The Better Apartments project is a joint initiative of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA).

Better Apartments Design Standards

Better Apartments Design Standards have been introduced to improve the liveability and sustainability of apartments in Victoria. The standards will come into effect in March 2017 when they are implemented in the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes.

Better Apartments for Victorians (PDF, 407.1 KB)
Better Apartments for Victorians (DOC, 73.5 KB)

Better Apartments Design Standards (PDF, 3.1 MB)
Better Apartments Design Standards (DOC, 678.5 KB)

The design standards were developed in consultation with community members, architects, planning and design practitioners, technical experts, the development industry, councils and state government agencies.

Building Setback

The standard ensures the setback of apartment buildings responds to the urban context and provides for adequate daylight access, outlook and privacy.

Functional layout

The standard ensures the dimensions of bedrooms and living areas provide adequate space and functional internal areas.

Room depth

The standard ensures the room-depth-to-ceiling-height ratio of habitable rooms (such as living areas and bedrooms) provides adequate daylight to apartments.


The standard ensures habitable rooms have adequate daylight from a window in an external wall. A well-designed snorkel layout may be used to provide daylight to bedrooms but borrowed light from another room is not allowed.


The standard ensures apartments have adequate internal and external storage space that is functional and accessible.

Noise impacts

The standard ensures the design of apartments protects the health, amenity and comfort of residents from any adverse internal and external noise impacts.

Energy efficiency

The standard ensures apartment developments are energy-efficient and designed to improve residents' thermal comfort.

Solar access to communal open space

The standard ensures communal open space is provided with sufficient sunlight to ensure usability and amenity.

Natural ventilation

The standard ensures effective cross-ventilation through windows, doors or other openings, to provide natural air flow to apartments.

Private open space

The standard ensures usable, private outdoor space is provided for the recreation and service needs of residents.

Communal open space

The standard ensures the provision of communal open space that is designed to accommodate a range of communal activities for the benefit of residents.


The standard ensures the provision of an attractive and functional environment for residents, with appropriate landscaping that is consistent with the urban context and which helps mitigate the heat effects of urban environments.


The standard ensures the design of bathrooms, door openings and corridors are designed to be accessible to people with limited mobility.

Building entry and circulation

The standard ensures entrances to buildings and apartments provide safe, functional and efficient movement for residents and visitors.

Waste and recycling

The standard ensures apartment developments enable effective recycling and waste facility management that minimise impacts on residential amenity and public health.

Integrated water and stormwater management

The standard ensures apartment developments optimise the use of all water sources, reduce pollution of waterways, minimise stormwater run-off and help mitigate the heat effects of urban environments.

Implementation and supporting initiatives

In March 2017 new supporting tools and processes will be introduced:

  • 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 architects, 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 comprise 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.

Public consultation on the standards

Public consultation on the Better Apartments Draft Design Standards was undertaken between August and September 2016. The Better Apartments Public Consultation Report (January 2017) provides a summary of the main issues by different types of submitters including community members, councils, the development industry, architects and planning and design practitioners, and changes made in response.

Public Consultation Report

Technical Reports


Submissions to the Better Apartments Draft Design Standards (August 2016).

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In May 2015, the Better Apartments – A Discussion Paper (PDF, 841.7 KB) kick-started a statewide conversation with the community, local government and industry about internal apartment amenity and potential future design.

Nearly 1700 survey responses and about 150 submissions were received on the discussion paper. Community survey participants ranked the key issues affecting apartment amenity by most to least important – identifying daylight, space, natural ventilation and noise as the top issues.

A Better Apartments Public Engagement Report (PDF, 957.1 KB) was released in December 2015.

Consultation during the Better Apartments project has included:

  • a community survey and submissions on the draft design standards
  • a community survey and submissions on the discussion paper
  • workshops and information sessions with local government, community, and industry
  • interviews with key stakeholders
  • a stakeholder reference group of peak industry, local government and consumer bodies who provided advice on implementation options
  • a local government working group who tested options

Better Apartments Reference Group

The Minister for Planning established a reference group of peak industry, consumer and local government bodies to provide a sounding board for DELWP and OVGA in shaping potential implementation measures for the Better Apartments project. Members of the reference group include: the Australian Institute of Architects, Building Designers Association of Victoria, Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Association of Victoria, Municipal Association of Victoria, Planning Institute of Australia, Property Council of Australia, Real Estate Institute of Victoria, Urban Development Institute of Australia, and the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association.

Better Apartments Local Government Working Group

A local government working group was established to help test potential implementation measures for the Better Apartments project. The group included representation from central, inner, middle, outer and regional councils.

Discussion paper – what you told us

Participants in the survey on the May 2015 Better Apartments discussion paper were asked to rank the key issues affecting apartment amenity by most to least important. The top five issues were daylight, space, natural ventilation, noise, and energy and resources. View the Public Engagement Summary (PDF, 201.2 KB) and the Public Engagement Report (PDF, 957.1 KB) to find out more.

Apartment development issues ranked from most to least important

The Better Apartments Public Engagement Report, Summary and supplementary reports below outline the analysis of the feedback received on the Better Apartments Discussion Paper during 2015. There will be further opportunities for engagement in mid-2016.

Public engagement on the Discussion Paper included: