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DesignWA Released

February 26, 2019

DesignWA and the Apartment Design policy (ApartmentsWA) was released by the Minister for Planning Rita Saffioti on 18 February 2019.

Design WA is a state planning policy that aims to create a built environment that is focused around good design that reflects the characteristics of a local area, enhances streetscapes and contributes to the development of vibrant and liveable communities. It includes 10 principles for good design and establishes the framework for integrating design review as a part of the evaluation process.

The 10 principles are:
1. Context and character
Good design responds to and enhances the distinctive characteristics of a local area, contributing to a sense of place.
2. Landscape quality
Good design recognises that together landscape and buildings operate as an integrated and sustainable system, within a broader ecological context.
3. Built form and scale
Good design ensures that the massing and height of development is appropriate to its setting and successfully negotiates between existing built form and the intended future character of the local area.
4. Functionality and build quality
Good design meets the needs of users efficiently and effectively, balancing functional requirements to perform well and deliver optimum benefit over the full life-cycle.
5. Sustainability
Good design optimises the sustainability of the built environment, delivering positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.
6. Amenity
Good design provides successful places that offer a variety of uses and activities while optimising internal and external amenity for occupants, visitors and neighbours, providing environments that are comfortable, productive and healthy.
7. Legibility
Good design results in buildings and places that are legible, with clear connections and easily identifiable elements to help people find their way around.
8. Safety
Good design optimises safety and security, minimising the risk of personal harm and supporting safe behaviour and use.
9. Community
Good design responds to local community needs as well as the wider social context, providing buildings and spaces that support a diverse range of people and facilitate social interaction.
10. Aesthetics
Good design is the product of a skilled, judicious design process that results in attractive and inviting buildings and places that engage the senses.

DesignWA will eventually capture all elements of design in the built environment, including precincts, neighbourhoods, medium density development and housing. HIA is working with government to address each of those policies with an aim to maintaining efficient and proportionate approval processes and optimal housing affordability outcomes. 

The Apartment Design policy (ApartmentsWA) replaces part 6 of the R-Codes from 24 May 2019. The policy addresses the design of apartments and includes primary controls such as building heights setbacks and plot ratio. It also addresses matters of siting the building, including orientation, deep soil areas, communal open space, access and privacy. 

Design of apartments is then also covered, addressing issues such as solar access, ventilation, storage, noise, energy efficiency water management and utilities, amongst others. 

ApartmentsWA is a performance-based policy. Designs will need to demonstrate that the objectives of the policy are achieved. While addressing the ‘acceptable outcomes’ provided is likely to achieve the objectives, they are not considered a deemed-to-comply pathway and objectives must always be met to achieve an approval. 

The process for approval has also been adjusted, with a design review process being recommended. Feedback on the concept would be provided by a panel established by the local government. Additional materials are also recommended to support the development application. 

The policy can be accessed from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website. 

It is important to note that any development application decision made after 2.00pm on 24 May will be made in accordance with these policies.

For further information, or to register your interest in a workshop addressing the new policies, please contact Rachelle Gill via