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Literature review

Better apartments: what does the evidence tell us about the impact on health and wellbeing?

Housing and health Housing development Design Architecture Environmental health Well-being

Faced with a rapidly growing population and the ever-increasing strain on land and resources, Australian cities are recognising the need to reduce suburban sprawl and adopt higher density (or ‘compact city’) living arrangements. A key feature of urban consolidation is the development of higher density residential designs – specifically, the replacement of single detached houses with apartments and high-rise buildings. From a public health perspective, this shift in dwelling design has the potential to impact on residents’ sense of wellbeing and a range of both physical and psychological health outcomes. Thus, it is crucial that the relationship between apartment design and health is understood.

The Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) commissioned the University of Melbourne’s McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit to conduct a literature review on a series of apartment design issues and their impact on health and wellbeing. The following design issues were examined: Daylight Sunlight Natural ventilation Space Outlook Noise Outdoor space Thermal comfort Other building performance design issues are relevant to health, wellbeing and apartment design – for example, bicycle and car parking, and entry and circulation. However, given time and budget constraints, these topics were not covered – but could be considered in the future.

The purpose was to review the evidence on the following: · The impact of poor quality apartment design on the health and wellbeing of residents; and · The impact of good quality apartment design on the health and wellbeing of residents. We also assessed the strength of the evidence between each apartment design issue and health and wellbeing.

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