The traditional housing and building character of Brisbane is one that defines the city in ways that set us apart from the other capital cities around Australia and reflects our local history.
Across the city, houses dating back more than 100 years are dotted throughout the suburbs, including worker’s cottages, Queenslanders and other architectural forms exhibiting overseas influences such as art deco, spanish mission, californian bungalow and Georgian architecture.
The importance of preserving these culturally significant buildings has been identified by Brisbane City Council with measures enacted throughout the planning scheme to protect the city’s traditional building character (TBC). Properties recognised as having Traditional Building Character are identified on the Traditional Building Character Overlay Map. This is not to be confused with the Dwelling House Character Overlay Map or Heritage Overlay map.
This blog discusses what is Brisbane’s TBC, why it is important to the cultural identity of Brisbane and what you need to know if buying or renovating a house that has traditional building character.
The most recognisable of Brisbane’s character houses is the Queenslander, due to their cultural and monetary value. Queenslanders are remnants of Brisbane’s pre-war (1946) built heritage and considered iconic features of the leafy suburban landscape of Brisbane. They contrast architecturally from post war suburbs and break the monotony of modern housing designs consuming the outer ring. The Queenslander is a classic piece of Australian architectural design, with its distinctive timber and corrugated iron appearance, wrap around verandahs and double hung windows. It is a great example of vernacular architecture; best described as a traditional type of architecture that has evolved over time in response to local climatic, environmental, building resources and cultural human needs. This style of housing emerged in the 19th century as a response to the warm, subtropical climate of Queensland. Wide verandahs and windows, high-set ceilings, steeply pitched roofs and a light timber-framed structure elevated above the ground by stumps all work to encourage cooling breezes through the structure and move hot, humid air outward. Purposefully designed at a human scale, the Queenslander provides a sense of place in the Queensland context.
So why is it important to protect such character houses in Brisbane? Under the pressure of population growth, Brisbane’s urban fringe is constantly expanding with master-planned communities, house & land packages and new builds where housing styles can be repetitive and monotonous. The late 19th and early 20th century represents a high point of Queensland architecture and therefore should be preserved as best as possible as a snapshot of the city’s past for appreciation by residents and visitors alike.
Brisbane City Council has implemented various mechanisms in the planning scheme (CityPlan 2014) to regulate what can and cannot be done on sites identified as having TBC.
Approval for demolition is only permitted in very limited circumstances and the majority of development applications seeking approval for demolition end up in the Planning and Environment Court.
Depending upon the type and extent of work that is being proposed, development approval under the planning scheme may be required, but there is some work that may be done that does not require development approval.
If the site is not located in a local heritage place sub category or the State heritage place sub-category of the Heritage Overlay, work that may be performed that does not require development approval under the planning scheme maybe any of the following:
If demolition, repositioning or raising of a building involving one or more of the following:
(a) repositioning of a building sideways, forwards or backwards within a lot, or sideways onto an adjoining lot, where:
(i) it does not involve the rotation of the building away from the primary street frontage to face another frontage or boundary;
(ii) boundary setbacks of the relocated building comply with:
(A) the side boundary setbacks specified in acceptable outcomes AO2.3 of Table 18.104.22.168.A of the Dwelling house (small lot) code if on a small lot;
(B) the rear setbacks in acceptable outcome AO2.4 of Table 22.214.171.124.A of the Dwelling house (small lot) code if on a small lot;
(C) the front setbacks in acceptable outcome AO1.2 of Table 126.96.36.199 of the Traditional building character (design) overlay code;
(b) raising a dwelling house, where:
(i) not in the Latrobe and Given Terraces or Sherwood—Graceville district neighbourhood plan areas;
(ii) the resultant building height does not exceed the building height requirements contained in any relevant neighbourhood plan, or 9.5m otherwise;
(c) demolition, where:
(i) of an internal wall or feature;
(ii) external features including windows, doors, balustrades, window hoods and fretwork forming part of the building constructed in 1946 or before, where the demolition enables replacement of the feature with new features of the same style and appearance consistent with traditional building character;
(iii) demolition of an internal or external stair, lift or ramp;
(iv) demolition to facilitate internal building work;
(v) a free-standing outbuilding constructed in 1946 or before, where at the rear of the building;
(vi) a post-1946 addition, extension or free-standing outbuilding;
(vii) a post-1946 alteration to reveal the original design or reconstruction with the original form and materials, including roof material, wall cladding, windows, stumps, lower floor enclosures and verandah enclosures;
(viii) any other demolition required as a direct consequence of carrying out work necessary for renovations and extensions previously approved by the local government in accordance with or not subject to assessment against the Traditional building character (design) overlay code or the Pre-1911 building overlay code.
