NSW Government releases built environment design policy


The NSW government has adopted a state-wide policy that “establishes a baseline” of what is expected across all NSW projects in terms of design.

Developed by Government Architect NSW, Better Placed details seven objectives that define the key considerations in built environment design:

  • Better fit: contextual, local and of its place

  • Better performance: sustainable, adaptable and durable

  • Better for community: inclusive, connected and diverse

  • Better for people: safe, comfortable and liveable

  • Better working: functional efficient and fit for purpose

  • Better value: creating and adding value

  • Better look and feel: engaging, inviting and attractive

“Achieving these objectives will ensure our cities and towns, our public realm, our landscapes, our buildings and our public domain will be healthy, responsive, integrated, equitable and resilient,” the policy states.

While NSW has various design policies, such as the SEPP 65 Apartment Design Guide, there has not been an overarching design policy.

NSW planning minister Anthony Roberts said the policy would provide clarity on the government's views, and would work to balance the urgent need for more homes with the need for amenity outcomes, such as open space, connectivity, natural light and views.

“This policy will assist everyone involved from the design phase through to DAs,” he said, including councils, developers, architects and designers, engineers, builders, industry groups, local communities and businesses.

“We all have a part to play in the look and feel of our neighbourhoods and this simple policy, which outlines a new strategic approach, written in clear language, will help”.

There are a number of developments used as examples of good design on a new Government Architect NSW website, including Central Park, Bankstown Library, and Waterloo Youth Family and Community Centre.

“These are stunning examples of where design works well and these were crowdsourced as part of the consultation with industry on the policy,” Mr Roberts said.

“Further case studies are being prepared and will include residential, affordable housing mixed-use and commercial, education, health, green grid, public art and master planning. Examples will best-inform how good design works.”

The Australian Institute of Architects welcomed the news, with NSW chapter president Andrew Nimmo saying the policy was a “significant achievement” that would help deliver higher quality new developments.

“Investing in the design process at the early stage of projects saves time and cost and leads to more responsive, resilient, healthy, integrated and equitable precincts, towns and cities,” he said.

“The seven objectives in the policy establish the framework for assessing new projects as part of the design review process. The policy also provides the rationale for the ‘good design’ object we anticipate will be introduced into the planning legislation later this year.”

Better Placed is the first in a suite of policies and guidelines to be created by Government Architect NSW, which will be announced by the end of 2018.

The Better Placed policy can be viewed here.

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