the following table.The case study buildings have a higher sense of community and greater attraction toneighbourhood than the GWS average. However the case study buildings and the GWShave a similar degree of interaction within the neighbourhood in some respects. The reasonfor this can not be determined from the study survey, and could be due to a range of factorssuch as the physical quality of dwelling or characteristics of the neighbourhood (such asperceived community safety).Table 5-1: Comparison of Study Survey to GWS Data GWS IB Fell Agree/ Agree/ Strongly Strongly Agree AgreeLiving in this neighbourhood gives me a sense of community 62% 100%Overall I am very attracted to living in this neighbourhood 69% 89%Given the opportunity I would like to move out of this suburb 37% 12%I visit my neighbours in their homes 46% 28%I rarely invite people in my neighbourhood to my house to visit 34% 28%I would be willing to work together with others on something to 86% 100%improve my neighbourhoodI regularly stop and chat with people in my neighbourhood 69% 67%5.1.2 Indicators of social isolationThe survey tool was informed by questions included in the Household, Income and LabourDynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. The HILDA survey is a nationwide longitudinal survey(since 2001) focused on issues relating to family, employment and income. The HILDAsurvey includes ten statements about people’s perceptions of the personal support andfriendship available to them. Flood (2005) utilised these 10 questions to create an Index ofSocial Support 10 felt by an individual.9 Cohesion index values can theoretically range from a high of 5.00 to a low of 1.00.10 Flood (2005) notes that "total scores on the Index of Social Support range potentially from -30 to +30. A score closer to -30 indicates that the person perceives that very little support or friendship is available to them: they often feel lonely, people do not visit, they cannot find people to help them out, they do not have people to confide in or lean on, and so on. A score closer to +30 indicates that the person perceives a high level of support or friendship. In other words, a high score on the Index of Social Support indicates lower loneliness, while a low score indicates higher loneliness". IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 15
  20. 20. Overall, residents of the case study buildings are not considered to be socially isolated11.The case study building respondents had a mean score of 15 on the Index of SocialSupport, suggesting that residents perceive they have a good level of support andfriendship.However a proportion of respondents, notable in the context of generally high levels ofagreement with other indicators of social connection, report that they would like to have moresocial contact than they currently do. For example: • Only half agreed that "people come to visit me as often as I like". • Only 40% agreed with the statement "if I feel like talking I can generally find someone in this building to talk to straight away". • Only 40% disagreed with the statement that they "would like to have more contact with their neighbours than they currently do".Several questions drawn from the HILDA survey also provide an indicator of the degree ofsocial capital present/ the degree of social interaction in the neighbourhood (e.g. Neighbourshelping each other out and Neighbours doing things together). The survey suggests that: • Two-thirds agreed and strongly agreed that they regularly stop and chat with their neighbours. One third of respondents talk to their neighbours every day, and half do so at least once a week. All talk to their neighbours at least once a fortnight. 80% report that they spend on average over an hour each week talking to their neighbours. • Two-thirds of respondents socialise with their friends or relatives at least once a month. All respondents did so at least once every six months. • Residents generally dont visit each others apartments, but around a third do. • Two-thirds viewed neighbours doing things together as common behaviour.In terms of helping behaviour neighbours helping neighbours was overwhelmingly seen ascommon practice in general terms in the case study buildings (three-quarters ofrespondents). No resident saw it as uncommon. Three-quarters of respondents stronglyagreed that they can get help from neighbours when they need it.In terms of specific examples of helping behaviour, neighbours looking in on the elderly orvulnerable was less common, but still seen as such by 60% of respondents. All respondentsagreed or strongly agreed that their neighbours would help them in an emergency.This was confirmed by focus group participants.11 The difficulty in generalising social isolation survey is noted, as for example, those more isolated residents are less likely to have attended a focus group. Further, it is expected that those residents who do not feel connected to a building and its community would be less likely to attend. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 16
  21. 21. 