The New South Wales (NSW) State Government has recently replaced its ‘Residential Flat Design Code’ introduced in 2002 with a new ‘Apartment Design Guide’ (the Guide).  The introduction of the new guidelines that will apply to apartment development will result in the State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) 65 for NSW being amended to reference this new document.

The introduction of these new guidelines is of particular interest to Victoria given the release of the ‘Better Apartments A Discussion Paper’ (the discussion paper) by the Victorian State Government in May 2015.  The discussion paper seeks through submissions to inform the preparation of apartment guidelines for Victoria.

Some important aspects of the Guide, in terms of implementation, structure and requirements, are discussed below.


Under the amended SEPP 65 to be introduced on 17 July 2015, development plans must be consistent with the Guide.

The Guide sets out a number of objectives that relate to specific development requirements such as daylight access, natural ventilation and apartment size that are required to be met.  In some instances design criteria are provided under the objective to assist with meeting the objective.  These design criteria are either mandatory or recommended requirements.

This approach is an effective way of implementing apartment guidelines.  For Victoria, we would recommend adopting a similar approach but including the guidelines within the Planning Scheme to require an apartment code assessment that is similar to that required to be completed for single dwellings and multiple dwellings (less than four storeys in height).

Apartment Size

Minimum sizes for studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments are recommended in the Guide.  These minimum sizes can be varied by demonstrating that an apartment layout is functional and usable with realistically scaled furniture layouts to be taken into consideration as part of any reduction in apartment size.

In our view, the Victorian Government should adopt the NSW approach to apartment size being performance based rather than prescriptive as small spaces used efficiently and effectively, can provide a high level of amenity.  We understand however, that not all apartments will meet good design practice and therefore, in considering a reduction to the minimum apartment size, the layout of furniture will assist in determining whether an apartment is functional and usable.    

Other Requirements

As is the case with minimum apartment size, the majority of the development requirements in the Guide are performance based rather than prescriptive.  A similar approach should be applied in Victoria understanding that requirements such as direct access to sunlight, daylight to all secondary spaces and the provision of secluded private open space may not always be possible for all apartments in certain circumstances.  Notwithstanding this, access to source primary natural daylight in a bedroom is in our view an example of a requirement that should be the norm.

To view the NSW Apartment Design Guide in full click here.


To view the Victorian Better Apartments A Discussion Paper click here


Collie will be making a response to the Better Apartments A Discussion Paper, which will be made available on our web site shortly.

Please note submissions for the discussion paper are due by 31 July 2015.

Enquiries to Jack Moloney on 03 8698 9300 or jrm@colliepl.com.au