In recent years, Moreland has experienced a surge in mixed use apartment buildings, mainly concentrated in the inner city suburb of Brunswick. The Victorian planning system has very minimal guidance on buildings above three storeys. ResCode provisions are limited to residential buildings with maximum three storeys and the Design Guidelines for Higher Density Residential Development (DSE 2004) has a set of objectives and guidelines – but no standards. The Moreland Higher Density Design Code is intended to fill this ‘gap’ in planning scheme provisions and improve the quality of development outcomes.
The Moreland code is intended to apply to any development of four or more store. The code emphasises the importance of site responsive design, with a focus on improving site analysis processes and site design. This approach is intended to result in better environmental performance, improved internal amenity (especially with regard to daylight access and natural ventilation) and greater regard to offsite amenity impacts.
The code provides a generic set of assessment requirements and design guidelines for a range of design aspects, irrespective of where a proposal is located within the municipality. This approach removes the need for repetition of general design standards in place-specific controls such as zones and overlays. The code will be applied concurrently with ‘place-based’ planning scheme controls for designated activity centres as part of the planning permit assessment process.
Research-based objective, standards, and guidelines Development of the code including Objectives, Standards and Design Guidelines is based on solid research and analysis. In house, Council Officers developed the ‘Development Activity Monitor’ (DAM), a database which trackeddata on 130 planning permit applications in the last five years across Brunswick. The DAM was utilised by Council Officers in conjunction with the detailed analysis of 20 higher density mixed use planning permit applications (1,350 apartment units in total!) to form detailed case studies. The detailed case studies identify key issues on apartment quality relating to: Apartment Types; Lot Frontages; Building Depth; Living Area Depth; Borrowed Light; Dual Aspect; Use of Light Courts; Balcony Area and Depth; Communal Open Space Area; Street Interface; and Ceiling Height. This research work confirmed the need to improve the quality of development outcomes, with emphasis on improving internal amenity, site response and off-site impacts. The research and analysis directly informed the content of the code, which is based around building typologies common to Moreland and introduces key site design principles like Building Separation. In developing the code, Council Officers also utilised earlier research commissioned by Council’s ESD team on Daylight and Natural Ventilation. Daylight factor standards from this study were used to determine the Building Separation distances that will ensure adequate natural light in apartments without compromising the future development potential of adjacent sites.
This approach was a deliberate focus of the project to ensure the code could be seamlessly integrated with issues that can be considered at the planning permit stage of a development – a focus on site design and building envelope.
The code is a planning tool and therefore it was important to avoid moving into the realm of the Building Code and setting up inconsistencies with Building Code requirements. The code will greatly contribute to improving planning practice and addressing planning issues in Moreland and is readily transferable for use more broadly. A copy of the Code can be downloaded from Council’s website http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/building-andplanning/ higher-density-design-code.html
For information contact Munir Vahanvati, Unit Manager Urban Design, Moreland City Council