Despite being extremely comfortable in bed, it’s time to start my day (without even snoozing once, I promise). It’s always good to think ahead of what’s on for the day over breakfast; it’s an important aspect which kick starts the day and allows me to feel sharp and aware as soon as I step out the door. Today that will have to wait until I’m in the City – it’s Pod Breakfast Day! I wave to my housemate’s dog (who is still half-asleep – lucky her) and set off into the crisp winter morning to commute to work.
I’ve just arrived at my Pod’s monthly catch up, this time over breakfast – today is off to an excellent start. Everyone in the Melbourne planning team is assigned to a Pod, which are smaller groups within the bigger planning team. Each Pod has a variety of people within the team, from Assistant Planners to Directors, and each hosts their own social events and provides internal mentoring. Social events like today’s breakfast are a great way of finding out what’s happening both in and out of work.
After a solid start to the day with good food, company and caffeine, I’m now at my desk to go through my emails, check my calendar and prepare for the day ahead. Work in the Urbis Planning team varies from day-to-day and I'm starting to believe the adage that planners know a little about a lot.
Work can dip in and out of the statutory and strategic spheres and involve anything from research tasks, helping to provide advice to clients (I.e. “Do I need a planning permit for that” or “I’m thinking about buying this site – what’s the development potential?”) and writing up reports for proposed developments spanning across residential, commercial, education, community, retail and even industrial uses. A day can also involve heading out of the office for a site visit or meetings with clients, councils and other consultants (architects, engineers, surveyors, project managers).
In addition to a few projects I'm helping with, today I've got a planning meeting to attend and a site visit in the afternoon. I’ve got a bit of time before the planning meeting so it’s time for some emails.
Emails can be quite varied, today there’s some general planning news from the team - one of our Senior Consultants is on holidays in Cyprus (a tough life, I know) and sent a photo showing us the results of some rather relaxed planning and building controls (think air conditioner condensers all over the building façade).
I also received a set of draft architectural plans to review in detail and provide comment on (for a new high-rise, mixed use commercial development in City North). There’s also another set of plans for a different project that will need a quick review (a high-rise, mixed use tower in the Hoddle Grid). The architect has also asked a few additional questions which I'll need to answer this morning once I've caught up with the Associate Director on the project. I’ve also been sent a final draft Economic Benefits Statement from our in-house economics team which will need a quick review.
Regular planning meetings are a chance to get the whole team together to talk all things planning – both internally and externally. They generally involve a rundown of current news or new VCAT decisions that are important for the team to note, or internal and external presentations. Today’s meeting includes a presentation from one of our Directors on their recent study tour of New York, which discussed the unique elements of their planning system and what we could learn from the way that development is facilitated there. We also met our new Operations Manager and had a presentation from the Director and Partner group on some new business strategies.
I’m back at my desk and it’s time to get stuck into today’s tasks. I’ve got time to review the draft EBS before I catch up with my team on another project. We engaged our in-house Property Economics & Research team to help us quantify the benefits of a new multi-staged, master planned development in one of Melbourne’s growth areas. The findings are golden – we’ll leverage this in our planning report to help us speak to the benefits of our client’s proposal to the community and the economy.
I’ve arranged a quick catch up with the Associate Director on one of our projects so that we can see how we are tracking and discuss any items that need to be actioned. I ran her through my thoughts on some responses back to the architect, which are looking good. The meeting also gives me the opportunity to discuss a few additional draft consultant reports I'd reviewed yesterday to see if there are any additional comments we need to include. From our meeting I've been able to confirm my next steps: first priority is responding back to the architect, then we can update the project manager on the status of the project and how we are tracking on our end towards the submission deadline. We’re on it.
Now that I've got my first priority out of the way, it’s time for a detailed review of a set of plans for another project. Reading and understanding architectural plans is a big part of the job – there are many instances where I wish I wasn’t a perfectionist, but it’s perfect for this task and also allows me to use different skills such as my background in architecture every day. I’ve made sure that the architects have made all required changes for our submission back to Council and confirmed a few additional changes that the client seeks to make.
While the majority of the plans are acceptable, there are a few aspects which we’ll need the architect to update before we can get this back to Council. I mark-up the plans and provide a summary email back to the group so that it can be actioned.
The morning has gone very quickly and it’s time for lunch. There’s a big communal space on our floor with a large central table, which is perfect for having a few random conversations with colleagues or catching up on today’s news while we eat.
With lunch finished it’s time to prepare and head out of the office for a combined meeting and site visit in Melbourne’s west. The meeting has people from Council’s statutory planning, traffic and strategic planning teams, as well as the project architects and traffic consultants. We’re here to discuss all things traffic, including car parking rates, access and movement in and around the site. These aspects are fundamental to the project so it’s important that the Council understands our vision for the project and what we are trying to achieve.
Once the meeting is finished, the Project Director and I head to the site so that I can see the conditions on the ground. We’re in a rapidly changing growth area of Melbourne so it’s good to see the current site surrounds and take some photos as we begin to prepare our master planning permit application.
After driving back to the city, I’m back in the office and at my desk. For the last part of the day, I'm going to get stuck into the assessment section of a planning report, which is an ongoing task I’ve been working on throughout the week. The assessment section of a report strategically justifies the proposal based on our detailed review of the site and the Planning Scheme. The proposal will be an exciting new addition to Melbourne’s skyline – one of the best parts of the job is being actively involved in the evolution of our city and seeing this evolution first hand as buildings are approved, constructed and occupied.
The work day is done and it’s time for netball with the work team – it’s a good way to switch out the cognitive load and destress from the busy working day. We got lucky with an early game tonight, so there’s enough time to get changed at work and head straight over to the courts and prepare for battle.
It’s my first season playing for the Urbis netball team (I’m a few games in now so the skills are definitely improving – I’ve found myself best in defence). While it’s just for fun, the games are surprisingly intense (as is the sport) and it’s nice to build up the comradery between many different people at work in a different setting. Nothing builds relationships like screaming at someone to pass you the ball. The match is super close but the other team edge us out in the final quarter – we lost the battle, but we certainly have not (yet) lost the war.
After a short tram ride that’s filled with a lot of streetscape gazing (the way I look at buildings and land has forever changed) – I’m back home. I’m immediately greeted by a very happy (and much more awake) dog and it’s now time relax, cook some good food and enjoy the rest of the night in before heading to bed and starting a new day tomorrow.