The Better Apartments Design Standards

January, 2017

By Jenelle Cramer, Senior Associate

The final Better Apartments Design Standards (Standards) were released by the Victorian government in December 2016.  For background, please see our August 2016 update on the draft Standards.

The Standards will apply to all apartment development applications in Victoria.  Depending on the number of storeys in a proposed development, applications will also be assessed against all or a selection of Clause 55 standards.  An apartment’s design must meet all of the Standards’ objectives, and should also meet the standards unless the design in some other way meets the relevant objective.  Below we have highlighted some of the key headliners.


Building setbacks from a boundary must be responsive to the urban context to allow adequate daylight, limit opportunities for views, and provide reasonable outlook and appropriate internal amenity.  This is much more appropriate than the draft Standards (released in August 2016), which prescribed minimum building-to-boundary and building-to-building setbacks, and mitigates the impact on development yield, especially in narrow development sites.


“Saddle-back” or “snorkel” windows are permitted only if the area of the snorkel is at least 1.2 metres wide and has a maximum depth of 1.5 times its width.  The draft Standards did not permit this window arrangement.  The Standards provide more flexibility and focus on good floorplate design which allows adequate daylight to habitable rooms.


Whilst the Standards do not prescribe a minimum overall floor area for apartments, they do now include minimum sizes for bedrooms (excluding wardrobes) and living rooms (excluding kitchen and dining areas), as follows:

Bedrooms Minimum width Minimum depth
Main bedroom 3 metres 3.4 metres
All other bedrooms 3 metres 3 metres
Living rooms Minimum width Minimum area
Studio or 1 bedroom apartment 3.3 metres 10 square metres
2 or more bedroom dwelling 3.6 metres 12 square metres


The inclusion of the minimum sizes in standards rather than objectives, and the silence on minimum overall apartment sizes, represents a huge win for the industry and encourages innovative apartment design to ensure that functional areas meet the needs of occupants.

 Other notables

 What’s next?

The Standards will be introduced through a new particular provision in the Victoria Planning Provisions and will come into effect in March 2017.  Transitional arrangements will be included in the new provisions so that permit applications lodged prior to the implementation of the Standards will be assessed against the planning controls which existed at the time of the lodgement of the permit application.

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David Passarella

David Passarella | Partner
T: +61 3 8568 9527

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