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Architects’ backlash on newly-released Victorian Apartment Standards

Dec 20, 2016
  • Article by Online Editor

The Victorian Government has released details of its Better Apartments Design Standards, which will come into effect in March 2017.

The two-year long process was undertaken in close consultation with a range of industry experts, including the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects. The standards aim to ensure that apartments are designed for liveability as well as providing quality built outcomes for future generations.

However, not all those involved throughout the process believe the standards are as comprehensive and robust as they could be. Vanessa Bird, Victorian Chapter President of the Institute released a statement on Monday saying, “These particular standards will not produce the change required to assist consumers and safeguard the long-term quality of the built environment, as they do not address design excellence, nor mandate design review for site-specific responses. Nor do they seek to ensure that our communities are being designed by those best qualified to do so – architects.”

The guide outlines 16 key areas that apartment buildings will need to consider in the design:

-Setback,
-functional layout,
-room depth,
-windows,
-storage,
-noise impacts,
-energy efficiency,
-solar access to communal open space,
-natural ventilation,
-private open space,
-communal open space,
-landscaping,
-accessibility,
-building entry and circulation,
-waste and recycling, and
-integrated water and stormwater management.

One of the key criticisms from architects in these standards is site-specific responses. Designs that solve problems and add value to the end user but don’t meet the minimum requirements may be challenging to get through planning permission once these standards come into place. Well-crafted, responsive design solutions will potentially need to give way to a more itemised or checklist approach.

In its favour, the Victorian Standards don’t include minimum apartment sizes, which have been a contentious and unclear feature of the NSW’s SEPP65 guidelines.

Find out more about the Better Apartments Design Standards on the government’s website.

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