Higher quality communal areas (including amenities/features such as greenery, pools, barbecues, seating and a ground floor location) were associated with greater use of communal areas in apartment developments.

For the attention of: Policy-makers, developers, academics and architects

The problem: In the context of global urbanisation, creating high-density living environments that promote health, wellbeing and social connectedness is vital. In apartment buildings, residents live in close physical proximity and share communal areas, however not all areas are equal in design and quality, which may impact usage and opportunities for social interaction.

What we did and why: Using a novel desktop audit approach, we objectively identified communal area design features and examined their association with residents’ use of communal areas in apartment developments across Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

What our study adds: This appears to be the first attempt to utilise an objective audit tool that assesses a number of design themes across communal areas. Our study results suggest that the delivery of high-quality communal areas can encourage use, which in turn, may have implications for residents’ social opportunities and outcomes.

Implications for city policy and practice: The findings have policy and design implications, suggesting that the provision of communal space alone may not be enough to encourage use without the design features or amenities that appeal to residents.

Full research article: Exploring the design, quality and use of communal areas in apartment developments by Alexandra Kleeman, Billie Giles-Corti, Lucy Gunn, Paula Hooper & Sarah Foster. City Know-how editor: Marcus Grant.