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1 March 2021

Better Apartments in Neighbourhoods – New Rules

The Minister for Planning Richard Wynne announced yesterday new planning rules to improve the design of apartments. A ‘preview’ of the Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria 2021 proposes changes to the existing Better Apartment Design Standards (commonly known as BADS), covering design matters of green space, external materials, wind impacts, integration with the street and private open space.

The Government recognises that the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the importance for all homes to have access to air, nature, sunlight and personal space. This is particularly relevant for apartments where the updated design standards will ensure that:

  • Green open space is provided for residents and contribute to neighbourhood amenity;
  • Street and spaces surrounding apartment buildings are not windy and remain safe and pleasant; and
  • It responds to changing population trends whereby more families are choosing to live in apartments.

The ongoing monitoring of the Apartment Standards has also resulted in updates to the design of balconies to provide greater flexibility to respond firstly to orientation and secondly to those located on tall buildings which can be underutilised.

Some key changes to note are as follows:

  • Green Space: provide outdoor communal open space for development comprising 10 or more dwellings (previously 40 dwellings).  There is also an expectation for deep root landscaping to be provided to all apartment developments regardless of land size.
  • Wind Impacts: developments of five or more storeys will now need to consider wind impacts to demonstrate comfortable wind conditions in public and private areas.
  • External materials: ensure the durability of finishes.
  • Integration with the street: street frontages should avoid blank walls or high fences, while concealing car parking and internal waste collections areas from the street.
  • Site services: these facilities should be visually integrated into either the building design or landscape.
  • Private open space: varying minimum depths of balconies to respond to its north and/or south orientation, and removing balcony area and dimension requirements for apartments located 40m above ground level provided there is access to an appropriately sized additional living or bedroom area.

The Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria 2021 outlines all the proposed changes to objectives, standards and decision guidelines, and includes guidance on how to interpret the standards.  A draft Wind Practice Note PPN93 has also been released.  For more information, please refer to the link below:

In terms of timing, these new planning rules will commence later in 2021 but the exact timeframe of when they are implemented in planning schemes is unknown. It is understood that the government wants to allow industry time to become familiar with the new rules. Importantly, these new rules will not apply to planning application lodged before they come into operation. 

We commend the Victorian Government’s commitment to improve the design of apartments especially as more Victorians live in them. We’re digesting the impact of these new rules, recognising that there are benefits associated with enhancing their physical appearance and amenity and providing flexibility in the design of private open space. However, we also envisage that some disbenefits will entail, particularly around the cost burden associated with new landscaping and communal open space requirements which will ultimately be borne by the purchasers of these apartments.

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Author: Edelene Loke, Associate: Planning

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