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.

Page last updated: 05/03/21