5.2 What is the role of communal facilities in community formation within the case study apartment buildings?5.2.1 How does community form within apartments?Focus group discussions and survey data confirm that residents consider a building’s designand facilities to be important in forming a sense of community (with two thirds of surveyrespondents agreeing and none disagreeing, although a quarter held no opinion). The keypoints identified are: • Neighbours meet each other in a wide variety of spaces. • Connections are incidental and not the primary purpose of residents. • All neighbour interaction identified occurred in the course of engaging in another activity. Meetings predominantly occurred when residents were: - Either leaving or coming home (at the front entry/ foyer/ lift/ stairs); or - Undertaking a household chore (predominantly getting the mail, taking out the garbage, using communal clothes drying areas). • Few residents mentioned that other communal areas played a role, but of those mentioned included pool, gym, library and gardens. • The informal (facilitating “accidental encounters” amongst residents) is more important than the formal (e.g. community BBQ’s). • Facilitating common interests is important - the role of dogs and children in developing neighbouring demonstrates the need to provide spaces which facilitate activities which bring residents together informally. • Communication (e.g. through a noticeboard) can facilitate lines of communication, maintaining amicable relations between neighbours. However, in larger groups there is the danger that these can be ignored, or even become impersonal and heighten tensions. • Residents can move through the stages of neighbouring (identified in Section 3.3), becoming friends after forming initial ‘nodding’ acquaintances (as in the large multi- building residential complex) however this does not appear to be common (as in the townhouse style building with a high proportion of renters). It depends on other factors which usually form the basis of friendship. • A commonality of the case studies is that neighbouring best develops when residents undertake activities which require them to share space together for a length of time on a regular basis (e.g. laundry, gardening, dog walking, car washing). The purpose is not to socialise but that develops from it. It provides a reason (social permission) to start to converse. This lengthy sharing of space appears to also provide the opportunity for other, more developed stages of neighbouring to form.The study supports findings, such as those by Dines et al (2006), that "different types ofencounters were valued - casual or organised, serendipitous or routine". IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 17
  22. 22. 5.2.2 Does building size play a role?The typology of case studies utilised provided some degree of insight into one of the keyquestions identified in Section 3.7 - What is the ideal number of dwellings within a building,as well as within each floor? (or what is the ideal size of social groups to interact in space?).Whilst this study did not collect adequate data to enable a conclusive distinction to be drawnon this issue, some general indicators from this study are that residents themselvesrecognise that there is a maximum residential apartment building size, where the number ofhouseholds is too many, which seems to weaken community ties.Further, there is likely to also be a minimum size, where the number of households is toofew. This is where, for example, neighbour difference can become pronounced anddisagreements magnified. However, as evidenced by the small building of walk-up flats casestudy, the intimacy of small size can provide other social benefits. Importantly to communityformation there is also a threshold number of households for various types of facilities toensure that they are viable (this threshold varies by facility). There is also a statutoryplanning relationship between the number of dwellings and the amount/ hierarchy of commonareas provided.A range of sociological literature considers optimal social group size (for example "DunbarsNumber"12 which suggests a maximum group size of 150). This research is not discussedhere, other than to note their generally shared conclusion that an optimal size is one thatenables residents to "receive some impression ... of each other member <neighbour> distinctenough so that he or she ... can give some reaction to each of the others as an individualperson". 13 Hasic (2000) for example, recommends planning buildings of 16 - 20 householdsand larger complexes of 64 - 80 households.This is not to say large development cannot function in a socially sustainable manner, as inthe case of the large multi-building residential complex they clearly do. However it is clearthat each building within a larger complex needs to consider its identity and community inisolation, as well as the part it plays in the larger whole. In these cases both large countryclub type facilities, serving the needs of dwellings in several buildings, as well as smallerfacilities within each building are required.The focus group in that residential complex discussed whether the location of communalfacilities (such as the pool, gym etc) within the footprint of just one of the complex’s buildingsaffected the level of use or led to a perception of “priority” or “ownership” amongst residentsof that apartment building. All residents indicated that they did not perceive this to be thecase, and that their location within just one building did not deter or impact use.This study provides no quantitative basis on which to make a finding in this area and furtherresearch is required. In terms of an individual apartment building, the total number of units ina building or development may not necessarily be relevant. What appears to be moreimportant and determinative of community formation, is the number of units which share alobby and circulation space. A building’s design should cluster units in such a way that theydevelop as smaller, distinct groups.12 Dunbar, R (1998)13 Bales, R. F. (1950) page 33 IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 18
