Victorian building designers and NSW property lobbyists have thrown their support behind the Victorian government’s recently revealed apartment design standards, set to be made mandatory in March 2017.

The Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) went into bat for the government just days after the Australian Institute of Architects hammered its Better Apartment Standards document, by acknowledging the government’s efforts to provide greater flexibility and educate all professionals responsible for improving the design, standards and liveability of apartments.

“We believe these new standards will provide our members with tools to better influence design with their clients, help consumers make informed decisions about buying and living in apartments, and ultimately allow the government to deliver great outcomes for developments in the future,” BDAV president Lindsay Douglas said.

“We expect that the Victorian Government will continue to monitor the effectiveness of its new Better Apartments standards, so that any liveability benefits do not impact housing affordability in the future.

The Urban Taskforce, an organisation made up of property developers and equity financiers, took the announcement as an opportunity to reopen discussion about apartment standards in NSW.

“After 18 months of extensive consultation on the need for design standards for Apartments in Victoria the final document has far less restrictions that the NSW standards,” Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson says.

“The Victorian process examined the NSW Apartment Design Guide in detail but decided that there was no need to define minimum apartment sizes or for strict requirements for sun access to apartments or balconies. The requirement in high density CBD’s like Sydney for 70 per cent of apartments to get solar access in mid-winter is stopping many potential projects.”

The rest of Johnson’s media release below:

 “The Urban Taskforce believes that a more flexible approach to solar access to apartments is needed in high density urban cores to ensure housing can be provided close to where jobs are located. If the Victorian Government after extensive consultation has not adopted the NSW requirement for solar access but focused instead on daylight access this approach is clearly sensible and practical, and must be adopted by the NSW Government. The people and the climate of both Sydney and Melbourne are very similar so it seems that Sydney now has excessive standards in comparison to similar cities. If one city needed more sun it would probably be Melbourne being located further south rather than Sydney.”

“Victoria has not adopted minimum apartment sizes instead preferring to define minimum room sizes and apartment depths which allow for good design to achieve more affordable apartments. NSW may need to look at a similar approach to increase the affordability of apartments particularly for first home buyers.”

“The Victorian system now requires an Urban Context Report to determine where the requirements could be interpreted in a more flexible manner.”

“There are other areas where there are differences between the apartment standards on NSW and Victoria. On deep soil planting Victoria requires larger site sizes for levels of deep soil planting.”

“The NSW Apartment Design Guide was intended to be a guideline to provide guidance on appropriate apartment design, however often planning authorities choose to apply the standards in the guidelines as hard-and-fast rules which must be adhered to. This defeats the purpose of the guideline and can deter developers from proceeding with their apartment projects if the design requirements make the project unfeasible”.

“The Victorian Standards are contained in a 40 page document while the NSW equivalent document, the Apartment Design Guide is a massive 180 pages. Much of the NSW document is support information but unfortunately most councils are interpreting every word as being a fixed rule.”