If for a dwelling house involving one or more of the following:
(a) an enclosed extension under an existing building to the extent of the core of the building along the front and side boundaries, other than a dwelling in the Local character significance sub-category;
(b) an enclosed extension at the rear where preceded by lawful demolition as either accepted development or approved in accordance with the Traditional building character (demolition) code;
(c) an external stair, ramp or lift;
(d) internal building work;
(e) a carport, garage, shed or other outbuilding at the rear of the building;
(f) a carport:
(i) if located:
(A) between the building and side boundary; or
(B) between the building and front boundary, where a maximum total width of 6m or 50% of the average width of the lot, excluding eaves, whichever is the lesser;
(ii) if not in the Sherwood-Graceville Neighbourhood Plan area or the Local character significance sub-category of the Traditional building character overlay;
(iii) if associated with a dwelling house in the West End estate precinct of the West End—Woolloongabba district neighbourhood plan, where also complying with the requirements in AO13.2, AO13.3 and AO13.4 in that neighbourhood plan code;
(iv) if associated with a multiple dwelling in the Hillside character precinct of the Ithaca district neighbourhood plan, where also complying with the requirements in AO23.3 in that neighbourhood plan code;
(g) decks, verandahs, balconies and other shade structures at the rear of the building;
(h) an in-ground swimming pool and/or spa (of any size) and unenclosed ancillary shade structures (where not at the rear, any shade structures are to have a maximum roofed area 10m2 and maximum height 3m)
For all work that is proposed other than listed above, it is likely that development approval under the planning scheme will be required. If you are embarking on renovations to a house identified as having traditional building character, you should consult the Traditional Building Character Planning Scheme Policy, as it provides guidance on the elements that comprise traditional character and traditional building character identified in the Traditional Building Character (demolition) overlay code and Traditional building character (design) overlay code.
The Traditional Building Character Planning Scheme Policy identifies various elements that either singularly or combined contribute to the traditional character of areas and buildings. Examples of some of these are:
(a) traditional building form and roof styles,
The policy notes that building form can detract from the character of the street if it conflicts with (a) the relationship between ground and floor levels; (b) the traditional concept of lightweight verandahs attached to a solid core; and (c) the established pattern of roof shape and pitch.
(b) traditional elements, detailing and materials
The policy notes that the traditional character of the older suburbs is influenced by elements such as eaves, sunhoods, verandahs, lattice screens, balustrades and batten panels that cast shadows and provide three-dimensional effects. The traditional character of a street can be diminished by styles that do not incorporate shade-forming elements and that present a flat façade to the street.
(c) traditional scale
The policy notes that the traditional scale of a street was first established by its subdivision pattern of 16, 24 or 32 perch lots with 10m, 15m, or 20m frontages respectively. This created a reasonably uniform scale, accentuated by consistent stepping of the levels of adjoining dwelling houses in Brisbane’s hilly suburbs, and by uniform spacing between dwelling houses in flatter suburbs. The traditional scale of a street can be diminished if buildings are introduced that significantly exceed the surrounding building height or present large unarticulated facades to the street or interrupt the rhythm of stepping roof lines in a sloping street.
(d) traditional setting.
The policy notes that the setting of new buildings can detract from the character of a street if orientation or setbacks conflict with traditional settings or if garages dominate.
THE TAKE AWAY
Brisbane City Council has identified properties having traditional building character on the Traditional Building Character Overlay Map for the purposes of retention or renovation that respectfully considers their historical and architectural significance.
Depending upon the type and extent of work that is being proposed, development approval under the planning scheme may or may not be required. It should be noted that even if development approval for the traditional building character work is not required, there may be other reasons (eg an overlay) that approval may still be required.
Demolition is permitted only in limited circumstances - (a) the building does not represent traditional building character; (b) it is not capable of structural repair; or (c) the building does not contribute to the traditional building character of that part of the street within the Traditional building character overlay.
For work requiring development approval under the planning scheme, it will be assessed against the Traditional Building Character (Demolition) Overlay Code in the event of total or partial demolition and/or the Traditional Building Character (Design) Overlay Code in the event of renovation or new builds. The Traditional Building Character Planning Scheme Policy provides guidance about satisfying an assessment benchmark.
The information in this blog is of a general nature only and should not be relied upon in the absence of site specific advice. Clegg Town Planning routinely provides advice to clients and submits development applications to Council for demolition or renovation of Traditional Building Character buildings. Contact us for assistance with your TBC project so that you can commence work on your project faster.