New design standards to improve VIC apartment living

With the population in Melbourne growing, the capital city is expected to increase from 4.6 million people in 2016 to 8 million by 2051. In order to house this influx of new residents, attention is being turned to building brand new apartment developments that provide a more affordable housing option and provide better design standards to enhance Victoria’s reputation for liveability and to support long-term housing needs.

Today more and more people are turning to apartment living, particularly professionals who want to live close to good transport routes and within easy reach of their place of work. Today, people want more convenience and a higher quality of living. However, Victoria has a limited level of design guidance for apartment developments when compared to other Australian and international jurisdictions. Because of this, the level of standard for internal apartment amenity has resulted in some poor designs as well as inadequate long-term living environments.

This has brought about the ‘Better Apartments’ draft plan – the Victorian Government’s response to improving the liveability of apartments. Better Apartments is part of the Andrew Labor Government’s ambitious planning reforms, which targets higher standards for apartment living while maintaining affordability and encouraging investment.

Research showed that 60 per cent of recently constructed apartments in Melbourne were of low quality and the latest boom included a sizeable number of low quality apartment construction. In fact, according to Planning Minister Richard Wynne, some of the city's high-rise units were not fit to live in and failed to provide adequate natural light, fresh air and storage.

Under the Better Apartment Draft Design Standards, new apartments will need to have adequate daylight, storage, ventilation, acoustic performance, energy and waste efficiency. 


This will mean that bedrooms and living areas including dining rooms, kitchens and studies will require windows in an external wall of the building that can be seen from all points in a room. New apartments will no longer be able to rely on a light well as the primary source of daylight. A habitual room window or a balcony should also be setback from a side or rear boundary.


As well as having more natural light, new apartments will also be required to have convenient access to usable and secure storage space (excluding kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and other utility storage). This will range from a minimum of 6 cubic metres for a studio and one-bedroom apartment up to a minimum of 10 cubic metres for three bedrooms and more. This storage space must be provided in addition to the normal and reasonable storage spaces found within the apartment and can be provided internally or externally to an apartment, such as within the car park basement.

Noise Impacts

The new standards for noise sources, such as mechanical plant, should not be located near bedrooms of immediately adjacent existing dwellings. The layout of new dwellings and buildings including the location of noise sensitive rooms such as living areas and bedrooms will also need to be better designed.

Natural Ventilation

Standards also require that a significant proportion of new apartments have adequate natural ventilation. At least 60 per cent of dwellings with a finished floor level less than 35 metres height should be naturally cross ventilated.

Private Open Space

Each new apartment should also have an area of private open space such as a balcony. For a studio and one-bedroom apartment, the minimum area is 8sqm with a minimum dimension of 2 metres. For three or more bedrooms, the minimum area increases to 12sqm.

Energy Efficiency and Communal Open Space

Other standards include making new apartments energy efficient, with buildings oriented to make appropriate use of solar energy, whilst communal outdoor open space should be positioned on the northern side of a building if appropriate and at least 50 per cent of the communal outdoor open space area should receive direct sunlight for at least two hours between 9am and 3pm on 21 June.

Development with 20 or more dwellings should also have a minimum area of communal open space of 2.5sqm per dwelling or 100sqm, whichever is lesser, to help improve better liveability and cater for outdoor lifestyle requirements.

However, the government will not introduce a minimum apartment size, but it has been speculated that Melbourne could introduce minimum apartment sizes at some point in the future. It is feared though that if this minimum apartment size rule was introduced, an extra 5sqm could result in an extra $45,000 to the property price and lock out more buyers from entering the property market.

Mr Wynne commented that it was possible to have smaller apartments "as long as they were very well designed".

In Sydney, there are minimum apartment size guidelines already in place. One bedroom apartments must be at least 50sqm in size, whilst two bedrooms need to be at least 70sqm and three bedrooms must be at least 90sqm. A larger apartment would help to enhance liveability, rather than residents feeling confined in a tiny box and space is one issue that has been highlighted as needing to be improved.

Better Apartments in May 2015 released a Discussion Paper and received almost 1,700 survey responses. The community survey participants ranked the key issues affecting apartment amenity by most to least important, with daylight, space, natural ventilation and noise as the top issues.

Although new Melbourne apartments won’t have a minimum apartment size just yet, nearby areas are sure to have more parks and communal areas for residents to enjoy and escape to.

To learn more about new apartments in Melbourne or view what stock iBuyNew currently has available, give us a call today on 1300 123 463. Our Property Consultants can point you in the right direction of higher quality apartments to meet your budget and lifestyle requirements.
Published on 15th of August 2016 by Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich


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