Case Study: Using Geoscape Data for Urban Renewal Research at UNSW
Max Di Rosario, a student at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), researched a significant urban housing challenge in New South Wales, Australia, as part of his honours thesis. The focus of his research is on the pressing need for revitalising aging apartment buildings within urban centres1, particularly in inner-city areas where the demand for housing is continuously increasing.
The thesis explores an innovative approach to renewing aging apartment buildings: the implementation of Vertical Extensions (VEs) on existing structures, which involves adding additional levels to old buildings. Max’s thesis demonstrates the importance of VEs in refurbishing and modernising apartment buildings which are often at the end of their service life, inadequately maintained, and fail to meet the current living standards of residents.
Max needed detailed information about many buildings in NSW to see if adding new levels was feasible. He used Geoscape’s ‘Buildings’ dataset, which has information about over 18 million buildings in Australia. This dataset includes details like the shape and material of roofs, building sizes, and heights, which were crucial for Max’s project.
An example of an output constructed using Buildings data: a heatmap of Vertical Extension projects in Sydney.
Max harnessed Location Intelligence to effectively link and organise Geoscape’s data with other sources. This integration was key in his analysis of over 10,000 old apartment buildings in NSW using QGIS, a geographic information system software. The focus of this analysis was to determine if these buildings could support additional levels without breaching current planning controls.
Max’s thesis found that 572 of these buildings could have extra levels added, potentially creating around 7,130 new homes, the majority of these within one kilometre of train or metro stations. This would lead to a 63% increase in housing density in those 572 apartment buildings, without increasing the building’s footprint.
The table below presents a list of Sydney’s districts, specifying the Local Government Areas (LGAs) with potential for VEs. It also includes the potential buildings permitting a VE and new dwellings.
The findings from Max’s thesis indicates that VEs are an effective method for refurbishing ageing apartment blocks in city areas. This approach offers financial, environmental, and community advantages over demolishing and rebuilding.
These advantages include increased housing stock, providing more affordable inner-city dwellings, preventing the displacement of long-standing residents, and financing renovations through additional storeys. It also retains the building’s carbon footprint, increases density without expanding the urban footprint, preserves local identity, and supports the installation of energy-efficient features such as solar panels and double glazing.
This case study demonstrates Geoscape’s buildings data is a valuable asset for students, researchers and urban planners to enhance research and improve decision making.
1: The sample looked at was strata titled apartment buildings registered before 1980.