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    Victorian Minister’s apartment design discussion paper welcomed by AIA

    Nathan Johnson

    The Victorian Government has reopened the conversation on setting Victorian Apartment Design Standards (VADS) with a new discussion paper and a public feedback process that has been welcomed by the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA).

    Better Apartments: A Discussion Paper was released by Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne on 14 May and will be followed by a two month online public survey and submission process (end of May to end of July), and a one month stakeholder consultation process (July to August) .

    The paper discusses the need for VADs in the context of a growing Melbourne population with a declining standard of apartment amenity, and also lists the major issues affecting apartment amenity in the State and how a set of standards could be implemented to improve them.

    The efforts of Wynne were immediately backed by the AIA Victorian Chapter who congratulated the Minister for the paper and publicly welcomed a policy and regulatory framework that would provide performance based design quality guidelines.

    “We fully support the introduction of minimum standards in the interest of the public and the long term sustainability of the construction sector, an industry which is the second largest contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Australian economy at approximately 7.8 per cent,’ Victorian Chapter President Peter Malatt said.

    “The Institute supports a model similar to the NSW SEPP 65 framework that also includes a residential flat code.  This model contains not only design guidelines, but also the requirement for design review panels; the requirement for ongoing checking that the approved design intent is being maintained through project procurement and construction and the requirement to use registered architects to design multi-storey apartment buildings.”

    The AIA said they look forward to working with the OVGA, the Department of Planning and key industry and community stakeholders during the consultation periods to develop and deliver a policy and regulatory framework that provides performance based design quality guidelines that can be applied in a flexible way to allow innovative design solutions. It is hoped this wouldlead to improved affordability, housing diversity, and better-quality living standards – now and into the future.

    KEY POINTS OF THE PAPER:

    PURPOSE:

    The population of Victoria – and Melbourne in particular – is growing and by 2051, the number of households in greater Melbourne is projected to almost double from 1.59 million in 2011 to 3.11 million.

    The ongoing development of new apartments in Victoria has raised questions about their size and variety. Based on a sample of 10,373 apartments that are currently either being marketed or constructed, 4,428 (or about 43 per cent) are one bedroom apartments, most of which (72 per cent) are between 41 and 50 square metres (Charter Keck Cramer report for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning).

    The pressures on industry and councils to design, assess and construct apartments in a timely fashion are becoming increasingly pertinent in a competitive market. Everyone, including developers and decision-makers, would benefit from greater clarity on what is appropriate, in what circumstances, and where discretion could be used.

    In particular, the purpose of the discussion paper is to:

    • Provide a context to apartment living and discuss key issues
    • Focus on the internal design, amenity and functionality of apartments and apartment buildings 
    • Consider other issues that affect amenity for those living in apartment buildings.

    IMPLEMENTATION:

    The paper discusses several possible methods of implementing the final product including:

    Regulatory based:  Mandate minimum standards within planning schemes. Alternatively, or in addition, there may be a requirement to consider modifications to building regulations. This may also be in conjunction with design review and achieving design excellence.

    Performance based: State Policy and Provision. Objectives, standards and decision guidelines (for variation to standards). A ‘ResCode’ for apartments.

    This may include an incentive based system (such as a ‘code assess’ framework) that helps to streamline the approvals processes.

    Policy based: Revise Guidelines for Higher Density Residential Development document or similar guide to good practice with some standards and best practice. A reference document in the Planning Scheme.

    Market based: Customer focused with more information to buyers to allow them to compare products. Work with the market to encourage good design. An apartment buyers’ or consumers’ guide and a publication defining good design.

    ISSUES AFFECTING APARTMENT DESIGN

    The government listed the following measures of amenity that could be incorporated into the VADS:

    • Daylight
    • Sunlight
    • Space
    • Outlook
    • Natural ventilation
    • Noise
    • Outdoor space
    • Adaptability
    • Landscape
    • Universal design
    • Energy and resources
    • Waste
    • Car parking
    • Entry and circulation

    FEEDBACK:

    The public is encouraged to participate in the discussion about better apartments through an online survey and submission form available at www.delwp.vic.gov.au/better-apartments.

    The Victorian Government will also run a series of forums and workshops to engage with the community, local councils and industry. The timetable for our consultation process is outlined below.

    • Release of discussion paper: May 2015
    • Online survey and submission form End of May to end of July 2015
    • Stakeholder consultation – forums and workshops July to August 2015
    • Develop and analyse options for consideration September to December 2015

     

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