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Victorian Policy & Advocacy Update

The latest Victorian Advocacy and Policy update including the DELWP Evidence Improvement Project, the latest COVID-19 updates and more.

DELWP EVIDENCE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT - SHORT SURVEY

Victorian architects and other construction sector practitioners are being called upon to complete a survey to inform the Victorian Government’s review and reform of the building industry. To access the survey here.

The survey is being conducted by Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) on behalf of Victorian Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP). Members will also receive an email from the Architects Registration Board of Victoria. Please note that this survey is different to a recent survey members will have been asked to complete on insurance.

This survey should take no more than 10 minutes. The voluntary survey is completed anonymously and responses are confidential. Completing this survey will help to ensure reform to the Victorian building system is informed by the perspectives and day-to-day experiences of Victorian practitioners. Consumers have been surveyed separately.

This survey asks questions about practitioners’ experiences of working in the Victorian building industry. Information gathered from this survey, along with other consultation methods, such as written submissions and workshops, in addition to further research, evaluation and analysis, will ultimately inform improvements to Victoria’s building system.

PwC will be running this short (10 minute), confidential survey from Monday 1 March to Sunday 7 March.

NEW APARTMENT STANDARDS ANNOUNCED

On Sunday 28 February, Victoria’s Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing, the Hon Richard Wynne, announced in a media release,

titled Better Apartment Designs For Our Neighbourhoods, new planning rules to make sure new apartment designs are attractive, built from durable materials and don’t exacerbate windy conditions for the street and public spaces.  The new rules are also intended to ensure apartments also provide more open green space for residents as well as more communal living facilities.

The rules will be implemented into planning schemes later in the year to allow industry time to become familiar with the new rules. A brief outline of changes includes:

  • Landscaping design standards will be strengthened to increase green space in and around apartment buildings, such as courtyards, lawns or greenery at the street frontage. Developers will also be required to include more areas with deep soil to encourage canopy tree growth.
  • Communal space must be provided in any apartment building with more than ten residences. This can include seating areas and outdoor barbecue facilities for residents.
  • Wind impacts will need to be considered for apartment buildings of five or more storeys to avoid wind tunnelling on streets and comfortable wind conditions in both public areas and private open space. The new standards will eliminate underused, windswept balconies on buildings taller than 40 metres, and permit design flexibility so there is more usable space inside the apartment, such as  winter gardens.
  • To ensure apartments have more natural light, balconies can be designed to minimise overshadowing for apartments below.

More information on the updated design standards, including video material and the 148-page draft Apartment Design

Guidelines for Victoria can be found here.

The Institute has engaged with review of the Apartment Design Standards for a number of years in Victoria. It is positive to see that some of the feedback provided in the submission made by the Institute in May 2020 have been adopted. This includes the threshold the Institute recommended for a proposed new clause on wind impacts applying to apartment developments of five or more storeys (excluding a basement) in a residential zone and all apartment developments in other zones. It also appears that the intent of our recommendation last year toward enduring finishes that do not deteriorate, rather than natural patinas, has also been adopted.

It does appear in comparing the draft guidelines with the 2017 guidelines that the “Operation of the Guidelines” as it appears on page 6 of of both versions has identical wording in two key paragraphs. This is,

A standard sets out requirements to meet the objective. Normally, a standard should be met, but if the responsible authority is satisfied that an alternative design solution meets the objective, the alternative design solution may be considered.

Decision guidelines set out the matters the responsible authority should consider before deciding if an application meets the objectives. When an alternative design solution is proposed, the effect of the design solution on the achievement of other objectives should be considered.

The submission made by the Institute in May 2020 proposed among three key recommendations to,

Establish a Design Advisory Service (DAS), or similar body. A process for architects and design experts to put forward alternative design solutions of both a minor and major nature. The panel would need to be sufficiently experienced to approve departures from BADS [the Apartment Design Guidelines] that may be contrary to the standard but create a better ‘site specific’ design outcome.

At present, the Victorian Chapter will need to consult with members to better understand members’ views on the impacts of the proposed new standards as represented in the guidelines. The Chapter has also been in contact with the Planning Minister’s office and DELWP. We have requested a meeting with DELWP to discuss the new standards.

COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS EASED AND NEW ELECTRONIC RECORD KEEPING REQUIREMENTS

The Victorian State Government announced on Friday February 26 the reduction in restrictions in Victoria with the continuing abatement of new COVID-19 cases including zero cases of community transmission. Late Friday afternoon, the Victorian Chapter alerted members to these changes via the Institute’s Twitter account for the Victorian Chapter (@AusINSArch_VIC). For sector guidance for:

  • Office workplaces visit here.
  • Construction sites visit here.

Practices are advised to read the details of the advice for Office workplaces, noting how the 75% quotient is to be applied and other requirements for Offices. Employers must keep a record of all workers and visitors who attend the workplace for longer than 15 minutes, including first name, contact number, date and time of visit and areas of the workplace visited. Employers are strongly recommended to use electronic record keeping for this purpose.

From 27 March, all Victorian businesses using electronic record keeping – such as a QR code system – must use a system that seamlessly integrates with the Victorian Government contact tracing system to help contact tracers respond to outbreaks even faster. The requirement will be mandated under new Chief Health Officer directions and will reduce the time it takes for the public health team to get the vital information from hours, down to minutes.

Businesses, therefore, have three choices:

  1. To use the Victorian Government QR Code Service which is free for all Victorian businesses, organisations, clubs and events. This h can be accessed from here
  2. Or use Visitation API – a piece of software that enables private QR codes to communicate directly with contact tracers. Business owners and operators should ask their provider if they intend to comply or can check if their QR code provider has connected to the Government’s API by visiting here or;
  3. Businesses can still choose to keep records manually, but they must then apply the four-square meter rule.

VICTORIAN CHAPTER SUBMISSION TO INFRASTRUCTURE VICTORIA 30-YEAR INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN 5-YEAR REVIEW

The Victorian Chapter Sustainable Architecture Forum has worked with the Institute’s Policy and Advocacy team over the past several weeks to formulate a submission to Infrastructure Victoria. The submission responded to all ninety-five recommendations made in the consultation paper accompanying the review.  As well as responding to the recommendations, the Institute has also used the submission to request that Infrastructure Victoria, as an advisory body, promote use of the Institute’s EOI and RFT Guidelines in its own advice to government agencies on procurement or funding of infrastructure projects.  A copy of the submission can be downloaded from here.

OTHER RECENT SUBMISSIONS

A submission was recently made to the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications on the National Cities Performance Framework (NCPF). The NCPF comprises a set of indicators to measure cities performance across a number of themes. These indicators are also used to assist evaluation of Cities Deals and Smart Cities funding partnerships. Our submission particularly focussed its recommendations on strengthening the development and implementation of indicators to address Sustainability and Liveability. The Institute’s recommendations included the development of an indicator for disability  (or “all-abilities”) access in the absence of any such indicators in the current framework. Our submission can be downloaded from here.

GUIDE FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL HOUSING

Members may be interested in a media release by Victorian Government Ministers, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Melissa Horne and Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio about the a new report that provides practical advice to help housing agencies in their efforts to make housing more energy efficient.

The report’s author is the Community Housing Industry Association (Victoria).

The report provides practical information and case studies to help Registered Housing Associations apply for government grants for social housing, and plan for and carry out improvement projects. Energy Efficiency in the Victorian Community Housing Sector was developed with the assistance of a a $100,000 Victorian Property Fund grant. The report, case studies and further information can be found here. With pdf version accessible here