_Better Apartments Draft Design Standards

The Victorian State Government is one step closer to introducing new planning controls for apartment developments, following the release of draft design standards earlier this week.  These draft design standards are the result of a lengthy consultation process, to which the State Government received nearly 150 submissions and 1700 survey responses.  With regard to the draft design standards released this week, we believe the following aspects are particularly noteworthy.


The design standards will be introduced through a new particular provision in the Victorian Planning Provisions and will apply to all apartments in buildings of five or more storeys.  They will adopt the same performance based approach currently used to assess residential development in the planning scheme, with objectives, standards and design guidelines.  It should be noted that at this stage, all of the draft design standards are discretionary, with no mandatory requirements.

Building Setback

Minimum setback distances from side and rear boundaries as well as for multiple buildings within the same site are suggested.  Three categories of setback distances are suggested depending on the height of the building.

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Room Depth

A habitable room should not exceed a room depth to ceiling height ratio of 2:1 for south facing singe aspect dwellings or 2.5:1 for all other dwellings.


A habitable room should have a window in an external wall of the building that is visible from any point in the room.  Habitable rooms that rely on borrowed light arrangements (from an adjoining room) or daylight from a ‘snorkel’ or ‘saddleback’ bedroom (with a narrow space linking the bedroom and window) will not meet this standard.


Collie welcomes the introduction of a performance based approach to the design standards as we believe it will encourage site responsive and innovative design solutions, rather than a tick the box type scenario that may result from mandatory controls.  It will be interesting to monitor whether the design standards will result in a change in the type of apartments being constructed.  In particular, this will be true where standards are not mandatory.  Currently, apartment developments are often characterised by smaller one to two bedroom developments, often with strong interest from investors and particularly foreign investors.  With the draft design standards looking to improve many of the amenity issues that plague poor apartment design, it will be interesting to see whether a shift to larger family-suited or owner-occupier apartments will result.

Submissions in response to the draft design standards are invited until 19 September, following which the State Government hopes to introduce the final design standards into the Victorian Planning Scheme by December 2016.