This heading was how managing principal of Cera Stribley Architects, Dom Cerantonio described the government decision to provide boilerplate town planning drawings for the nominal fee of $150. The government say the measure is aimed at incentivising the development industry to partake in the scheme. Four boilerplate apartment designs have been released, that will all be fast tracked for approval on specific sites.
The plans contain enough detail required for a planning permit approval. Anyone that avails of the initiative will enjoy a streamlined planning approval process of 21 business days, and importantly the approval will be exempt from appeal by objectors at VCAT. The government have also published an interactive map at this link, that it says identifies potential sites suitable for any one of the four sets of template plans they are providing.
The initiative is part of the state governments ‘Future Homes’, a commitment to solving the housing crisis and making it easier to obtain necessary approvals. However some architects and designers claim the initiative fly’s in the face of good design principles and that great architecture isn’t something that can be picked up and ‘plonked’ on a site.
The government say the designs can be ‘adapted’ to a site and do advise participants that a private designer or architect will need to be appointed to complete this exercise. The development of the four boilerplate plans was a a result of a design competition run in 2020 and is a joint initiative between the Department of Transport and Planning and the Office of the Victorian Government Architect.
The set of drawings include:
- Floor plans, elevations, sections and façade details.
- Floor areas, storage areas and breeze paths.
- Three different development layout options for 13-17 apartments, including at-grade and basement car parking options and different site orientations.
- Example site plan showing the landscape concept integration.
The goal of the future homes scheme is to introduce ‘gentle density’ to the general residential zones, which the government describes as modest infill development that makes the most of existing urban land.
The initiative is demonstrative of the governments appetite to increase housing supply within the established urban areas of the middle ring suburbs. The glaring issue with the use of boilerplate designs is that they are not site or context specific. This is contrary to first principles of good planning outcomes, that require that a design be responsive to lot orientation, shape, dimensions and topography. Built form character assessment also falls away with the use of templates where the assessment is based on prescriptive rather than descriptive outcomes. This is pertinent because demonstrating compatibility with established neighbourhood character is so often the most contentions aspect of assessing apartment developments. The government have been unambiguously clear that the boilerplate designs will need to be adopted to the specific features of a site. From this perspective the designs can be seen as a starting point, rather than a finished product. This will appeal to some developers and designers and understandably aggravate others. The intent of the government initiative is clear and is supported by a 21 business days turnaround to approval. The success of the initiative will depend on the appetite of the development industry for the templates provided.