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The Big Backyard is Dying Rapidly

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The Big Backyard is Dying Rapidly

October 2007

The loss of housing affordability in Australia, being driven by land prices and government taxes, combined with people choosing to build big homes, is killing off the big backyard.

Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, said the final nail in the coffin of the big backyard is climate change with the lack of water to keep gardens green.

“The trend towards smaller backyards has seen a major move in renovation areas to homeowners opening up the back of their homes with large glass folding doors into paved outdoor living spaces, dining decks, small gardens, and courtyard style sanctuaries with small or lap swimming pools,” said General Manager of Archicentre David Hallett.

"The disappearance of the large backyard with its traditional stretch of grass for a kick of the footy or backyard cricket represents a major social change where people's activities have moved from physical outdoor pursuits to indoor pursuits with the advent of the home theatre, and computer rooms.

“The impact of loosing the big backyard is important as many homeowners capitalise on subdividing their property, and is placing an emphasis on housing and renovation design as homeowners strive to ensure quality living environments.”

Mr Hallett said that in the future we see all moves to gain planning approval for increased densities will be linked with housing designs that will need to clearly show how they will harvest rainwater, utilise grey water and consume energy.

“At Archicentre in the past twelve months we have seen a 25 per cent rise in homeowners requesting design briefs in relation to their renovations.

“The major decision to obtain the design report is usually based on environmental requirements of water and energy efficiency, combined with building to a budget.

“Archicentre is also being increasingly required to provide viability reports for homeowners on the feasibility of converting the backyard into a capital gain by adding another residence whilst they remain in their own home.”

Mr Hallett said that in the current housing affordability crisis with the cost of housing rising at 10 per cent a year this may be an option many parents take to get their children into the housing market - a strategy in the past which has been used for older residents.

“The death of the big backyard also raises major issues for the developers of new and existing residential estates where open space and sporting facilities will become a premium demand,” Mr Hallett added.

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