‘Built environment’ refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for people to live, work and recreate. It encompasses physical buildings and parks, and their supporting infrastructure such as transport, water and energy networks.
Human wellbeing is affected by the built environment. The structure, form and function of the built environment, as well as the quality of its environmental assets, determine its suitability for living in. In turn, the built environment puts pressure on the natural environment, primarily by using land, water and energy resources, as well as through the waste and emissions produced by these consumptive activities.
Despite Australia’s large size, our population is highly urbanised. Forty per cent of Australians live in Melbourne and Sydney, and, when the national and other state capitals are included—Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart and Perth—two-thirds of the population live in capital cities (ABS 2016a).
The proportion of people living in cities is growing in many areas. In 2015, 16.9 million people (71 per cent of Australia’s population) lived in major cities (Figure BLT1), a 9.2 per cent increase from 2010. In comparison, just over 2 per cent lived in remote or very remote areas. Eighteen per cent lived in inner regional areas (an increase of 6 per cent since 2010), and 9 per cent in outer regional areas (an increase of slightly less than 4 per cent since 2010) (ABS 2016a).
Five state capital cities (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney) have populations of between 1 million and 4 million. The remaining 3 capital cities (Canberra, Darwin and Hobart) are much smaller, and 7 other regional cities or metropolitan areas are of comparable or greater size (Gold Coast–Tweed Heads, Newcastle–Maitland, Sunshine Coast, Wollongong, Geelong, Townsville and Cairns).
Between 2011 and 2031, almost three-quarters of Australia’s population growth will occur in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Projections show that our biggest 4 cities will collectively need to accommodate 5.9 million more people. The population in areas around these cities—the Hunter, Illawarra, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Geelong regions—is also expected to grow, from 2 million in 2011 to more than 2.5 million in 2031. These 4 extended metropolitan areas will account for more than two-thirds of Australia’s population in 2031.