The High Life project examines the interplay between apartment design policy, the design and location of apartment buildings, and residents’ health and wellbeing outcomes in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

  • Project dates: 2018 (ongoing)

Project End Date: 2023

The HIGH LIFE Study

Australia’s urban landscape has seen a shift towards apartment construction, with apartments now accounting for a third of all new residential building approvals in Australia.  This construction boom has given rise to concerns about the quality, amenity and future versatility of apartment stock, with reports of micro apartments, windowless rooms and poor access to sunlight and air.  Which raises the question – are apartment residents in Australia really living the high life?

Apartment design guidance differs across Australia in its detail, the specificity of requirements, and regulatory basis, with many states providing limited guidance. Could these policies influence the quality of the housing provided, and the health and wellbeing of residents?  The HIGH LIFE Study has been set up to test whether specific apartment design features, and ‘the dose’ of these features, could impact residents’ health and wellbeing.  It aims to provide the policy-specific health evidence needed to help create healthy higher density environments for future generations of apartment dwellers.

What are we doing?

The HIGH LIFE Study recently collected information on apartments constructed in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in the last 10 years.  Apartments in these cities have been developed with different levels of policy guidance.  Within each city, apartment residents in diverse neighbourhoods were surveyed, and objective measures of apartment design and wider neighbourhood characteristics (such as access to shops, services, transport and parks) were created.

We had a fantastic response, with over 1300 residents – across 115 apartment complexes – completing the survey. With data collection now complete, we are ready to commence data analysis to assess the impact of different apartment design features, as well as the location of the apartment building, on residents’ health and wellbeing.

COVID-19 follow-up survey

The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have been unprecedented, and we wondered how people living in apartments were managing during this challenging period. We recently contacted High Life participants who completed our original survey to learn more about their experience of apartment living since the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 200 residents completed our follow up survey and we are now busy analysing the data to determine if, and how, our participants’ feelings about their apartment changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HIGH LIFE – ‘PARK LIFE’ Study

Our team was recently awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery grant to investigate how people living in apartments use public open space. The project aims to create tailored, evidence-based recommendations for equitable public open space planning to better support apartment residents’ needs. We’ll be getting back in touch with our apartment dwellers in 2022… Stay tuned!

Project funders and partners

The HIGH LIFE Study is funded by the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway) (#31986) and an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award (DE160100140). We have ethics approval from RMIT University (CHEAN B 21146-10/17) and The University of Western Australia (Ref: RA/4/1/8735).

High Life Study e-news – September 2019 Update

You can view our latest project update, featuring study news, events and results, here.

If you would like to subscribe to the High Life Study e-news please click on this link.

The High Life Study protocol paper is available here.

Key People

Lead researchers

Dr Sarah Foster

Dr Sarah Foster

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow

The High Life: Could apartment design policy improve residents’ health and wellbeing?

Dr Paula Hooper

Research Fellow

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Alexandra Kleeman

Alexandra Kleeman

Project Coordinator & PhD Student

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