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Good Design - Issue 1

In this issue of Good Design we explore key design principles and outline some approaches to achieve good design.

You can download the Good Design - Issue 1 here or find the full text below.

Hamer Hall Redevelopment, Architect: ARM Architecture, Photographer: John Gollings
Hamer Hall Redevelopment, Architect: ARM Architecture, Photographer: John Gollings

The Office of the Victorian Government Architect provides leadership and strategic advice to government about architecture and urban design.

Our aim is to encourage high-quality buildings and public places that are:

  • engaging, diverse and inclusive
  • environmentally, economically and socially sustainable
  • functional and adaptable

About this publication

This publication by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) is the revised version of the first Good design brochure aiming to raise awareness of good design, its benefits, its value and how to achieve it. It provides guidance on good design principles that should be integral to projects, best practice procurement processes that are necessary to achieve good design outcomes, and promoting a design culture that embraces good design to create maximum value.

The focus is generally on public buildings and the infrastructure that impacts our public places and landscapes. It is not a fixed set of guidelines but a starting point from which to develop greater recognition of the many aspects of design. Other OVGA publications provide further specific information and guidance on particular issues and project types including:

  • Good Design + Infrastructure
  • Good Design + Education
  • Government as Smart Client
  • Good Design + Heritage

Good design supports a number of Government priorities and policies such as the Value Creation and Capture Framework, the Better Apartments Design Standards, Victoria’s positioning as a Creative State and design leader, numerous infrastructure and education priorities as well as Victoria’s 2050 zero carbon target.

Melbourne School of Design, Architects: John Wardle Architects & NADAAA, Photographer: Peter Bennetts
Melbourne School of Design, Architects: John Wardle Architects & NADAAA, Photographer: Peter Bennetts

The OVGA’s independent and iterative voice continues to remind government that good design is a legacy that defines Victoria as a place that is vibrant, economically thriving, healthy, sustainable, loved by its citizens, great to live in and visit.

Jill Garner, Victorian Government Architect 2016

The primary audience for this publication is government decision makers involved in strategic planning for the built environment as well as capital works and infrastructure. However, industry and stakeholder groups may also benefit from the guidance, as it informs their work as an integrated part of ensuring a better quality environment and a more liveable Victoria.

Informed clients recognise that good design adds significant value and public benefit, driving value for money, reducing whole-of-life costs, reducing environmental impacts and improving public places for the community. They understand the value of good design and apply the most appropriate procurement method for every project, embed good design principles and build an innovative design culture.

What is good design?

Good design comes in many forms and is defined by much more than how something looks. It starts from refining the purpose and aspiration of a project, improves how it works, creates additional benefits and elevates how people feel and behave in the final outcome. Good design creates inspiring places and greater lasting financial value. And of course, good design also looks and feels good.

Why good design is important?

Good design is critical in creating high-quality buildings and public places that are:

  • fit for purpose and adaptable to changing needs
  • engaging and create a strong sense of place
  • able to engender civic pride and wellbeing in the community
  • inclusive, culturally rich and diverse
  • sustainable environmentally, economically and socially
  • an enduring legacy in the built environment
Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, Architect: ARM Architecture, Photographer: John Gollings
Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, Architect: ARM Architecture, Photographer: John Gollings

Good design is not just about the aesthetic improvement of our environment, it is as much about improved quality of life, equality of opportunity and economic growth.

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), UK The value of good design
Southern Cross Station, Architect: Grimshaw, Photographer: John Gollings
Southern Cross Station, Architect: Grimshaw, Photographer: John Gollings

Good design and the OVGA

The OVGA supports good design outcomes for Victorians through advice, advocacy and collaborations. The OVGA’s independent and iterative voice continues to remind government that the legacy of good design across all project types helps to define Victoria as a place that is vibrant, economically thriving, healthy, sustainable, loved by its citizens and great to live in and visit.

Advocacy

The OVGA promotes an awareness of the importance and value of good design in making great places and sustainable urban environments. The OVGA does this through publications and actively engaging with other parts of government, industry and research to inform higher design aspiration and better procurement processes to further strengthen the design culture in Victoria.

Advice

The OVGA offers a critical understanding of the processes and principles that affect the quality of outcomes in the built environment. The OVGA advises ministers, state government departments, agencies and local government on how to improve design outcomes for capital works programs, specific projects or broader planning and policy initiatives. The OVGA also manages and draws on the expertise of the Victorian Design Review Panel (VDRP) to ensure that significant projects deliver the best possible public benefit, value and quality.

Collaboration

The OVGA fosters partnerships and collaborations within and between government, professional, academic, industry and community bodies to maximise excellent design outcomes in the built environment. We also form dedicated partnerships on projects that are of state significance.