  23. 23. Guiding this, an intuitive direction from this study is that neighbour connections appear toweaken more noticeably above a grouping of 10 units. Typically, larger case study buildingsprovided 8 units per level. This is in line with the Residential Flat Design Code, and thisguidance is supported by this research.This research suggests that an ideal size should not exceed 20 units, however this couldincrease to 30 with appropriate and high quality building design and construction. It is notedthat 3 levels of 8 units would provide a grouping of 24 units. However, as a rule of thumb, thesmaller the better.5.2.3 People or facilities?5.2.3.1 What is the role of resident characteristics, for example age and lifecyclegroup?This study confirms that individuals play a role as important, if not more so, as facilities incommunity formation. The design/structure of a building can be an impediment to meetingothers, but on its own, good design will not always be sufficient.For example, several case study focus groups identified that that the presence of a sense ofcommunity varied between floors within their building, despite the same physical layout. Thiswas attributed to the nature of the people (personalities, friendliness, etc) who were living oneach. A common distinction was also drawn between apartment owners and renters, withfocus groups perceiving that it is more difficult to create community amongst a transientpopulation.Such a conclusion is lent further weight by the survey data. Only 5% of respondents viewedthemselves as different to their neighbours or that they did not shared interests/ hobbies. Norespondent disagreed with the statement that "I agree with most people in my building aboutwhat is important in life".Whilst the likely socio-economic characteristics of residents is an important consideration inapartment building design, the make-up of residents is subject to constant change over thelife of a building. Potentially, such changes can be dramatic and can do so in as little as 5 to10 years (as evidenced for example in the multi-building residential complex).Accordingly, it is important the apartment building includes community building featureswhich can be effective regardless of resident type. The key messages from the research inthis regard are: • Designing spaces which are flexible, able to be adapted to meet a variety of changing interests over time. • Focussing on certain ‘core’ initiatives, informed by findings such as those in Section 5.2.1. For example, attending to core entry and movement paths of a building, features which cannot be altered at a later date.5.2.3.2 The need for social activismAs expected, apartment buildings generally (with the exception of seniors’ living) provide onlythe physical spaces (hard infrastructure) in which interaction can occur. Whilst not the focusof this paper, a message from the study participants which should be noted, is that there isalso a role for active community development approaches. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 19
  24. 24. Participants acknowledged a need for an outside force to ‘jump-start’ community formation.This could be in the form of organised activities (e.g. BBQs) which encouraged residents tomeet each other, or could constitute a detailed ‘welcome program’ for a residential apartmentbuilding similar to those which are implemented on low density greenfield estates. Thetownhouse style building case study identifies the role that a building’s sales program couldplay. It is acknowledged that such a program cannot be implemented over the life of abuilding, but it can be used initially to establish a base level of neighbouring at thecommencement of occupation, providing residents with a catalyst for taking relationshipsfurther.The study also identified a need for better information dissemination mechanisms withinapartment buildings. For example: • There was some uncertainty amongst residents as to the timing of formal activities which were held in their buildings spaces (common rooms). • Several focus group participants identified a desire to connect with people who had similar interests and hobbies who lived in their building. For example, they would like to form a reading group but were not sure about how to go about finding participants.There is a role for physical awareness raising measures in response, primarily noticeboards,but also information dissemination mechanisms such as newsletters, email or facebook sites.Internet based tools are not widely in use in apartment buildings, but their introduction wassupported by case study residents.5.3 What makes an effective communal space?5.3.1 How do residents use communal spaces?Despite indicating in the survey that most respondents spent an hour or more each weektalking to their neighbours, only a quarter socialised with their neighbours in their buildingscommunal spaces, and less than a third visited neighbours in their homes.Building common areas were normally used for socialisation, however they are mostcommonly used for entertaining friends and extended family rather than neighbours. Othermain uses identified were for exercise or relaxation (including reading).This lends further support to the importance of establishing "weak ties” amongst residents(Section 3.2). These were more in evidence in the case study buildings than firmerfriendships. As noted in the multi-building residential complex case study: Residents don’t necessarily know each other by name, but more of a “nodding relationship” – saying hello to familiar people upon passing etc. It was noted that the same people leave for work at roughly the same time, on a regular basis. “You may not be on a name-basis, but you get to know “their patch and their routine” and say hello".The study survey suggests that: • Gardens and seating received more frequent use than other facilities surveyed. Approximately one third of respondents used these at least once a week. • Residents prefer however to use their private outdoor spaces over a buildings common spaces. • BBQs received particularly infrequent use from respondents. • If available, on-site cafes were popular. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 20
