How Long Does It Takes To Build A House? Construction Times Are At A 10-year High
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How Long Does It Takes To Build A House? Construction Times Are At A 10-year High

High building materials costs and a labour shortage have combined to worsen Australia’s chronic housing undersupply

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Nov 10, 2023 11:48amGrey Clock 2 min

The average time it takes to build a new house in Australia has risen to its highest level in more than a decade, according to peak industry body Master Builders Australia. Average building times have blown out from 8.7 months in 2020-21 to 11.7 months in 2022-23 amid labour shortages, higher costs of materials, and a slew of building companies going bust.

The average length of time between approval and completion of townhouses has also expanded from 12.7 months in 2020-21 to 14.9 months today. Apartment building times hit a record high of 30.6 months in 2020-21 but this has now moderated to 28.8 months. Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said this was still far too long. “When our output of new apartments was at record levels back in 2015-16, it took just 21 months to complete a build,” she said.

The cost of building materials initially rose in the period immediately after COVID, with shipping costs exploding and then global inflation pushing prices even further. “Since the pandemic, building product prices have increased 33 percent,” Ms Wawn said. “While we are seeing a stabilisation of some building product prices primarily around steel, some products such as cement continue to escalate.”

Rising costs are a key reason why many small building companies have become insolvent. The fixed-price contracts they signed with some homeowners prior to the materials pricing surge meant many builders were forced to complete projects at a loss or on a very small margin.

But Ms Wawn said the industry’s challenges go far beyond temporary COVID-related impacts with a “formidable set of impediments in the form of planning delays, insufficient land release and red tape”. As a result, housing construction has not kept pace with Australia’s traditionally strong population growth, leading to a critical point today. Master Builders forecasts that new home starts will decline by 2.1 percent to about 170,100 in 2023-24, which it says is well below the 200,000 needed per year to meet population growth. Nerida Conisbee, the chief economist at Ray White, said the population rose by 500,000 people in 2022, which meant 200,000 new homes were needed but only 172,000 were built. 

Amid surprisingly strong property price growth in 2023 and a national rental crisis, the Federal Government has set a target of building 1.2 million homes over five years from 2024. However, many industry insiders question how this is going to get done. Ms Conisbee said the closest Australia has ever gone to building 1.2 million homes over five years was in 2015-20 when 1.05 million homes were built.

“This was a period in which we saw the biggest influx of Chinese capital ever recorded and there were thousands of apartments built across our CBDs and close to universities,” Ms Conisbee said. “The Chinese capital has mostly evaporated and there is nothing as significant to replace it. Ultimately, most of the money will come from households, whether in the form of people buying homes to live in or to invest in. The problem right now is high interest rates are preventing many from being able to buy new homes. Monetary policy is choking housing supply.”

Additionally, Ms Conisbee said an entrenched NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude makes it tough for local councils to approve medium to high-density projects. “There continues to be a resistance to densities in our suburbs and this makes it difficult for town planners to get projects approved,” Ms Conisbee said. “Fortunately this is one area that the Government can more easily control and we have seen the announcement of many rezonings across Australia in recent months.”


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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