Case of the month - Port Phillip

MAY 2014

Port Phillip Sustainable Design Strategy
Port Philip (Australia)
Port Phillip City Council 

August 2013 
Territorial scope
Municipality of Port Phillip

Target buildings  




Public buildings

 New buildings    

Private buildings
 Existing buildings
 Industrial, services, etc.

Main Targets

  • 74% of registered developers seek a planning permit considered on the Sustainable Design Strategy;
  • Attain representative energy and water savings in small-scale residential extensions and developments;
  • Achieve until 2017 an effective reduction in CO2 emissions between 10% and 25%.

The revision of the city of Port Phillip’s Sustainable Design Policy 2013 and its associated Sustainable Design Strategy represent the keystone of the city commitment to achieve a sustainable built environment. To be a proactive leader and an effective defender of the sustainable design and development within the municipality, the Council will undertake the most measurable environmental performance standards on its own buildings and facilities.

The Sustainable Design Strategy 2013 version is an update of council’s Sustainable Design Strategy and Policy 2006 version, that incorporates and reinforces council’s philosophy of creating sustainable buildings, through the provision of a vision for the municipality and outlining the strategy’s connection to other relevant council policies, and outlining the advocacy efforts required to engage the entire community.

Policy development context

Historically, the city of Port Phillip has been developing a widespread encouragement of the importance of reducing the ecological impact of the built environment. An initial study commissioned in 1999 to assess the capacity of the state and local planning policy frameworks to achieve high levels of sustainable design integration in the built environment, resulted in the development of the original Sustainable Design Strategy endorsed by the Council in October 2003.

The original Sustainable Design Strategy was implemented on a voluntary basis by applicants during the period 2002 – 2005 to assess the sustainability of residential buildings, through the use of a Sustainable Design Scorecard Residential scheme.

A revision of this strategy in 2006, led to the development and endorsement of a formal 2006 Sustainable Design Policy and Strategy that extended the focus to non-residential buildings, and introduced new sustainable design assessment tools: the sustainable tools for an environmental performance strategy (STEPS), and the sustainable design scorecard (SDS) for non-residential developments.

A new revision conducted in 2013 led to a new and updated Sustainable Design Strategy and Policy by providing a framework that addresses specifically:

  • The sustainable development of the municipality’s built environment;
  • The promotion of sustainability in the built environment to City of Port Phillip residents, to other relevant government bodies and to the design and construction industry;
  • Council’s own new and major refurbishment building works.

Policy scope, requirements and assessment process

Council has implemented a Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP), a voluntary program which encourages applicants to address sustainable design issues at the planning permit stage, and assesses eligible planning applications against a series of environmental targets.

The SDAPP framework applies to all planning permit applications submitted, including: 

  • Planning permit applications for all new buildings and extensions to existing buildings (residential, commercial, office, retail, and industrial) over 50m2 in floor area;
  • Council’s own building projects for all new buildings, extensions to existing buildings and major refurbishments which modify at least 30% of existing floor area. 

Thus, applicants need to request either at a pre-application meeting, or in addition to further information requests, a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA) or a Sustainable Management Plan (SMP) depending on the size and typology of the development.

Both SDA or SMP outlines any proposed sustainable design initiatives that will improve the overall performance of the development above minimum legal requirements, with reference to the following key environmental categories: Indoor environment quality; Energy efficiency Water; Efficiency Stormwater; Management Building; Materials; Transport; Waste management; Innovation; Urban ecology; and ongoing building and site management.

To support the claims stated in the SDA or SMP, applicants should provide an assessment of the proposed development with an applicable best practice Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) assessment tool, depending on the size of the development. The Sustainable Tools for Environmental Performance Strategy (STEPS) or the Sustainable Design Scorecards (SDS) are considered the reference assessment tools.

Sustainable Design Scorecard (SDS) is a website tool that measures the environmental impacts of a design. It is an Excel document that rates seven categories: energy efficiency, materials, transport, water, indoor environmental quality, waste, and ESD excellence, and can be used to rate a proposed or existing commercial building, retail building, industrial building, or retail or commercial component of a mixed-use building.

Sustainable Tools for Environmental Performance strategy (STEPS) is also a website tool that measures the environmental impacts in the building design. It rates five categories including mains (drinking water) use, building material impacts, greenhouse emissions, peak energy use and stormwater quality leaving the property. It also calculates the number of bicycle places required and space needed for waste recycling services relative to the size of the development, and should applied to the design of a new or existing house, town house, multi-unit development, or residential component of a mixed-use building.