The benefits of good design

The OVGA’s message highlights the significant responsibility to ensure change in our built environment is never dictated purely by economics, but is always overlaid by deep considerations about the quality and long-term impact of the places we build, and concern for the community for whom we build. Research shows that well-designed buildings and spaces have measurable positive impact on the wellbeing of their users.

Living

Homes and neighbourhoods that are well designed offer greater comfort, more enjoyable spaces and contribute to a vibrant community. Whether they are single houses or apartments, good design can instil a sense of joy and pride in the residents. Well-designed housing is proven to be essential in creating successful and supportive communities.

Albert Park Environmental College Arts Hub, Architect: Six Degrees, Photographer: Simon Jones
Albert Park Environmental College Arts Hub, Architect: Six Degrees, Photographer: Simon Jones

Almost all Australians (98%) believe that it is important that designers of residential buildings consider how buildings integrate with the community, particularly at the street frontage.

Galaxy Research for AACA (2015), The benefit of design
South East Water Headquarters, Architect BVN, Photographer: Dianna Snape
South East Water Headquarters, Architect BVN, Photographer: Dianna Snape

Working

Healthy buildings are proven to increase work place wellbeing, morale, productivity and staff retention. Better spatial arrangements support the changing nature of work while improving asset value and financial returns.

Well designed office layouts can reduce spatial requirements by up to 30% leading to reductions in rentals or capital investment.

Duffy, F (1997) The nex office. Conran Octopus Limited. London

Learning

Well-designed schools improve children’s educational opportunities. They provide better spaces supporting new pedagogies and environmental conditions for learning.

Well-designed classrooms can boost learning progress in primary school pupils by 16%.

The University of Salford (2015), Clever Classrooms

Recovering

Good design in health care has been shown to support patient recovery through providing views, natural light, improved air and acoustic quality.

...patients with open views [to nature] had shorter post-operative stays – 7.9 days compared with 8.7 days.

Ulrich, R (1984) 'View through a window may influence recovery from surgery'. Science, Vol. 224

Engaging

Good urban spaces are more engaging, nurture civic and cultural life and make public places safer. They can also raise the value of property in a city or town.

Almost all Australians – 97 percent – believe that cities and towns are better to live in when public buildings and public spaces are well designed.

Galaxy Research for AACA (2015), The benefit of design
Australian Garden Cranbourne, Landscape Architect: TCL, Photographer: John Gollings
Australian Garden Cranbourne, Landscape Architect: TCL, Photographer: John Gollings

If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the real cost of bad design.

Dr Ralf Speth CEO, Jaguar

Evidence

The OVGA is continuously adding to the body of knowledge defining the value of good design. The following sources demonstrate the social, economic and environmental benefits of good design.

Tanderrum Bridge, Architects: John Wardle Architects & NADAAA, Photographer: Kristoffer Paulsen
Tanderrum Bridge, Architects: John Wardle Architects & NADAAA, Photographer: Kristoffer Paulsen

In 2015 The Property Council/IPD Australian Green Property Index showed that office buildings designed to perform to high environmental standards provided significantly higher total returns than their peers. Green-star rated offices in CBD markets achieved an annual return of 12.9% from 6.6% income return and 5.9% capital growth; outperforming the broader CBD office market by 270 basis points.

In 2008 the Green Building Council of Australia produced The dollars and sense of green buildings clearly setting out the benefits and value of good ecologically sustainable design. In 2013 they added the publication Valuing Green to provide guidance on how to quantify the value of better designed and performing buildings.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), UK, study Improving standards of design in the procurement of public buildings, in association with the Office of Government Commerce in 2002, found that building operating costs often constitute 85% of the total building cost. The greatest impact on reducing the operating costs can be made at the design stage, which is likely to only be 0.3-0.5% of the total cost.

The UK Design Council has published much evidence proving the value of good design. Buildings and spaces: why design matters includes evidence on the importance and value of good architecture and design, with respect to health, education, homes, crime prevention, environment, community and economy.

How government can lead good design?

As one of the largest procurers of design services and development, government has an enormous impact on the quality of the built environment and on Victoria’s liveability and appeal as a state with which to do business.

Government has significant opportunities to lead on good design by:

  • developing, reviewing and implementing policy that supports good design
  • leading by example on government-led projects and government’s own operations
  • prioritising longer-term benefits
  • supporting, seeking, facilitating and celebrating good design, at all scales, through awards, selection and assessment panels, research and evaluation
The Arbory, Architect: Jackson Clements Burrows, Photographer: John Gollings
The Arbory, Architect: Jackson Clements Burrows, Photographer: John Gollings

How the private sector can lead good design?

