It can seem as if everywhere you look, the city is under construction. Prefab Lego-block buildings go up one after the other, seemingly slapped together as quickly as possible. It’s easy to roll your eyes and think otherwise, but not all developments are created with the same template, or the same end goal. Many teams put a lot of work in to considering the people who’ll end up living in their buildings, making sure the needs of real live people are included at every stage. Tim Jackson, director and co-founder of Jackson Clements Burrows Architects (JCB) says development teams need constant prompts to consider the whole picture. “It’s about understanding context, situation and circumstance,” he says.

Based in Melbourne, the award-winning JCB calls itself “a design-focused studio committed to exceptional architecture, interior and urban design.” With a team of 35, it has won multiple awards locally and internationally for residential, commercial, institutional, interior and urban-design projects.

JCB doesn’t pre-conceive its designs. For people living in its buildings, this means when the bathroom window opens just so, then Jackson – or someone like him – has thought about how. This kind of attention to detail is becoming even more important, he says, as inner-city apartment living becomes not just acceptable, but desirable.

“Culturally, Australians have always preferred the house,” says Jackson. “But there’s a shift in thinking towards apartment living. It’s exciting to think of your backyard as the street, and your local park as the back garden. If you live in a terrace house in the inner city, it’s not like you can kick a footy in the backyard anyway – you’ve got to go to the park. That can be a really sustainable way of living, as opposed to being on (a bigger) suburban block. It’s relative.”

Jackson has a term for keeping the quality of life of a building’s future inhabitants at the forefront of the often faceless development process: social sustainability. In the buildings he creates, Jackson encourages spaces where people can meet, even accidentally. “Places or spaces where people can come together on a stairway or a landing. Trying to make incidental spaces conducive to having an exchange. Even natural light in a corridor can make a natural space more engaging. It’s about thinking of those sorts of things.”

Carving human spaces into an already-established urban environment can be challenging. Parameters of space, height, heritage considerations and, as Jackson puts it, “a developer that has the courage to break the mould, from simply maximising their yield,” are all introduced. But Jackson says a great start is lively thoroughfares and established cultural environments bringing their own life to a building. “If the place is well located, in the middle of a village or a high street, then the street becomes the point of exchange for people,” says Jackson, referencing his push for social sustainability. “You’ve then got to fine tune the building to its different settings and locations.”

A successful inner-city development is about more than just collaborating with a team, it’s designing for the future. “You need a sense of connection between the interior and exterior,” says Jackson. “You want materials and finishes that are appropriate for longevity. It’s all about setting a space up so it can be inhabited for many years without feeling like it has to be reinvented.”

This article is presented by Kalex.