• VCAT

August 8, 2022

Parliamentary Inquiry likely to result in changes to apartment design guidelines.

Minimum standards in relation to apartment sizes, daylight and ventilation are likely based on a final report handed down by a standing committee of the state government. The committee has recommended that the Victorian Government review if the ‘Better Apartments Design Standards’ first introduced in 2017 are fit for purpose.   


In 2017 the State Government introduced design guidelines into the state-wide Victorian Planning provisions aimed at introducing minimum design objectives to achieve liveable apartments throughout the state. As apartments grow in popularity there is growing pressure to introduce a more robust framework for designing and assessing the layout of this housing type. Some popular measures being explored are minimum mandatory apartment sizes and access to daylight. The committee found that while some prescription, including minimum apartment size, can lead to improved outcomes, a mostly performance-based approach should be used to ensure design does not become a tick the box exercise.

The findings    

The report compared the Victorian system to other states and encouraged the adaptation of some measures used by the NSW and South Australia government. South Australia has a design review framework with a separate Local Design Review Scheme which provides local councils a consistent state wide approach to design review. The report recommends mandating a greater diversity of residential unit sizes, including larger apartments for families. It also says there should be minimum room sizes for kitchens and dining areas, along with adequate storage space. You can read the full list of recommendations and report here, the most notable recommendations and findings were:

  • Provide a minimum size for new apartments in its next review of the BADS.
  • Define and quantify ‘adequate daylight’, incorporating considerations around sunlight.
  • Specific metrics for assessing building setbacks
  • Improved environmental sustainability measures including future proofing buildings for electric cars and the like. 
  • Explore the establishment of the potential for a state-wide panel of experts to guide and assist local councils in assessing proposals.

Next Steps

The Victorian government has six months to respond to the report and given the state election is set down for November 2022, there is unlikely to be any changes to the current planning provisions until after the election.

The findings of the report were consistent with our own anecdotal experiences in applying the guidelines as they exist today. We expect there will be a heightened imperative on sustainability measures as technology evolves but we are also acutely aware that innovation moves much quicker than legislative change so we feel it will be up to industry professionals to ‘lead the charge’ rather than react to legislative reform in this realm.