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Sustainable design FAQs

Why consider environmentally sustainable design in the built form?

Environmentally sustainable design (ESD) buildings are more comfortable and healthy to inhabit. While there may be increased construction costs, there are also ongoing financial benefits through reduced running costs and improved health of occupants. Healthy buildings have been proven to improve the health of the occupants.

Recent research by the Green Building Council of Australia has shown that applying ecological planning and design strategies into buildings can result in:

  • 60% reduction in water and energy consumption
  • reduction in annual operating costs and more efficient asset management
  • higher relative investment returns (minimum 14% Return On Investment)
  • higher market value for the asset (10% increase);
  • higher rents (5­­­–10% increase)
  • less than 3% premium above standard cost of construction to build green
  • increased occupant wellbeing and productivity
  • a marketing advantage.

(Source: Green Building Council Australia Dollars and Sense of Green Buildings 2006).

Integrating ESD elements in built form also has a number of benefits for the broader community, including; reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced water use, reduction in the impact of flooding events, protection of water quality, more sustainable resource use, reduced waste, and support of emerging sustainable products and materials industries.

Existing energy efficiency and water conservation measures in the Building Code of Australia are a positive step, but are aimed at eliminating worst practice. A more comprehensive ESD approach is desirable to improve performance and understanding. A state government ESD framework is preferable for consistency and extent of application, but following some years of development the timeframe for rollout is not clear. In the absence of a state system, Council has adopted SDAPP (sustainable design assessment in the planning process), which includes the use of STEPS and SDS tools to improve the performance of the built form to be used during the planning process.

What is sustainable design assessment in the planning process (SDAPP)?

SDAPP is a collaborative endeavour between numerous local governments in Victoria to provide a consistent method for assessing the environmental performance of developments that require town planning approval.

What is sustainable design assessment (SDA)? 

Planning permit applicants are required to submit a SDA. You will need to do a sustainable design assessment for the following types of development using the nominated assessment tool:

  • All medium- and high-density housing (two or more dwellings). STEPS to be used for residential development.
  • Commercial and industrial development with an increase in net floor 50m2 or more and all mixed use development. SDS to be used for commercial, industrial and mixed use development.

The purpose of requesting an SDA is to:

  • ensure buildings meet adequate environmental performance standards
  • provide a clear outline of the standards required by Council
  • provide a consistent approach in assessing planning applications and their environmental impact
  • provide flexibility in achieving environmental performance standards through simple assessment tools
  • promote awareness and knowledge of the benefits of making developments more sustainable from the planning stage.

What do I need to submit?

One copy of a sustainable design assessment should be submitted with your planning application which includes:

The approved SDA is endorsed if/when the application receives a permit, it becomes a statutory requirement to implement (at a minimum) the items listed and shown on the plans.

Is my five star standard enough?

Council does not consider meeting the minimum legal standards (such as the Five Star Standard and Section J of the Building Code of Australia) to be a 'sustainable design feature' or an example of 'excellent' environmental performance. An ESD assessment using STEPS or SDS will be required.

How everyone can get involved?

The best way is to incorporate ESD into your design as early as possible, preferably from the conceptual stage, as this will achieve a better result and is much easier than retro fitting an existing development. Also, in selecting an architect or builder, choose one who has an appreciation and understanding of ESD in the built form. There is a wide range of sustainable design products and services available, and the City of Port Phillip has prepared a list of these with the relevant contact details. Whilst many products listed are not necessarily low impact materials themselves, when used appropriately they can help reduce the overall environmental impact of a building.

The list includes:

  • Specialist sustainable design products.
  • Experts and practitioners in the field of sustainable design.

Please go to the City of Port Phillip website for more information.


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