A vision of Brisbane in 20 years

7 August 2014 — Brisbane City Council’s City Plan, which came into effect on 30 June, sets the city’s course to 2031, designating growth and urban renewal zones, highlighting the role of transport nodes and activity centres as locations that suit higher density residential development, and defining zones where the existing urban fabric is to be protected and maintained.

However, it sets no firm metrics or enforceable mechanisms for achieving results in waste, water and energy beyond minimum standards required by national policies and the National Construction Code.

Brisbane’s “Character Zones” include a requirement to retain any dwelling built prior to 1949 during any redevelopment of a site in order to protect architectural heritage.

The plan goes into fine-grain detail at street level for every established suburb, setting quite specific height and set back limits for many areas. In most areas, it is a requirement for 40 per cent of any site to be open space inclusive of roof gardens, and overall the plan aims to maintain 40 per cent of the Greater Brisbane area as open and green space.

“City Plan 2014 development codes do have requirements about building siting, orientation and requirements that aim to improve thermal performance and access to natural light, sunlight and breezes,” Brisbane City Council told The Fifth Estate in an email response.

Transport connectivity was a key consideration in City Plan 2014, informing the zoning pattern and ensuring that increased density was targeted in well serviced, accessible locations, the council said.

“Brisbane is Australia’s most biologically diverse capital city. The City Plan 2014 will assist in achieving 40 per cent natural cover and open space by 2031 in Brisbane.”

The Priority Infrastructure plan for the city includes provision for 241 new parks on identified and publicly owned sites, 98 upgrades to existing parks and 27 new community facilities.

Energy and water benchmarks beyond Construction Code not required

A condition of all development approvals is now to provide a sustainability management plan prior to the commencement of building to ensure ecologically sustainable design is incorporated.

This is focused on passive design aspects such as orientation, natural light access, natural ventilation and vegetation on site.

However, there are no targets for water and energy efficiency in Queensland and the council has not imposed any in its plan.

Developments will only be required to meet the baselines stipulated by the National Construction Code in this regard, which are generally considered to be not very high.

“Regulation and monitoring of energy efficiency requirements, water efficiency and thermal performance previously covered by NatHERS are now dealt with in the National Construction Code,” the council said.

“The planning scheme does not duplicate matters that are dealt with in this Code.”

However, as observers have pointed out, some developments choose to do better, such as Sekisui House’s Green Star Communities-registered Ecco Ripley project near Ipswich, or the Northshore Hamilton urban renewal precinct in the city itself, which is a government-driven initiative and has been masterplanned to meet the requirements of the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s EnviroDevelopment Tool.

Minimum size? Not for apartments? But few car parking needed for some

In common with the other capital cities, increasing the density of residential development is being encouraged to meet housing needs while containing urban sprawl. Figures from the 2011 census showed that Brisbane had about 70 per cent detached dwellings and 30 per cent attached dwellings, including apartments. Council projects that by 2031 this will have shifted to 58 per cent detached dwellings and 42 per cent attached dwellings.

There is no minimum size specified for studios, apartments or units, however all apartments above the ground floor must provide minimum balconies of 12 square metres and a minimum depth of three metres, and this must be immediately accessible from the interior living room.

Industry sources have said that generally, mid-priced one-bedroom apartments in Brisbane tend to be sized to between 50 and 60 square metres

Required parking rates have been changed under the new plan, with lower minimum rates for one-bedroom apartments within 400 metres of a major public transport interchange.

However, the minimum parking rates for two and three bedroom apartments have been in some cases increased. This, council said, reflects the evidence of parking uptake in developments to date, and that the changes will “encourage[s] multiple dwellings, particularly those that are well located near services and high-frequency public transport.”

Flood resilience in the planning process

Building heights have been increased from 8.5 to 9.5 metres for existing homes in areas of flood risk, and detailed flood mapping information has been made available that is used to asses the defined flood levels for locations.

As many of the designated renewal and growth zones are located in areas adjacent to the Brisbane River or in catchment areas where flash flooding and riverine flooding are both likely to occur, particularly as the frequency of severe weather events increases due to climate change, planning for flood resilience has been prioritised.

“Flood Risk Management is a central strategy included in Brisbane City Plan 2014. The plan’s new flood and coastal hazard overlay codes provide for an integrated approach to managing the likelihood of flooding specific for Brisbane and the subtropical climate we experience,” the council said.

“The demands for waterside living are met through new planning provisions which seek to manage citywide flood risk including coastal, river and creek flooding.

“New buildings that Council approves as part of development applications ensure habitable areas would be above the new Defined Flood Level for the location. Council also requires essential building services to be above the Defined Flood Level.

“The codes seek to ensure that future development contributes to creating a safe and flood resilient city in the future and therefore guides future growth and development through supporting Brisbane’s FloodSmart Future Strategy 2012-2031 principles.”

Many plans – and a few aspirational targets

The City Plan 2014 is part of a set of linked policy documents that include Brisbane’s CityShape 2031, which is the land use planning framework that works in conjunction with the City Plan to achieve the goals set out in a third statement, the Brisbane Vision 2031.

The Brisbane Vision sets desired outcomes including clean air, sustainable water use, a shift towards zero waste, cleaner and sustainable energy use, and green and active transport.

In the Brisbane Vision 2031, the following targets are set:

  • 40 per cent of mainland Brisbane will be natural habitat
  • The average household’s carbon emissions from energy, waste and transport will be six tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year
  • The majority of Queensland’s creative industry workers will be based in Brisbane
  • The number of walking, cycling or public transport trips will increase compared to 2011
  • The majority of peak hour trips to the CBD will be by public and active transport
  • Participation in Council’s “Active and Healthy” activities will increase compared to 2013
  • Brisbane will accommodate 443,000 new jobs in efficient locations across the city