Anyone with lingering doubts about the prospect of medium-density living would be wise to consider Jalcon Home’s newest development at Milldale, north of Tāmaki Makaurau on the Hibiscus Coast. Milldale is a greenfield development of mostly single-family houses on their own lots. “We wanted to showcase something different,” says Jacob Aitken, development manager at Jalcon. “We’re quite excited – these apartments are quite unique.”
Where most apartment blocks in Aotearoa tend to be concrete, with long hallways, built to the full extent of the site and made up of almost identical two-bedroom dwellings, these are a series of small low-rise standalone towers. “The separation offers lots of edges and offsets that help create visual interest and make the buildings less blocky,” says Stevens Lawson Architect’s Gary Lawson, who has worked with Jalcon on a series of developments around the city. Four storeys tall with views across a nearby park, access to each apartment is via a breezeway – an open space that encourages interaction between neighbours. “We didn’t want the circulation areas to feel internal, tight or monotonous,” says Lawson. Instead, the open approach allows access to fresh air. Adds Aitken, “You’re in the weather a little – it’s covered but you’ve got the outlook, the greenery. It’s quite special.”
At ground level, there are shared zones, including a communal vegetable garden, green space and bike sheds, and while each apartment has a carpark, these are carefully scattered around and separated by further green spaces. “We wanted to create a community within the community,” says Aitken, “so we’ve created outdoor space for everyone to use.”
The design of the apartments is an iteration of an apartment development by Jalcon in Owairaka, though with an extra storey. There are one, two and three-bedroom apartments: Aitken sees them appealing to a range of occupants, from first-home buyers to young families and retirees.
They’re built using cross-laminated timber floors instead of concrete slabs between storeys, and a timber frame instead of steel, with increasing amounts of prefabrication and off-site manufacturing. While the advantages of timber from a climate point of view are well known (it has a vastly lower climate impact than concrete) what isn’t well known is how much more efficient it makes the building process.
The result is that each home feels less like an apartment, more like a house in the sky, with quality flooring and fittings, and generous bathrooms. The fractured layout and breezeways mean each apartment has a private outdoor space. “It’s an apartment,” says Aitken, “but you’re still in touch with the outside.”
This story was produced in association with Jalcon.
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