  25. 25. Spaces whose use entailed no physical exertion more widely utilised. The survey suggeststhat only a minor proportion of residents regularly utilise active spaces within a building (e.g.pool, gym). (This proportion will be influenced by the age profile of participants). This is not tosay that respondents do not appreciate their availability, with focus groups clearly indicatingthat they do. However it can be concluded that their role in community formation is likely tobe less important than other, less formal, facilities.In addition to frequency of use, the survey measured the relative importance of facilities toresidents and their lifestyles. Private outdoor space, common outdoor space, pool and gymall featured prominently.Across the case studies specific locations were more commonly involved in neighbourinteraction: • The Lobby is an important area for informal interaction and exchange. A number of residents commented that they had met more residents and interacted with more people whilst waiting in this informal setting than during some of the formal activities organised in their communal space (e.g. BBQs). • Pathways and corridors. Main movement routes become the informal spaces in which neighbours interact. • Non-residential uses either on-site or nearby are useful, with cafés particularly important in community formation as a place of incidental meetings.A common comment from participants was that neighbours should not be forced by design tointeract. It was viewed that the level of interaction was up to the preference of the individual,with the opportunity to join in, or “to be a hermit if you chose”. The design of communalspaces needs to be flexible and allow shared use which recognises this choice.5.3.2 How can buildings/ communal spaces be improved?On the whole residents of the case study buildings were highly satisfied with their building’scommunity facilities. No respondents expressed dissatisfaction and around 15% neitheragreed nor disagreed. Half of survey respondents did not suggest improvements to theirbuilding (with some specifically stating that no improvements were needed). Thoseimprovements identified predominantly related to increasing the size of communal spacesand improvements to the amenity (particularly increased amounts and types of seating).Whilst the literature reviewed in Section 3 indicates it is not a key determinative factor, it isconsidered probable that there is a relationship between resident satisfaction with theirbuilding and living arrangements and the formation of a sense of community, although thiscannot be definitively established from the research. Participants in the multi-buildingresidential complex focus groups, for example, identified that the design and quality of theircomplex, particularly the ‘excellent’ acoustic design qualities (such as thick walls, solidfloors/ceilings), had positively impacted on their ability to develop positive relationships withneighbours. Participants attributed this to them being “less likely to be annoyed withneighbours over noise/disturbance issues, you start off on the front foot, so are more likelyto be friendly with neighbours which encourages more amicable relationships”. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 21
  26. 26. 6. KEY DIRECTIONS FOR BUILDING DESIGN6.1 Summary of findingsA number of key messages can be drawn from the research: • Whilst common areas are important, the components of building design critical to the formation of community are those which facilitate “accidental encounters” amongst residents. Incidental spaces and encounters are more important than formal facilities or planned activities. Movement spaces are the most important to community building. • Neighbours do not visit each other in their homes. Neighbour interaction predominantly occurs in the course of engaging in another activity, that is when residents: - Either leave or come home (at the front entry/ foyer/ lift/ stairs); or - Undertake a household chore (predominantly getting the mail, taking out the garbage, using communal clothes drying areas or washing the car). • Neighbour interaction occurs in locations which are not ideal for that purpose and in which it wouldn’t ordinarily be planned (for example, car parks and garbage rooms). • However shared activities and interests also play an important role in bringing residents together (e.g. gardening, children). These shared activities provide residents with social permission to converse. • Whilst interaction is important, and opportunities should be provided, residents should not be compelled to interact. • Physical facilities only provide the space in which people could potentially be brought together. Rather, it is design which accommodates residents’ needed and desired activities within them that are needed to bring people together. Common rooms are less important to community building. • Activities within the communal space which take time to do increase the likelihood of social interaction (e.g. car washing, clothes washing, gardening). • Individuals play a role as important, if not more so, than physical facilities. The design/structure of a building can be a huge barrier to meeting others, but on its own, it’s not enough. • Larger buildings should be distinguished by design into smaller social groups. Apartment complexes require both large country club type facilities, serving the needs of dwellings in several buildings, as well as smaller facilities within each building (or even floor). • The overall quality of a building’s materials, construction and apartment design also plays an indirect role, by increasing residents’ satisfaction with their dwelling, and reducing the potential for conflict points to arise.Design needs to adequately recognise the above and appropriately facilitate the activitiesresidents need to undertake in their day to day lives, activities which get them out of theirdwelling, providing the opportunity for incidental encounters to occur and “weak ties” todevelop. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 22
