DesignBUILD 2018 will host a panel looking at how town planners and architects can move beyond their traditionally adversarial relationships to work effectively together.

It is one of three thought-provoking discussions that respected architecture and design writer Stephen Crafti will host at the event.

Taking place from Wednesday 2 to Friday 4 May at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, DesignBUILD is the construction, design and architecture industry’s premier trade exhibition, but now also serves as a forum for thinking through the bigger issues affecting the industry.

Crafti says urban planners would benefit from a closer relationship with designers.

“The town planning system has become more sophisticated, but the problem still lies with the limited training given to planners in the area of design,” Crafti says.

“Award-winning architects still need to argue their case when filing a new application, when councils could in fact be encouraging design excellence in their municipalities.”

The urban planning panel, on Wednesday 2 May at 2pm, will feature industry leaders including Milieu Property director Michael McCormack, BKK Architects co-founder Simon Knott and architect Robert Simeoni.

From a development perspective, McCormack says his company has a good relationship with town planners.

“The growth of Melbourne as an international city depends on a successful working relationship between developers and planners,” says McCormack.

“We enjoy a generally collaborative and cohesive relationship with council planners and consultants, as is evident in our portfolio of projects across inner Melbourne.”

But councils can be unnecessarily hamstrung by political considerations, McCormack believes.

“We’re keen to work productively with councils, however, in many cases, the final decision taken by elected officials is against the advice of their employed advisors due to political factors. This results in unnecessary time and costs associated with the appeal processes – inhibiting growth and increasing costs to end purchasers,” he says.

For architects, protracted appeals processes can negatively impact good design, Knott says.

“Increasingly complex compliance and risk minimisation regimes become barriers to innovation,” he says.

“The increased time spent overcoming these barriers results in less time actually designing. It puts downward pressure on fees, and the challenge to extend design time and produce projects of quality is becoming ever more difficult.”

Crafti says getting these issues right is absolutely vital in a city such as Melbourne, where the population is conservatively estimated to reach 8 million by 2050.

“There are a range of complex problems tied-up with the issue of planning. We need the housing density associated with apartment living, but we also don’t want ‘cookie cutter’ developments, and that’s something we will be looking at in another of my DesignBUILD panels,” Crafti says.

That discussion, looking at innovations in multi-level developments, takes place on Thursday 3 May at 3pm.

Crafti will be joined by McBride Charles Ryan owner Debbie Ryan; David Allt-Graham, general manager of residential developments for MAB Corporation; and Neometro founder and design director Jeff Provan.

“We have seen a shift from three-storey walk-up flats to more considered apartment design. Designers are offering more efficient floor plans and a shift to more artisanal projects,” Crafti says.

“We’ll be talking about some of the more innovative changes made over the last few years, and where things are headed in the future.”

The final panel, on Friday 4 May at 2pm, looks at the hot topic of resale value and its relationship to design.

Panelists include architect Clare Cousins, who designed Nightingale 4.0 – which is based on an innovative housing model with built-in resale restrictions – plus FMD Architects director Fiona Dunin and Multiplicity co-founder Tim Sullivan.

“With the price of real estate, it’s not surprising that people verge on caution based on a perceived resale value,” Crafti says.

“Three bedrooms, ensuites to each and two separate living areas – one for the children to scream their heads off! But are people thinking about resale rather than the way they and their family live? Are architects and designers becoming more restricted in creating homes that have a point of difference?”