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, and according to the Australian Institute of Architects it provides the rationale for a “good design” objective expected to be inserted into planning legislation later this year.

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 to date has not been an overarching design policy that expresses the government’s position.

NSW planning minister Anthony Roberts said the policy would provide clarity on what the government meant when it advocated good design, which was not just about how a placed looked, but how it worked and felt for people.

“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”.

He said the policy would work to balance the urgent need for more homes with the need for amenity outcomes, such as open space, trees, connectivity, daylight and views.

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.”

Government architect Peter Poulet said the policy articulated the means and methods to value and improve the built environment and public domain.

“Design plays a critical role in achieving the aspiration we have for our future, because good design is about deep understanding and a creative synthesis of ideas, issues and people,” he said.

Better Placed confirms our collective wishes for the future design of our infrastructure, architecture, and public spaces, and endorses the power of design to enable a better and resilient future for our communities.”

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.”

AIA chief executive Jennifer Cunich said the organisation wanted quality-based policies to be extended across the country, “as we believe that good design yields a dividend for all stakeholders, that is returned not just in the immediate term, but over the lifetime of a well-designed and delivered built environment”.

However, developer lobby Urban Taskforce said quality design had to be balanced with affordability.

“As a general policy these aspirations are important but in the hands of tick the box council planners the creativity of quality architects could be overly regulated,” Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said.

He was critical that reference to “cost effectiveness” had been removed from the draft.
“Good design must focus on cost effectiveness particularly at a time when Sydney’s housing is unaffordable for many younger people.”

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.

2 replies on “NSW commits to integrated design policy”

  1. The final document is a very watered down version of the initial draft report. It just promotes the value of good design but has no requirements or usability – all the principles and outcomes that were in the draft have been removed. This could have led towards an urban design SEPP but is now a shelf document.

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