February 17, 2022

What can Victoria learn from the draft NSW DP SEPP 2021

In late 2021, the NSW Government proposed a new Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (DP SEPP) 2021 that sets out to address sustainability, resilience and quality of place through good design.

April 2022  Update: Unwelcome news for a sustainably built future.

In a controversial move, the NSW Government has decided not to proceed with the proposed NSW Design & Place SEPP. The SEPP, which aimed to simplify sustainability and good design applications within the planning system, was dropped, with the State Planning Minister citing housing affordability and expediated planning approval times as justification.  

The Apartment Design Guidelines and SEPP 65 shall remain in place unchanged. The NSW Government will proceed with updates to the BASIX standards to bring them in line with the NCC changes.  

The news received mixed responses from industry bodies.  


The DP SEPP has been drafted in response to preliminary stakeholder consultation with the development industry, local government and the community. This early feedback on the existing policies and guides suggests that they did not achieve the right balance to successfully deliver sustained healthy and thriving communities’ while responsibly caring for the environment. 

The 2nd public exhibition is currently open for comment to the suite of proposed revised policies, guides and tools. Underpinning the draft SEPP is a review of the NSW Apartment Design Guide, Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) assessment tool, Sustainability in non-residential buildings and the Urban Design Guide (UDG) The proposed changes to the SEPP and the supporting documents are intended to consolidate and simplify planning processes for all scales of development, while encouraging more innovation and creativity. 

Proposed changes to BASIX, the NSW tool for residential developments energy and water use and thermal performance, involves increasing targets to align with the NCC (National Construction Code) and enabling alternative pathways for the use of other tools. The goal is for BASIX to be able to respond to the government’s trajectory to net zero and to introduce an embodied carbon emission requirement.  

The Guides that shall be given effect under the proposed SEPP are the revised Apartment Design Guide (ADG) and the new Urban Design Guide (UDG). The refreshed ADG provides new mechanisms to support alternative design solutions with flexible applications. It promotes development that address provision of deep soil and canopy tree requirements. It also provides clarity on measuring cross-ventilation, sunlight access, extra storage and space for bikes to ensure healthy spaces to accommodate working from home.  

Non-residential developments shall receive new standards and reporting requirements in conjunction with BASIX sustainability provisions. It is proposed to align these with NSW policies covering net zero, electric vehicle readiness, waste and sustainable materials, and clean air and climate change. Non-residential developments are to meet NCC Section J requirements and where operational net zero emissions cannot be achieved onsite, renewable energy offsets are proposed. 



The review has identified key areas for change, including:  

  • Limiting solar absorptance by way of roof colour choice & alternative technology to combat the Urban heat Island (UHI) effect.  
  • Introduction of a Materials index to commence reporting on embodied energy. 
  • Design Verification statements provided by qualified local review panels to justify any alternative design solutions that are more site specific. 
  • Place-based considerations of scale to be adapted effectively to metro or regional contexts. 
  • Connecting with Country, by incorporating Aboriginal knowledge and living culture into site. 

The proposed changes have been welcomed by the Australian Institute of Architects, while some members of the development industry have raised concerns regarding perceived impacts on capital cost.  

The Policy package, including the draft DP SEPP and supporting documentation is on exhibition until 28 February 2022 and can be viewed at https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/design-SEPP-2021. 


Photo by TBS 44 on Unsplash