The private sector can lead through:

  • responding to demand for good design
  • advocating for best practice procurement
  • engaging in the improvement of design and construction practices
  • innovating and recognising that good design can give a competitive advantage
  • sharing learnings from the design, construction and actual operations of buildings and infrastructure

Good design culture - what to do

Victoria’s reputation as a creative and liveable state relies on good design being an essential ingredient of the built environment. To strengthen our design culture we encourage government and industry to:

  1. Foster an understanding that public investment in the built environment is a contribution to quality of life, community vitality and personal wellbeing.
  2. Develop integrated guidelines and processes that endorse good design and its qualities and raise awareness of its value.
  3. Embed public art and creative place-making strategies to generate civic pride.
  4. Promote good designers and develop emerging talent so projects can benefit from both experience and new ideas.
  5. Adopt best practice design and procurement processes that allow appropriate time and budget for good design.
  6. Seek advice from appropriately qualified assessors and build in-house capability and foster champions to guide good design.
VCCC, Architects: McBride Charles Ryan & Silver Thomas Hanley & Design Inc, Photographer: Peter Bennetts
VCCC, Architects: McBride Charles Ryan & Silver Thomas Hanley & Design Inc, Photographer: Peter Bennetts

Dynamic interplay between creative industries maximises the social, cultural and economic benefits for the broader community.

Andrew Abbott Deputy Secretary, Creative Victoria, 2017
St Kilda Foreshore Precinct, Architect and Landscape Architect: Jackson Clements Burrows & Site Office, Photographer: John Gollings
St Kilda Foreshore Precinct, Architect and Landscape Architect: Jackson Clements Burrows & Site Office, Photographer: John Gollings

Good design process – what to do

Good projects do not just happen: They require an informed client, a good design team, a skilled builder, and good will between them.

At each stage – feasibility, briefing, procurement, construction, ongoing operation and management – stakeholders play an important role in helping to raise the expectations for the quality of the built environment.

The method by which a building project is procured has a significant impact on the quality of the final building. While good design can be achieved with all procurement methods, some make it more challenging unless their potential threats to design quality are understood and well managed.

The OVGA advocates that there is substantial opportunity to improve design outcomes by improving design procurement practices that support quality outcomes.

  1. Write an informed project brief that embeds high-quality design and encourages innovative solutions.
  2. Develop procurement processes for engaging architects and other designers that protect design quality.
  3. Ensure that good design is established as a project selection criterion, given significant weighting in the bid evaluation, and is embedded in the contractual documentation.
  4. Allocate enough time for projects of real design quality and innovation to emerge.
  5. Ensure budgets are realistic and consider whole-of-life costs.
  6. On significant projects or strategies, establish a mechanism for early and repeated independent expert review, such as through the OVGA’s Victorian Design Review Panel (VDRP).
AAMI Park, Architect: Cox Architecture, Photographer: Dianna Snape
AAMI Park, Architect: Cox Architecture, Photographer: Dianna Snape

Good design is

Inspiring

Good design embeds the very essence of a project into a narrative and vision. A thorough interrogation of a project’s purpose, objectives and influencing factors establishes a vision which is essential to elevate a project beyond its primary purpose and deliver an inspiring addition to the built environment.

Contextual

Good design is informed by its location and responds to site-specific environmental, social and cultural conditions. Appropriate contextual relationships with regard to building scale, form, mass and materiality of all elements create a valuable addition to a place.

Functional

Good design meets the requirements of a building or place through efficient spatial arrangements which enhance convenience, amenity and opportunities for future adaptability. A good design will deliver a concept that fully integrates functional requirements and explores synergies with the project vision to deliver value beyond primary technical needs.

Valuable

Good design marries aesthetics and functionality at the inception of a project, which is fundamental in reducing the full life-cycle costs of a project. Good design is essential in the value creation of a place.

Sustainable

Good design respects our environment and resources by embedding efficiency, enhancing local ecology and creating a durable long-term built legacy.

Enjoyable

Good design increases amenity through creating healthy and safe places that are enjoyable at all times of the day, fosters community involvement and engenders community pride. Inclusive and equitable environments contribute to broader positive social and economic outcomes for all users.

Enduring

Through the synthesis of vision and function, good design embeds lasting value into our built environment. Good design is essential in place-making which promotes community pride, providing a truly enduring legacy which will continue to serve, inspire and delight.

The Commons, Architect: Breathe Architecture, Photographer: Andrew Wuttke
The Commons, Architect: Breathe Architecture, Photographer: Andrew Wuttke

Reviewed 21 April 2020