Overview

Better Apartments Design Standards illustration

The Better Apartments Design Standards improve the liveability and sustainability of apartments across Victoria. The standards set out how apartments can be designed to provide good functional places to live.

The Victorian Government has updated the Better Apartments Design Standards

The Victorian Government is committed to creating better apartments in our neighbourhoods and that’s why the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is announcing updates to the standards to address external amenity. Learn more about the updates to the standards via the Better Apartments Design Standards tab.

Future Homes

The Future Homes project will produce better apartment designs that support the building of apartments that become world leaders in design, sustainability, and liveability.

Monitoring and review

The Department is monitoring the implementation of the Better Apartments Design Standards to ensure they continue to meet the needs of Victorians. As a result of the monitoring work, there will be changes to balcony standards.

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Have your say

Find out how to get involved and have your say on specific planning reviews

Status: Closed

Better Apartments in Neighbourhoods

The government has announced changes to the planning rules for apartment developments, with new external amenity standards that focus on the relationship between apartment developments and the amenity of existing neighbourhoods.

Public Exhibition

Submissions opens on

12.00am - Thursday 01 August 2019

Submissions close on

5.00pm - Friday 27 September 2019

The Department completed consultation on the new external amenity standards in September 2019. The results of the consultation can be found in the consultation report on the Engage Victoria.

The discussion paper which proposed the changes to the Better Apartments Design Standards and the Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria can be viewed here:

Documents

Better Apartments Design Standards

The Better Apartments Design Standards were implemented in the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes via Amendment VC136 on 13 April 2017:


Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria

If you are a design professional, the Apartment Design guidelines for Victoria can assist by providing design guidance and additional explanation of the Better Apartments Design Standards:


Wind impacts in apartments development - Planning Practice note

The Wind Impacts in apartments developments Planning Practice note includes guidance on the planning permit process for when a design needs to meet the wind impacts standard. This will accompany the new wind impacts standard when it is introduced into the planning scheme.


Buyer and Renters Guide

The Better Apartment Living Buyers and Renters Guide is available to help 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

As part of the next phase of the better Apartments program, the department in partnership with the Office of the Victorian Government Architect has commenced engagement with targeted industry groups to gain a better understanding of the current challenges of delivering apartment buildings in the middle ring suburbs. A summary of the Industry's feedback is provided in the links below:

Future Homes

The Future Homes Project will produce better apartment designs that support the building of apartments that become world leaders in design, sustainability and liveability.

The project has 2 phases

competition phase:  a competition for Victorian architects
and building designers to create plans and designs for apartment buildings. A student competition will also target  up and coming leaders in design and architecture.

planning implementation phase: implementing the designs, including changes to the planning system, such as possible fast track planning processes.

Better Apartments Design Standards

In April 2017, the Better Apartments Design Standards were implemented in the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes via Amendment VC136.

View the Better Apartments Design Standards at Clause 55.07 (building less than five storeys) or Clause 58 (five storeys and above) of the Victoria Planning Provisions.

If you are a design professional, the Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria can assist by providing design guidance and additional explanation of the apartment standards:

Better Apartments in neighbourhoods

As our cities keep growing it’s important that apartments make a positive contribution to our neighbourhoods and are safe and healthy places to call home.

Better Apartment Summary of Changes video transcript (DOCX, 51.4 KB).

Updated design standards

In 2018, the Victorian Government made an election commitment to improve the external amenity of apartment buildings. To implement this commitment, the Minister for Planning has announced changes to the standards to commence in 2021.

The Department is providing a preview of the standards now and will formally implement the standards when they come into operation into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes in the coming months.

The Department completed consultation on the new external amenity standards in September 2019.

The changes to the Better Apartment Design Standards are explained in the Better Apartments fact sheets:

View the full list of updated standards, the updated Apartment Design Guidelines and the wind impacts practice note:

The updated standards focus on the external amenity impacts of apartment buildings and aim to create better apartment buildings in our neighbourhoods.

Policy areas

The changes to the Better Apartments Design Standards address four policy areas:

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 current 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.

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

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.

Better Apartments Wind Impacts video transcript (DOCX, 51.4 KB).

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

More than ever, the coronavirus pandemic has shown us that  all homes need to have access to air, nature, sunlight and personal space, so the updated design standards will ensure that:

  • 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.

Monitoring and review

The Department  is monitoring the implementation of the Better Apartments Design Standards to ensure they continue to meet the needs of Victorians.

Review of recently approved apartment developments has identified that north and south facing balconies can excessively overshadow living rooms and bedrooms in apartments below. This can compromise energy efficiency in some apartment buildings. The review identified that balcony depths can be reduced on north and south facing buildings to increase daylight access to living and bedrooms whilst still providing functional space for table and chairs and amenity and ventilation. The Minister for Planning has announced the update to the private open space standard, to commence operation in 2021.

Table 1: Design changes for balconies

OrientationDesign space
North facing balconiesThe depth can be reduced to 1.7 metres while still allowing for a functional space for a table and chairs, on north facing balconies.
South facing balconiesOn 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 balconiesEast and west facing apartments can accommodate deeper balconies and no changes are required.

Industry innovation update

We have listened to industry concerns about the amenity problems for balconies on tall apartment buildings and have developed changes to the Better Apartments Design 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.