Design Advisory Service

Design Advisory Service for Vic apartment design standards

Jun 8, 2017
  • Article by Aleesha Callahan

The Better Apartment Design Standards introduced by the Victorian Government have been in effect since mid-April of this year. Alongside their implementation, a Design Advisory Service is being initiated, which will give guidance on larger-scale developments. ADR talks to a spokesperson for Richard Wynne, Minister for Planning, to find out more about how this service will operate and who will be involved.

The Standards were developed over an 18-month period through in-depth consultation with the community and set out to create more amenable apartments for Victorians. When the final draft was released at the end of 2016, the Institute of Architects Victorian chapter president, Vanessa Bird, expressed concern over the lack of involvement of architects within the guidelines.

The Design Advisory Service, which will commence in the second half of this year, appears to be a possible solution to the concern over the lack of architects’ design input and expertise.

ADR: A Design Advisory Service will be set up as a supporting initiative to the Better Apartment Design Standards – who is involved and how does it function?

The Design Advisory Service (DAS) is one of the tools supporting the apartment design standards and the apartment design guidelines. The DAS is a voluntary service where councils, developers and design teams can receive objective feedback on larger-scale apartment projects from qualified individuals with extensive apartment design experience from a wide variety of disciplines.

The DAS provides access to independent advice at the pre-application stage of an apartment design project. The objective of the DAS is to provide greater certainty for applicants, improve confidence in the decision-making processes of planning authorities, and ensure better outcomes for communities.

DAS panel members will be appointed by the Minister for Planning, following a selection and appointment process.

Is there a way architects can be involved in the Design Advisory Service?

After the DAS is announced, suitably qualified professionals in the fields of architecture, urban design, planning, heritage, sustainability and environmental design, apartment project development or building management will be able to send an expression of interest for consideration of an appointment as a member of the DAS panel. Evaluation and selection will be undertaken by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Office of the Victorian Government Architect.

In terms of the apartment standards, how long will it take for consumers to start to see a benefit from the changes in planning?

The new design standards are already influencing new apartment designs and leading to better developments across the city. There will also be additional consumer information in a Buyers and Renters Guide that will provide useful information for prospective apartment buyers and renters. This will assist in shaping consumer demand for better apartment amenity, and consequently influence how the market responds.

What has been the response from the architectural community and the community at large?

A public consultation report was released in January 2017. The consultation report noted that community members are genuinely interested in making internal apartment living spaces better for occupants. A majority of community members were satisfied or very satisfied with the design standards. This report identified that councils strongly supported better management of the amenity of apartment living by having more guidance in the planning and building systems. Industry stakeholders also broadly supported the need for greater consistency with apartment development measures to ensure greater certainty for development decisions.

Read what the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Chapter had to say about the Better Apartment Design Standards here.

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18 Jun 17 at 8:58 AM • Hiranga

Sounds like the tool that the Planning Minister is trying to establish already exists: not in a set of guidelines, but in the intelligence and expertise of a registered Architect! Or have they well and truly forgotten about the profession?

Why should the government establish a Design Advisory Service when it could just be mandatory for an Architect to be involved in projects of certain size/scale/impact to community? This should be the whole point of legislation. This is the entire function of a Registered Architect that they are trying to convert into a shopping list, and plainly encourage clients and developers to not pay a professional who is already governed by statutory requirements and duty of care, to design and deliver a calibre of building that is already controlled by tiers of legislation and code.

Or would the government prefer to make building compliance more convoluted and establish more loopholes for those unqualified to weave through?

PS. I didn’t realise compliance to code was optional. Nor the recurrence of private Building Surveyors ignoring the non-compliance of all of these buildings done by developers, and just signing-off on them. This is fundamental – so who is actually regulating this?

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