Victorian Industry Pros Weigh In On Better Apartment Standards In 2017


This week, the Victorian Government announced that in 2017 it will be rolling out the ‘Better Apartments Design Standards’. This initiative was designed in an attempt to improve the liveability and sustainability of apartments in Victoria.

[Related article:

Victorian Government Ready To Launch New Apartment Standards In 2017]The intended result of the guidelines, which will be implemented in the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes in March 2017, is to give the growing number of people living in apartments more access to natural light, airflow and storage, among other things to improve the quality of life living in an apartment.

It all started with a discussion paper. In preparation for Victoria’s growing population and to plan its sustainable development growth, the government released Better Apartments – A Discussion Paper in May 2015, which sparked a statewide conversation with the community, local government and industry about internal apartment amenity and potential future design.

The paper later received almost 1700 survey responses and about 150 submissions from the community, regarding key issues affecting apartment amenity like daylight, space, natural ventilation and noise.

Taking feedback on board

As a result of the community consultation, the Better Apartments Design Standards initiative will include the following support tools:

  • Best-practice design guidelines for designing and assessing apartment developments, which will include examples of how the standards can be applied in different urban contexts.
  • An education and training program for council and private-sector planning, building and design practitioners about the design and assessment of apartment developments in line with the new standards, also considering alternative design solutions. The program will start in March 2017 and will include a number of free sessions.
  • A design review process to provide guidance and advice to local governments about how to assess more complex apartment developments.
  • An apartment buyers and renters guide, to help buyers and renters make informed decisions.

Industry response to Better Apartments Design Standards
Naturally, the development industry was compelled to weigh in on this auspicious move to improve apartment building and living in Victoria. Some of the big names in development advocacy recently produced their thoughts and feelings on behalf of the industry.
Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV)
Having acknowledged the effort the Victorian Government went to, BDAV President Lindsay Douglas said his organisation was pleased that the Victorian Government had adopted a ‘top down, bottom up’ approach to address issues facing apartment design, standards and living.

There were some concerns that BDAV have with the new design standards, but they generally support any policy, guideline or initiative that improves the quality of design in Victoria.

“Building designers comprise approximately one-third of the State’s building design community and we look forward to working with the Victorian Government to help improve our members’ capacity to implement these new measures,” Mr Douglas said.

“We believe these new standards will provide our members with tools to better influence design with their clients, help consumers make informed decisions about buying and living in apartments, and ultimately allow the Government to deliver great outcomes for developments in the future.

“We expect that the Victorian Government will continue to monitor the effectiveness of its new Better Apartments Standards, so that any liveability benefits do not impact housing affordability in the future.

Construction, apartment, building

Property Council Of Australia
Property Council Victorian Executive Director Sally Capp said the Standards represent good policy that meets the Government’s objectives and set an industry benchmark to ensure quality for the community.

“On balance, this is a workable policy that the Government is to be commended on,” she said.

Despite welcoming the coming standards, PCA Victoria admitted to some concerns.

For starters, there are still some measures that are too prescriptive such as the minimum balcony requirements, according to Ms Capp.

The PCA also believe there are still some teething issues to be worked out in regards to education.

“We remain concerned regarding the discretion left to councils to implement the Standards. Education for industry and councils is going to be crucial to ensure that this policy delivers the quality outcomes expected,” Ms Capp said.

However, with proper training PCA believes the standards will empower councils to make better planning decisions regarding the quality of apartment developments and enhance the liveability and affordability of Victoria.

“We support Government’s decision to include a snorkel ratio in the Standards as this maintains a quality benchmark while allowing for flexibility in floorplate configuration.

“These Standards show what the Government and industry can achieve when they work together; a better result for the Victorian economy, community and industry.”

Urban Development Institute of Australia (Victoria)

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (Victoria) has welcomed changes in the final Better Apartments Design Standards, which UDIA (VIC) CEO Danni Addison said was a “notable improvement from the draft standards proposed earlier this year.”

“We are especially supportive of the decision to enable alternative design solutions, which puts a clearer focus on good design outcomes rather than prescriptive structural outcomes that stifle innovation, limit housing diversity and place upward pressure on prices.”

Similar to the other groups, UDIA expressed some concern around how the standards will be implemented.

“We caution the Government against taking a rigid approach to implementation, which would have a negative impact on market activity and apartment affordability,” Ms Addison said.

The UDIA’s Victorian branch is keen to work with the Government to deliver the right supporting tools to enable alternative design outcomes for better apartments that promote flexibility, liveability and affordability in Victoria.
The road ahead

Once established, the Better Apartments Design Standards will address the following, according to the Victorian Government, based on the community feedback received:


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