Follow us

New Better Apartment Design Standards

Better Apartment Design Standards Released

The Victorian State Government has recently released its final version of the Better Apartment Design Standards (BADS) following exhibition of a hotly-discussed draft set of guidelines exhibitions. Released on Saturday, the new design standards appear to have responded to significant industry feedback (including submissions from DLA) and will influence new apartment development across Melbourne from March 2017 onwards.


What do they contain?

The BADS has 16 new objectives relating to apartment design including setback requirements, room depth, storage, accessibility, landscaping, open space and energy based objectives. A major change has been the removal of the objectives relating to light wells, being replaced instead by an objective titled Functional Layout. Below is a brief summary of each of the objectives:

  • Building Setback – This objective is centred on building setbacks for developments of 5 or more storeys and seeks to ensure context-specific design responses over prescription.
  • Functional Layout –Provides minimum living space and bedroom dimensions in lieu of minimum apartment standards.
  • Room Depth – Seeks to ensure there is enough daylight provided to the dwellings, and makes provisions for living room depth, layout and light sources.
  • Windows – This objective seeks to allow an appropriate amount of daylight into habitable rooms. Permits ‘snorkel’ arrangements provided minimum dimensions are achieved.
  • Storage – The storage standard is aimed at ensuring adequate amounts of storage for every dwelling is for the entire apartment.
  • Noise Impacts – Seeks to ensure reasonable internal amenity outcomes with respect to noise.
  • Energy Efficiency – This objective is focused on reduce fossil fuel usage through active and passive energy efficiency minimum standards.
  • Solar Access to Communal Open Space – Seeks to achieve minimum standards in solar access to communal open space, including locating this on the north side of the building and outlining minimum and solar access standards.
  • Natural Ventilation – Provides minimum benchmarks for dwelling ventilation and breeze paths. 
  • Private Open Space – The private open space objective provides further prescription on existing ResCode private open space provisions.
  • Communal Open Space – This objective builds upon the solar access to communal open space objective by specifying minimum dimension standards.
  • Landscaping – Seeks to encourage development to respect the local character through landscaping. 
  • Accessibility – The objective is focused on providing opportunities for residents with limited mobility.  
  • Building Entry and Circulation – The objective is focused on ensuring each dwelling has its own sense of identity and provide safe, functional and efficient movement.
  • Waste and Recycling – The waste and recycling standard encourages sustainable management of waste. 
  • Integrated Water and Stormwater Management – Similar to the waste and recycling standard, the integrated water and stormwater management standard encourages sustainable waster managmenet practices on a ‘per development’ basis.


How will they work?

The BADS will adopt the same performance based approach as ResCode. The objectives must be complied with and there are standards provided as one possible means to meet the objective (‘deemed to comply’). Only some provisions will apply depending on the density and height of the development. ResCode Clause 55 will continue to apply to all development. The following image demonstrates the hierarchy of the new design standards.

What is new?

The key differences and similarities between the BADS and previous draft version include the following:

  • Retention of the performance based ‘deemed to comply’ approach of the ResCode system;
  • No prescriptive standard for side setbacks where over 5 storeys in height. A context responsive design is instead encouraged;
  • Minimum dimensions for both living rooms and bedrooms;
  • Although the room depth standard has been retained (as well as the 2.7m minimum FTC minimum standard), there is now no differentiation between north and south facing rooms. Room depth can also be increased to 9m (previously 8m) where the kitchen is furthest from the light source in a single-aspect living room;
  • Snorkel prohibition has been removed in lieu of a new ratio (1.2m minimum width and maximum snorkel depth of 1.5 times the width);
  • Light court dimension prescription has been removed (which is a big change in comparison to the draft exhibited standards); and
  • Further standards, pertaining to ESD, waste management, communal open space and noise all continue to apply.


When will they take effect?

Changes to the VPPs will be made in March 2017 to formally introduce the BADS into every Victorian Planning Scheme. Transitional provisions will apply for all existing applications lodged prior to the amendment, which will ensure they are assessed against the planning controls present at the time the application was lodged.  


What do we think?

The final BADS appear to be responding to many of the culminated efforts and inputs of many of Melbourne’s leading industry voices - including that of DLA, who have been active in industry presentations and submitting to the exhibition of the draft standards. In our opinion, the final document demonstrates an informed and detailed understanding of the issues facing development in Melbourne and how the planning system can respond to them.  

DLA is particularly pleased to see that a prescriptive approach to building setbacks has been eschewed in favour of a more pragmatic ‘place based’ approach, which we believe is crucial to creative, context-specific urban design and planning. Further, we’re strongly supportive of the implementation of minimum bedroom and living room dimension standards, which avoids the ‘blunt’ approach of minimum apartment sizes and is a long overdue addition to a system that has historically prioritised the minimum dimensions of balconies and backyards over internal spaces. The move towards a ratio-based approach to snorkel bedrooms (as opposed to their total prohibition) is a logical and pleasing response and highlights our belief that snorkel arrangements can be effective and high-quality provided they are designed properly. Finally, the new standards appear to have called off the south-facing apartment ‘witch-hunt’ by recognising that a southerly orientation to your dwelling is not necessarily inherently negative.

The full version of the recent guidelines can be found here.

For any enquiries relating to how the BADS could affect your development - or if you would like expert advice regarding the new standards- please contact Brodie Blades or Jonathan Halaliku on 03 9682 8568 or email us at

planning, melbourne, apartment, better apartment guidelines, statutory planning

Sign up