  27. 27. 6.2 How can communal facilities best create community?The focus of this paper is on those changes to the physical fabric of buildings which canpotentially act as a catalyst for positive social interaction which have marginal constructioncosts and function irrespective of the socio-economic profile of residents and independent ofproperty management, both of which are subject to constant change over the life of abuilding.The following key directions to guide building design arise from this research:(1) Facilitate “accidental” encountersDesign’s primary objective should be to facilitate “accidental encounters” amongst residentsof a building. Principally, movement routes (including loft lobbies, in corridors, well utilisedstairwells) should be designed to facilitate interaction: • By providing places where residents/ small groups can stop and talk, without obstructing other movement along the path (including adequate corridor widths). • Comfortable places to sit are particularly important. These can be informal, for example the edges of planter beds. Seating should be arranged to allow conversation. • Shade/ weather protection are seen as important, as is a conducive amenity more generally, to encourage people to sit and spend time in public (winter sun, pleasant outlook and landscaping, well lit, etc). Some participants suggested that the presence of “outlook bays” off/within corridors, containing a window/view and perhaps some chairs could encourage people to stop and have a conversation.Importantly, the design should cluster dwellings units in such a way that they develop assmaller, distinct groups of residents. The number of dwelling units which share a lobby andcirculation space should be minimised to the greatest extent practicable. Each building levelshould have a pleasant lobby with seating provided at which to wait for the lift.The daily rituals of life should be used as catalysts. Design should recognise those activitieswhich residents must do in their day-to-day lives, and design them in a manner whichfacilitates interaction – develop spaces which “Cause to Pause”. These include: • Entering the building. • Getting the mail. • Taking of the garbage. • Washing the car. • Drying laundry.Every residential flat building within a larger development should have its own communalfacilities of the type which facilitate such encounters. The location and layout of suchcommunal facilities should be planned to increase the likelihood of residents bumping intoother residents. As a general rule, residents should not be able to avoid their neighbourswhen moving between their dwelling and the street. For example: • Locating key common use spaces centrally, adjacent to main pathways and providing users within good visibility of passers-by. This creates the potential for interaction with other residents ("to catch them if <they> need to speak with them"). Further, the poor location of communal facilities can deter use, depending on the nature of the facility. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 23
  28. 28. For example, poorly located common rooms appear to receive less use, whilst similarly located gyms would not. • Locating car washing bays adjacent to entries or movement paths, rather than isolated in a basement car park. • Utility areas (e.g. letterboxes, garbage room entry points) providing places to sit, space to talk, and allow users to see people passing by. Letterbox access should be brought off the street into the building fabric. Recognising that some aspects of gardening can’t be undertaken cleanly in apartments, a potting bench could be placed near the entry to garbage room.The design should consider unusual approaches to encouraging social interaction orincreasing the time neighbours spend together. For example: • Residents of the multi-building residential complex liked that the lifts do not stop at every floor, but rather every third floor, feeling that this can help with the sense of community in their larger buildings. • Some usually private facilities could be provided in semi-public space in order to create opportunities for interaction with other residents which would not otherwise occur. This includes, for example, clothes washing or drying facilities (particularly important where unit blocks have strict rules about hanging washing over/on the balcony to dry).(2) Promote shared activities and common interestsIn general, communal facilities (gardens, common rooms, etc) should be welcoming,activated and stimulating, as such spaces are more likely to be used. Such places are likelyto contain elements which are perceived by users as: • Useable. • Spacious, of a size adequate to suit likely resident demand. They should enable a user to choose whether to interact or not. Spaces which compel interaction can receive lower rates of use. They should also be of a layout which avoids monopolisation by one group (for example, a BBQ area whose use dominates all other parts of a garden). • Adaptable, providing spaces in which a range of activities can be undertaken, public and private. Facilities need to be able to be adapted to suit the likely demographic mix and lifestyle of the buildings’ residents, recognising that this mix will change over time. Gardening, for example, is an activity which is intergenerational and cross cultural. • Accessible and inclusive to all. • Safe (during the day and evening). • Activated by the presence of activity generators, such as movement paths, gardening, fitness uses (yet providing a sense of privacy). • Stimulating and enjoyable, engaging multiple senses of its users. Aesthetically pleasing and interesting natural, artistic or other interpretive elements should be utilised. • Accounting for climate and amenity. • Encourage ownership of space (care and maintenance, safety) through quality of design. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 24
