Tim Horton, registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board, is no slouch when it comes to pithy ways to describe sometimes complex notions.

Now the film people are onto him and he’s become the national host for a series on housing preferences and trends in each of our capital cities around the nation.

The episode on Sydney airs this Saturday at 3 pm on Channel 10.

It’s such a good idea, to tap into that hot vein of housing voyeurism that runs through most of us. How does everyone else live? Can I peep into their houses?

What actually is good design and why should I care?

So every capital city in Australia in every state and territory. Ten projects with the producers working with a relevant government architect where possible and a private architect to host and curate each episode while Horton (pictured, right) acts as “Mr Continuity” as he put it.

It’s definitely not a survey of mansions, he points out, “it’s a survey of single houses, often modest, no rich man’s showcase.

“There are modest renovations, urban regeneration – in laneways, adaptive re-use in public buildings and infrastructure.”

It’s Australia By Design. And partly it’s a lesson in architecture.

The projects then go through a judging process and there is a countdown from 10 to one, “so everyone is a winner”.

But the point is the show gets to talk about what makes architecture good. So apartments with natural daylight and views.

In one case the owners bought the apartment above, “blew a hole in the ceiling” and expanded. “So you buy upstairs and you can upsize or downsize without leaving the building,” Horton says.

The producers are MWC Media a New Zealand company that’s specialised in the past on food and travel. It’s the company’s first foray into design and Horton delights in the way the producers act as audience, learning as they go.

“We use them as the every man; the producers asking the question, looking out over a beautiful ocean and asking, ‘why didn’t you give me the panoramic view?’”

“Well, because we wanted to chop it up so we can get a different frame from every room,” the architects explain.

“So you get a great perspective of what design is. In some ways unpicking or deciphering the design – voids, heights, light.”

So what are the dominant typologies?

“In Darwin we work, d out it’s all about the roof to keep the sun and heat out. In Canberra it’s the opposite.”

One thing Horton noticed in a big way was the rise of the courtyard.

“It dominated” he says.

The struggle with medium density

The other big notable was the struggle that cities are having in getting medium density right, especially from a policy perspective.

There are some great projects in evidence with medium density, but Horton finds it intriguing that these are still viewed as demonstration projects. In WA and many other places outside of Sydney and Melbourne it’s clear that policy is still in its early stages, he says.

In WA there is a new medium design standard very much like NSW’s SEPP 65 (for apartment design) on the way.

Despite the policy absence “the good news is it doesn’t stop good projects from happening.”

Another great lesson from the show, Horton says, is how “everyone wants to live outdoors. It’s not rocket science and it’s probably nothing new, but the way we design for people to be outside changes. Brisbane is the most conducive to indoor outdoor living.”

Brisbane design in flux

In Brisbane too there seems to be a shift from light timber construction to “a recognition that concrete and brick have that coolth capacity and can moderate the extremes in Brisbane without resorting to airconditioning.

“There were a number of houses we saw without aircon but with fans.”

Speaking of no aircon, in Sydney viewers on Saturday afternoon will also get to see how design can try to beat the elements – a four storey Luigi Roselli-designed house facing due west with no aircon.

The design solution is effectively a “scissoring” with floors above shading those below.

The “very compact footprint” of the house leaves most of the 1200 square metre block in Queens Park free to be regenerated to natural bushland.

The owners are both medical researchers so the house has no lift in recognition of the need to stay active and mobile and there is “loads” of natural light.

TV time coming up.