Australian developers are using feng shui elements in new building designs to attract Chinese consumers.
Incorporating feng shui – the ancient Chinese art of designing spaces to balance energies between living space and body – has become an increasing selling point in recent years, with Chinese homebuyers willing to pay more for a home which promises good energy.
Kony Kang, Vice President of the Association of Feng Shui Consultants, says there has been a growing interest from developers to use feng shui in upcoming projects in order to cater to the Chinese market.
The rise of Chinese buyers in the Australian property market has been a driving force in Australia’s recent property boom in the nation’s major cities. Investors and immigrants from China committed to an estimated $8.7 billion in residential housing over 2013-14, a 60% increase over the previous year, according to Credit Suisse estimates.
“From the building outlook, garden landscape, driveway path, level floor plan to balcony design, fengshui-lized buildings will gain more clients with a higher retail price,” Kang says.
An example of this has been the development of Greenland in Sydney’s CBD which was built with the absence of the number four — whose Chinese pronounciation sounds like death — on all the floors and the entire building. The Australian architecture firm behind the building, BVN Donovan Hill, also scrapped initial plans for a rooftop garden after it was found that having a garden at the top of a building was reminiscent of a Chinese folklore about infidelity.
More recently, Crown Groups Developments released plans for a new luxury residential development called “Oasis” in Sydney’s inner west, built with feng shui to snare foreign buyers. The suburb of Ashfield has been referred to as “Little Shanghai” given its proximity to many Shanghainese restaurants and has become an attractive real estate market, especially for Chinese consumers over the years.
The property will be designed with “natural elements of feng shui including a landscaped rooftop garden, ground floor water feature and an internal atrium which allows natural light and air into the building.”
Crown’s other $309 million residential development in Parramatta, V By Crown, is also set to feature a “landscaped rooftop garden for residents and elements of wood and stone throughout the design” with Crown Group Sales and Marketing Director Roy Marcellus saying that most feng shui elements come “down to the residents’ positioning and placement of furniture.”
“Our luxury apartments have proven very popular with buyers from many cultures, including buyers who take into consideration feng shui elements,” he says.
“Our projects include natural elements of water, stone and timber into our design; such as an infinity-edge rooftop pool at Skye by Crown Group in North Sydney and landscaped open-air rooftops at V by Crown in Parramatta and Oasis by Crown Group in Ashfield.”
Licensed real estate agent at McGrath and feng shui expert Liz Wiggins says feng shui has played a huge role in the home buying process with clients concerned about whether a property is “on the high side of the street, has no obstacles in front of door or any huge trees blocking the entrance”, some of which are considered to give off bad feng shui.
It has also become common practice for homebuyers to seek a feng shui inspection before purchasing a home. Wiggins says consultants have been asked to rate a property out of ten based on the feng shui of a home.
Just last year, a businessman based in China bought the penthouse of Australia 108, which was designed with feng shui and originally set to be the tallest residential tower in the country, for a record $25 million. Extensive use of the number eight was visible in the proposed height of 388m spanning across 108 storeys while the number four was avoided.
“The 388-metre height was not an accident. Good planning often coincides with feng shui and the number 8 is like a lucky rabbit’s foot,” said Nonda Katsalidis who was an architect of Australia 108.
The popularity of feng shui has even extended beyond those with an Asian background with an increasing number of Australian clients expecting the same service these days, says Kang.
And the appeal of feng shui doesn’t appear to be wearing off soon with Australia currently the second most popular market for Chinese foreign investors behind the US.
According to research by Credit Suisse, Chinese investors and new immigrants from China committed an estimated $8.7 billion to Australian residential housing in 2013-14 with most of the focus on Sydney and Melbourne. This represented a 60% growth from $5.4 billion in 2012-13 with much of the acceleration in Chinese demand attributed to foreign investment.
The demand is likely to continue with the weakening Australian dollar and the increasing popularity of buying off the plan with recent reports that 1 in every 5 new apartments are being sold to the Chinese.
Despite changes to the current foreign investment rules, the next few years until 2020 are expected to pull in an additional $60 billion which would be more than double the $28 billion from 2008 to 2014.
So what makes a home harmononious?
Much of the design principle behind feng shui which has been around for centuries deals with “the flow of energy from one entity to another” and can have an impact on mood, health and career.
For example, positive energy is created when a bed is placed away from the door and against a solid wall as it can lead to security and safety. Ideally, households should be free of dust and clutter as they’re known to store “old chi energy” and “deplete your vitality”, making people unproductive, according to Feng Shui School.
It is also common to incorporate natural elements into the household such as wood, stone or metal which suggest vitality, comfort and richness. Synthetic building materials and artificial lighting are viewed as unfavourable chi energies and are believed to lead to mental and physical exhaustion.
Kang also suggests that residents be aware of yin energy around their external environment saying that anything such as a “church, hospital, overpass, bridge, building construction, road construction, and domestic renovation” needs to be “balanced or dissolved”.
“All these elements definitely brings a bigger price. Good landscape and feng shui properties always do better because people are naturally attracted to it,” says Wiggins.