The New Black

Green, green, green. In a time where we are inundated with concepts of green living, green lifestyles, green cooking, green house effects of carbon emissions, we cannot ignore the fact that we are being re-educated into loving this colour.  Green is becoming the dominant voice overpowering the far cry from the era of black, but why suddenly is it lacking from new housing estates in our suburbs?  

In our astonishing country with our unique climatic conditions we are fortunate enough to have all year-round access to our outdoors. The typical front yard, backyard and veranda were, and still are, key aspects that have painted the picturesque Australian street scape and residential architecture. Typically, suburbs in Perth are embellished with generous street setbacks, inviting driveways and a home for wheely-bins, furnished by gardens and children playing cricket on their front lawn. Personally speaking, it would be unfortunate to imagine my childhood without our front yard, our fig tree, my father’s produce growing in the back yard or my grandmother’s floral estate.

Photograph of my front yard.  

Of late there has been an established correlation between how well-off suburbs are and how much greenery they have. People considered wealthier ‘tend’ to live in suburbs that are well established, allowing them to relish amongst mature greenery. But this doesn’t have to be the case. The reality today, is that land sizes are getting smaller and houses are getting bigger. Consequently, it is believed that there is no longer room for the typical front garden nor back yard in these new mass-produced estates.  “A lot of newly developed suburbs on the urban fringe have low levels of greenery because lot sizes have been reduced so you get lots of houses, very few gardens and nature strips are given over to street parking. These newer suburbs tend to be much hotter.” – Dr Tony Matthews told news.com.au. With the lack of greenery in our suburbs we are soon to see a rise in temperatures and a decline in mental health benefits. Not only does this affect the wellbeing of residents, the rise in temperatures and oppressive summer heat will do nothing but send residents scuttling back into their dark living rooms to slump in front of their televisions. People need to become more connected to nature, instead of using our airconditioned home as a band aid, and gardening is one way to do that. 

Photograph of my back yard

People are sacrificing green space for space in their floor plans. But I wonder how much of this space is wasted and how much is utilised? “The average Perth house in 1980 was 140 square metres and our families were bigger back then … now normal is 245 square metres,” – Apartment dweller Tony Pennell’s states. Driving down a typical suburban street I find myself constantly questioning if these large, multi-roomed home’s in fact reflect the number of occupants they house. In this case it’s interesting to analyse emerging phenomena’s such as the tiny house movement, where the idea of how much space we think we need is challenged. Each tiny house contains the basic necessities we need in a home, such as living area, sleeping loft, kitchen and bathroom: all within around 2.4 x 5 meters.

New PortCoogee Housing Estates

What could be a benefit of building smaller on a block of land would be the incorporation of greenery, a generous set back or a front or back yard. Architect Ben Caine discusses his experience with people being torn between efficient design and building big. He states, “his challenge was to persuade people that a smaller, better-designed house would be more comfortable to live in, cheaper to run and would still have good resale value.”

It is not to say that everyone should be living in tiny houses with abundant gardens and greenery that can be  expensive to maintain but the idea is moreover one of considering living environments which promote better star ratings, energy efficiency for light, heating and cooling systems and encompassing all the space that is needed for comfortable living.  This balance should incorporate greenery and gardens which are also energy efficient and that give back priceless benefits which are conducive to better our health and wellbeing.

References

  1. “Australian Suburbs Most Vulnerable To Extreme Heat”. 2019. Newscomau. https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/the-australian-suburbs-and-council-areas-most-vulnerable-to-extreme-heat/news-story/0df25ff17daedbb5793b20da70968671.
  2. “Mcmansion Expansion Is Leaving Perth ‘Full Of Terrible Houses'”. 2019. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-16/the-hidden-costs-of-mcmansions/10981336.
  3. “Reinventing Density: Overcoming The Suburban Setback”. 2019. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/reinventing-density-overcoming-the-suburban-setback-66411.
  4. “What Is A Tiny House?”. 2019. Living Big In A Tiny House. https://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/tiny-house/.
  5. “Welcome To The ‘Dormitory Suburbs’: Experts Question Quality Of Life On The Fringe”. 2019. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-29/experts-question-quality-of-life-on-perths-fringe/9370970.