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Comment: Gray Puksand’s predictions for Australian architecture in 2024

In this comment piece, Gray Puksand’s National Managing Partner, Nik Tabain, outlines some anticipated trends for this year.

Comment: Gray Puksand’s predictions for Australian architecture in 2024

Large architecture studios must diversify their project allocation in 2024 to survive a slower economy, as the architecture and design sector is often the first within the property industry to be impacted by the kinds of economic headwinds that Australia is currently experiencing.

The latest JLL research indicates that CBD offices have reached the highest national vacancy rate since 1995, with the residential sector also feeling the effects. The rate of new home-building activity has of course slowed following continued increases in interest rates through 2023.

Architecture firms with a diverse project pipeline across sectors such as workplace and residential – and other growing industries such as health, education, science and technology, backed by strong government investment – will be best positioned to withstand difficult or unforeseen market conditions.

Our pipeline at Gray Puksand over the next twelve months, like all design studios, has been impacted by interest rates and the cost of construction, meaning that some projects, particularly in Melbourne, have slowed. Often, this means being placed on hold while project budgets are reassessed, rescoped or removed altogether. Our Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra studios remain strong, and it means that, while the market might contract in 2024, we predict that 2025 will resume to normal activity.

Overall, our commercial and workplace projects were surprisingly resilient during 2023, due to the design solutions and quality we provided our clients, innovative designs that encourage face-to-face interactions, and environments that promote adaptability, wellbeing and efficiency.

As Gray Puksand enters its 33rd year of operation, the studio will continue to work through challenging sectors such as commercial and workspace, albeit approached through a different lens. This includes various strategies like capitalising on inner urban CBD fringe projects, bringing old buildings into the twenty-first-century through adaptive reuse, and creating modern environments that focus on human connection.

One such project was our transformation of 412 St Kilda Road, Melbourne from an old, tired building to an elegant modern workspace. Two new floors were added, and two-and-a-half floors of car parking space were repurposed, resulting in 4200 square metres of Net Lettable Area (NLA). The completed building is an exemplar of successful commercial workplace design, currently almost fully occupied.

Related: Exploring circular economy with Chris Fox

Gray Puksand Unveils Predictions for 202
412 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

Last year we experienced growth in adaptive reuse projects, which I believe will continue to be an area of major growth in 2024. To meet the net-zero operational building goals the World Green Building Council has set for 2030, we are already seeing major international events like the Paris 2024 and Brisbane 2032 Olympics undertake many retrofitting projects to reduce embodied carbon and leverage existing buildings.

Activity in the health and science sectors will continue steadily, backed by committed government funding and societies re-prioritising our physical and mental health and wellbeing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The delivery of Ferntree Business Park was a credit to our specialist team, who are experienced in designing spaces that accommodate twenty-first-century working needs and incorporate technically complex laboratory spaces required for science and research.

To deliver these types of projects, the design requirements can often be incredibly specific to each client and industry in which they operate. Having an experienced in-house team is essential if studios are looking to pitch for that work.

Gray Puksand’s Melbourne studio recently completed large-scale projects for the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. This included a new head office for RMH’s 800-strong support staff team, while also creating an entire outpatient level dedicated to dialysis and other critical day procedures accessed by patients who travel far. Front of mind for this design is elevating the experience of patients and workers through ample light, soothing tones and strong circulation spaces.

Gray Puksand Unveils Predictions for 202
Royal Melbourne Hospital Clinical Level.

Over the last few years, as our team has grown, many of them have brought significant residential experience in quality, high-end apartment buildings. We see this as a natural transition to provide our design services and commercial experience to the developers who are looking to work within the residential apartment market.

With an increasing demand for sustainability and technology integration into designs in 2024, Gray Puksand will continue to add to our existing track record of delivering projects that are designed to the highest sustainable standards. We have over 25 Green Star-certified projects, including our $250-million education project currently under construction and the largest TAFE project in Australia, the Canberra Institute of Technology. Above and beyond meeting the industry benchmarks for sustainability, we are going to rigorously test the way we purchase from suppliers, and incorporate ESG initiatives into our business, not just our projects.

Gray Puksand is also set to deliver multiple education projects, including a new trade training centre for Chisholm Frankston, and Hester Hornbrook Academy’s second campus in Victoria, following the delivery of our multi-award-winning Sunshine campus in 2021.

Commercial and workplace projects will include office spaces for Medibank, Allianz and Seven Network, 525 Church Street, Richmond, and a stem cell manufacturing and research facility will be delivered in the health and science sector. With our own varied range of projects and sectors growing rapidly, we believe it will be diversity that sets architecture apart and allows businesses to thrive throughout 2024.

Gray Puksand

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