New apartment design standards for Victoria
The Victorian State Government has released the final version of its long awaited Better Apartments Design Standards – new apartment design standards for Victoria.
Application of the new standards
The new design standards will apply to all apartment buildings in Victoria.
Apartment buildings up to four storeys in a residential zone will continue to be assessed against the existing Clause 55 standards as well as the new design standards.
The new standards comprise a set of Objectives, Standards and Decision guidelines addressing a range of internal amenity and sustainability considerations.
Importantly, the new design standards are performance based and will be applied in the same manner as the existing Clause 55 standards ie. whilst meeting the objectives is mandatory, alternative design solutions to the standards can be considered if, having regard to the decision guidelines, the objectives are still met.
What are the key changes?
The final design standards have been simplified in their drafting and in some respects watered down from the previous draft design standards, including the version released in August 2016. Most notably:
- The minimum building setbacks and separation distances have been removed in favour of qualitative performance standards, with no minimum setback distances specified.
- Minimum room dimensions are specified for bedrooms. However, unlike the original discussion paper, the final standards do not seek to prescribe overall minimum apartment sizes.
- The standards specify a maximum room depth / ceiling height ratio of 2.5 for single aspect apartments with a maximum depth of 9 metres permissible subject to certain requirements being met. No distinction is made between apartments with different orientations (ie. south vs north), as occurred under the previous draft.
- Separate standards are not set for light wells, which have been removed altogether. Under the previous draft living areas were not permitted to rely on light wells and minimum areas and dimensions were set based on the proposed building height.
- Standards for windows are specified, requiring windows to be located in an external wall and specifying minimum dimensions for windows used in a ‘saddle back’ or ‘snorkel’ arrangement (which were ruled out under the previous draft).
- The standards also specify minimum storage volumes to be provided internally and on an overall basis, whereas the previous draft standards just specified an overall minimum which could be provided internally or externally.
- 40% of apartments should now achieve effective cross ventilation, whereas the previous draft standards specified 60%.
- Minimum private open space areas and dimensions are also specified, with the minimum area requirement for two bedroom dwellings reduced from 10 to 8 square metres. The minimum dimension for 3 bedroom apartments has been increased from 2 to 2.4 metres.
The new design standards also address noise impacts, accessibility, landscaping and sustainability issues largely in the same manner previously foreshadowed in the drafts standards.
Implementation of the new standards
The new standards will not be implemented into the Victoria Planning Provisions until March 2017, but as with the previous drafts, they are nevertheless likely to (informally) receive attention in the assessment of permit applications until then.
Importantly, transitional arrangements will be included in the new provisions which will ensure that permit applications lodged prior to the introduction of the new standards will be assessed under the existing provisions.
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