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Better apartments design standards

Better apartments design standards set out how apartments can be designed to provide good functional places to live.

The standards are implemented in the Victoria Planning Provisions and can be found at:

Apartment design guidelines for Victoria

The Apartment Design Guidelines provide design guidance and explanation of the Better Apartments Design Standards.

VC256 has amended the landscaping standards. The current guidelines will be updated to make Table D2 on page 33 change imminently in line with clause 55.07 and 58.03. See these clauses in the VPP for up-to-date versions of the standard.

National Construction Code (NCC) 2022 changes

From 1 May 2024, National Construction Code (NCC) 2022 changes come into effect and there are areas of overlap with the accessibility and energy efficiency (cooling load) standards for apartment developments (‘apartment standards’) in the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes. Accordingly, the Department of Transport and Planning reminds responsible authorities, and planning and building industry practitioners generally, that compliance with the requirements set through Building Act 1993 and subordinate regulations, including the NCC, is mandatory. Responsible authorities should seek to ensure that decisions on planning permit applications for apartment developments do not result in any inconsistencies with the NCC’s accessibility and cooling load requirements which could be considered non-compliant. If you have any questions about the NCC 2022 changes, please email:

Strengthening apartment design standards

In 2021, the Legislative Assembly’s Environment and Planning Committee were asked to examine the current apartment living standards in Victoria and improvements that can be made.

In 2022, the Committee handed down 35 recommendations.

The department will now progress a range of initiatives based on the Committee’s recommendations to strengthen the existing standards to make sure they deliver the variety of homes Victorians want into the future. Our clear new standards will ensure appealing, comfortable, sustainable, and fit-for-purpose homes.

2021 policy updates

We are committed to better apartments in our neighbourhoods and in 2021 we updated the original standards to address external amenity, ensuring:

  • apartment buildings provide green open space for residents and add to neighbourhood amenity
  • the standards respond to changing population trends including more families choosing to live in apartments
  • streets and spaces surrounding apartment buildings are not windy and remain safe and pleasant.

Watch the video for an explanation of the updates to the standards.

The 2021 updates to the Better apartments design standards addressed 4 policy areas:

Green space

Communal open space should be provided in common areas of buildings of 10 dwellings or more to improve residents’ health and wellbeing and provide urban cooling.

Communal open spaces should be:

  • accessible
  • functional
  • easy to maintain.

The previous standard for communal open space applies to buildings of 40 dwellings or more.

Landscaping should not be an afterthought in building design and planning but incorporated from the beginning of the process. Canopy trees should have enough space so that they thrive.

External materials

Building façades should be of a high quality, incorporating materials that are durable and making a positive contribution to the existing streetscape.

Wind impacts

Publicly accessible outdoor space within an apartment development or on surrounding streets should not have unacceptable wind impacts, as they create unpleasant spaces to walk and congregate.

Read Planning practice note 93: Wind impacts in apartment developments.

Integration with the street

Street frontages should avoid blank walls or high fences. Car parking entrances and waste collection areas should not be visible from the street.

Design changes for balconies

The depth can be reduced to 1.7 metres while still allowing for a functional space for a table and chairs, on north facing balconies.

On south facing apartments, a narrower balcony could be adopted to living areas. Narrower balconies can function as an extension of internal living areas to provide daylight, ventilation and a sense of openness. The depth can be reduced to 1.2 metres, which still allows for a functional space for a table and chairs, on south facing balconies.

East and west facing apartments can accommodate deeper balconies and no changes are required.

Industry innovation update

We have listened to industry concerns about amenity problems for balconies on tall apartment buildings and have developed changes to the standards to improve liveability outcomes for residents.

While balconies on the lower levels of a building help maintain the life and character of our neighbourhood and city streetscapes, there will be flexibility to use innovative design solutions for the towers above.

Balconies on tall buildings can be of limited use to residents because of local noise, wind or a lack of views or sunlight.

The revised private open space standard will introduce more flexibility for how balcony space can be delivered for an apartment above a 40 metre height level (around 13 storeys).

This will allow the minimum private open space area to alternatively be provided as additional space in a living room or bedroom. The extra space given to a living room might provide a place to work from home, space for children’s play, or a concealed laundry and drying space.

Buyer and renters guide

The Better apartment living buyers and renters guide helps consumers make informed choices.

The guide contains tips to assist people when considering renting or buying an apartment and contains links to further information including checklists and rental advice provided by Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Better apartments phase 3 - Future Homes

The Future Homes project forms part of the Better Apartment program. Future Homes responds to Melbourne’s continuing population growth and has been created to enable gentle density increases in the suburbs through high quality development.

The project is lead by the Department of Transport and Planning, including the Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) to deliver quality apartments that are great homes, great neighbours and great for the environment.

Page last updated: 18/07/24


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