Victorian Apartment Standards are finally here after years of speculation and, as was to be expected, have been met with immediate and mixed response from the industry.

The Australian Institute of Architects is disappointed with the Better Apartment Standards document released by the state government on Friday, more than two years after draft standards were first leaked to the public, and fell only just short of calling the government’s efforts paltry.

“We are disappointed that this document is the best the Government can deliver,” says Vanessa Bird, Victorian Chapter President.

“Given the time and considerable expertise, advice and intelligence the industry has afforded government over two years in good faith. We had hoped for a more substantive outcome.”

The Institute welcomed some of the liveability initiatives of document—including things like minimum room, ceiling and balcony sizes, access to natural light and ventilation, and building setbacks—but was disappointed that it doesn’t include design excellence provisions or mandate design reviews for site specific responses.

It is also concerned with the wording in the document where standards adopt the word “should” rather than “must”, suggesting that they’ll be open to interpretation and determination from the planning authority.

The Property Council and Urban Development Institute of Australia were notably more upbeat in their responses to the standards document, but still flagged some areas of the document as concerning.

Both groups were pleased that it didn’t include mandatory minimum apartment sizes, like is the case with NSW’s State Environment Planning Policy 65 (SEPP65), but felt things like minimum balcony, setback and public open space requirements as well as controls on natural light and cross ventilation could impact housing affordability.


The Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes will be amended in March 2017 to introduce the Better Apartments Design Standards.

Apartment developments up to four storeys in a residential zone will be assessed against existing Clause 55 standards as well as the Better Apartments Design Standards (except for building setback standards) while apartment developments of five or more storeys in a residential zone will be assessed against selected Clause 55 standards as well as the Better Apartments Design Standards (including the requirement of an urban context report).

The document contains Objectives, Standards and Decision Guidelines for 16 benchmarks to help designers and governing authorities reach a complying outcome.

Read the full document here. 

Building Setbacks

Must be appropriate to the urban context and the site shouldn’t rely on screening for privacy

Should be setback a reasonable distance from side and rear boundaries, and other buildings within the site to ensure adequate daylight into new habitable room windows and avoid direct views into habitable room windows and private open space of new and existing dwellings.

Room sizes

Main bedroom will be a minimum 3 metres wide and 3.4 metres deep while all other bedrooms will be 3 metres by 3 metres.

Living areas for Studio and 1 bedroom dwellings are minium 10sqm and 3.3 metres wide while 2 or more bedroom dwellings will need a 12sqm living room at 3.6 metres wide.


All habitable rooms should have a window located in an external wall.

At least 40 per cent of dwellings should achieve effective cross ventilation. Effective cross ventilation is achieved where:

  • There is a maximum breeze path through the dwelling of 18 metres
  • There is a minimum breeze path through the dwelling of 5 metres
  • The ventilation openings have approximately the same area
  • The breeze path is measured between the ventilation openings on different orientations of the dwelling.


A dwelling should have private open space consisting of a balcony with a minimum area and dimension specified in Table 1



Each dwelling should have convenient access to usable and secure storage space. The total minimum storage space (including kitchen, bathroom and bedroom storage) should meet the requirements specified below:


Communal Areas

The communal outdoor open space should be located on the north side of a building, if appropriate. At least 50 per cent or 12sqm, whichever is the lesser, of the primary communal outdoor open space area used by occupants should receive a minimum of two hours of sunlight between 9am and 3pm on 21 June.