• VCAT

February 3, 2023

Uplift of energy efficiency to increase cost of planning applications.

The imperative of environmental sustainability is continuing to be heightened in the building industry. In January 2023 Wyndham City Council advised frequent applicants that all residential planning applications submitted after February 1st 2023 will be required to submit a Nathers energy rating report achieving a minimum of 6.5 stars or above for single dwellings and a minimum of 6 stars for apartments. The minimum energy rating requirements will increase from 1st May 2023 to 7 stars for single dwellings and an average 7 stars for apartment buildings.

Energy rating reports are a mainstay of the building permit process but they are an emerging requirement for planning applications across a number of Victorian Councils. Building Sustainability has been at the forefront of changes to the industry over the last decade and continues to become more relevant to residential planning applications as state and local governments seek a proactive approach to measures being committed to as part of planning approval. Most Victorian Councils now have a standalone sustainability policy within the planning scheme that sets out minimum measures that must be implemented within developments as part of planning approval and we have seen an upsurge of Councils hiring full time environmental sustainability professionals to review planning applications to ensure best practice is being implemented. Traditionally, the environmental performance of a development was covered as part of the building permit. However, all tiers of government are seeking a more proactive approach and a greater opportunity for oversight by implementing policies that are triggered at the planning approval stage.

We expect to see this trend continue in Victoria, with more and more councils choosing more oversight during the planning application assessment. The merit of this approach is obvious; however difficulties arise when applicants have to make decisions and commitments about finished building materials too early in the project. For example, the commonly used BESS report required by many local councils requires the applicant to specify the taps, shower heads and washing machine models that will be used within a development. This granular level of detail has often not been considered by the applicant at the town planning stage of a project so completion of the report becomes a ‘tick the box’ exercise for applicants to get planning approval. Another challenge is the cost of implementing sustainable building methods and applicants having to undertake commitments to implement costly measures in the interests of getting the required town planning approval.  

The imperative of constructing environmentally sustainable buildings is obvious and it is an evolving discipline that is in its relative infancy. As technology advances we expect to see cost efficiencies and improved methods continue to emerge. Please contact us If you are curious to understand what level of sustainability detail is required for your planning application to be approved.