  29. 29. • Positioned to avoid becoming a conflict generator (due to noise or other amenity impacts).The case studies confirm that provision alone does not always equate to use. The design ofcommunal spaces also needs to ‘permit’ its use (the CPTED concept of territorialreinforcement 14). This is best captured by the multi-building residential complex case study,where the gardens are highly valued aesthetically, but are not used because “you’d look a bitstrange”15. Spaces need to be comfortable for the user.In some of the case studies, common rooms were effectively wasted spaces, their potentialunrealised. Beyond their provision, consideration does not appear to have been placed intohow they could be utilised. However, case studies suggest that this is also due to an inherentdifficulty with this space - the number of occasions that a large internal space is required arefew (e.g. meetings, parties), and residents possess lounge rooms so they do not seek afacility to fulfil that function. Ideally, common rooms should be planned as multipurposespaces, directly connected to external spaces to increase their size when required. Commonrooms should also be: • adaptable (for example, being able to be divided into two rooms). • adequately equipped (amenities, as well as items/ equipment which supports/ encourages resident use of the space). • of adequate size and internal dimension to accommodate likely uses. • have a warm, friendly design ethos which conveys that it is more than a bare, commercial office space.The case studies suggest that communal gardens should aim to be of a size which allowsresidents to “maintain privacy, but also the opportunity for communal invitation, whilst notbeing on top of each other”. It should afford the choice to interact or keep to themselveswhilst residents simultaneously use different parts of the space. This expands the range ofpotential uses, allowing them to be used independently of other areas, and avoidsmonopolisation of space. The use of landscaping to divide a larger space into smaller spaceswas one way this was achieved in the case studies.Awareness of what communal facilities are available and how they can be used can be asimportant as provision, particularly in larger buildings with higher rates of resident turnover.Rather than one noticeboard for a large building, it may be more appropriate to have one oneach floor. Other, electronic measures should be provided for and are preferred.14 Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a crime prevention strategy that focuses on urban design. Territorial Re-enforcement uses actual and symbolic boundary markers, spatial legibility and environmental cues to ‘connect’ people with space, to encourage communal responsibility for public areas and facilities, and to communicate to people where they should/not be and what activities are appropriate. (NSW Police, http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/community_issues/crime_prevention/safer_by_design)15 Participants in Guthrie et al (2009) identified similar concerns. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 25
  30. 30. 6.3 Policy recommendationsThe State Environmental Planning Policy No 65 - Design Quality of Residential FlatDevelopment establishes ten design quality principles for residential apartment buildings.Principle 9 considers the social dimensions of residential apartment buildings: "Good design responds to the social context and needs of the local community in terms of lifestyles, affordability, and access to social facilities. New developments should optimise the provision of housing to suit the social mix and needs in the neighbourhood or, in the case of precincts undergoing transition, provide for the desired future community. New developments should address housing affordability by optimising the provision of economic housing choices and providing a mix of housing types to cater for different budgets and housing needs".The Residential Flat Design Code supplies detailed information about how developmentproposals can achieve these principles. Relevant information sheets within the code addressInternal Circulation, Open Space and Landscape Design. Each information sheet contains: 1. descriptive text defines the topic and explains why it is important. 2. objectives state what the resulting outcome should achieve. 3. directive text outlines better design practice guidelines and provides some possible design solutions for achieving the guidelines. 4. rules of thumb recommend minimum standards as a guide for local decision making.One of the objectives of the Internal Circulation information sheet is "To encourageinteraction and recognition between residents to contribute to a sense of community andimprove perceptions of safety". However specific guidance on the implementation of thisworthwhile objective is limited to "providing generous corridor widths".The Code would benefit from an expansion of such guidance during any review. Suchguidance should provide guidance on the ideal number of dwelling units which share a lobbyand circulation space. A building’s design should cluster units in such a way that theydevelop as smaller, distinct groups. This research suggests that an ideal size should notexceed 20 units.It may be beneficial for a stand-alone information sheet to be developed. Section 6.2 of thispaper has been compiled to inform the basis for any such guidance.6.4 Further stepsSection 3.7 sets out a number of pertinent research themes related to community formationin residential apartment buildings. This paper has undertaken an initial exploration of howcommunity forms in apartment buildings, what makes communal spaces effective and whichfacilities best contribute to community formation in apartment buildings. These and the otherresearch themes identified would benefit from further research. Key aspects include: • Detailed design resolution of communal spaces. • Exploration of the ideal number of dwellings in a building. • Further consideration of social housing, whose tenants may have a greater need and different experience of neighbouring. • Further identification of best practice examples. IB Fell Housing Research Centre, University of Sydney Page 26
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