Adjunct Professor Tony Hall’s book The Life and Death of the Australian Backyard has been awarded the 2012 Planning Institute of Australia Award for Excellence in Planning in the Cutting Edge Research and Teaching category.

Professor Hall said it was a great honour to have his work this recognised in this way by the PIA, the national professional body for town panning in Australia. There was a very strong field this year with 11 nominations for the national award, including 4 from Queensland.

The Life and Death of the Australian Backyard charts a sudden shift in the suburban landscape in the 1990’s, most notably the demise of the Aussie backyard. As this book reveals, that’s costing us of a great deal more than backyard cricket.

“Anyone flying over any Australian city now will see suburbs with roof to roof coverage,” Adjunct Professor Tony Hall said.

“It wasn’t necessarily that backyards became smaller; rather the houses got bigger”, he said.

“I discovered that this happened at exactly the same time as the increase in Australian working hours, so Australia now has the world’s largest houses and longest working hours.”

Professor Hall says this phenomenon is particularly pronounced in the outer suburbs where large sprawling housing developments are full of large sprawling homes.

“People have bigger homes filled with more things, but not the time to enjoy them or a traditional Australian lifestyle,” Professor Hall said.

“Furthermore, these larger houses have fewer windows and much less natural light and ventilation so they need more electricity to keep them cool,” he said.

“There are also serious ecological implications to be considered as the vegetation surrounding a home plays an important role in microclimate, storm drainage and biodiversity, irrespective of whether the residents use their backyard or not.”

Professor Hall is calling for a much wider public debate on these current trends in Australian lifestyles.

“Legal powers though planning regulations could prevent what is happening if there was a political will to do so.”