Sustainability in your planning application

Sustainable design is important for any building project. At Stonnington, we want to lead the transformation in how we live and use our resources and for that reason we believe that all planning applicants should consider sustainability within their submissions.

Refer to Table 1 in Clause 15.02 of the Stonnington Planning Scheme to check the Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) application requirements relevant to the scale of development proposed.

Why is sustainable design important?

Buildings today emit 20 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

About 40 per cent of landfill comes from building construction and demolition waste.

In operation, buildings use large amounts of water for non-drinking purposes that we could be drinking.

For these reasons alone, but for a variety of related environmental, economical and social reasons, the City of Stonnington supports you in making the most out of your building's efficiency potential.

Benefits of sustainable design

By considering Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) at the planning stage, you:

  • optimise your building design as early as possible, meaning that you save time and money
  • obtain planning certainty by addressing mandatory Building Code of Australia (BCA) energy efficiency requirements as early as possible
  • improve indoor comfort for residents and users (because you’ve paid particular attention to the building’s orientation, external shading, efficient use of water and the materials used)
  • reduce the building’s effect on the environment
  • future-proof owners and renters against the rising costs of power and water, as well as ensuring higher property returns in the future
  • prepare for the Mandatory Disclosure Scheme.

(The Mandatory Disclosure Scheme is now in place for commercial buildings. It’s called the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) Program and it requires you to provide energy efficiency in most cases when commercial office space of 1000 square metres or more is offered for sale or lease. A scheme is still pending for residential buildings.)

Sustainable Design Assessments

Depending on the size of your development, as an applicant you may be required to submit an accompanying sustainability report.

If your project is categorised as Medium, we’ll ask you to submit a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA). For more information on preparing a SDA, view our Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) planning guide(PDF, 205KB).

This is a simple report, which in conjunction with the BESS tool (see below), you can prepare yourself. In the SDA, you’ll be asked to show how you’ve addressed each of 10 sustainable design categories in the project.

How do I know if my project is ‘Medium’?

Your project will likely be categorised as Medium if it is:

  • a residential development of between 2 and 9 dwellings
  • a non-residential development of a building with a gross floor area between 100m2 and 1000m2; alterations and additions between 100m2 and 1000m2

Sustainable Design Assessment template

You can use this template(DOCX, 77KB) to help you develop your SDA report.

Sustainability Management Plans

If your project is categorised as Large, we’ll ask you to submit a Sustainability Management Plan (SMP). This is a detailed report which should (among other things):

  • demonstrate how each of the 10 key sustainable design categories have been addressed
  • identify relevant sustainability targets and performance standards
  • document the means by which the appropriate target or performance is to be achieved.

The nature of larger developments provides the opportunity for increased environmental benefits and for major resource savings, which is why we ask for a thorough report.

It may be necessary to engage a sustainability professional to prepare an SMP.

How do I know if my project is Large?

Your project will likely be categorised as Large if it is:

  • a residential development of more than 10 dwellings
  • a non-residential development of a building with a gross floor area of more than 1000m2; alterations and additions greater than 1000m2 

Sustainability Management Plan template

You can use this template(DOCX, 90KB) to help you develop your SDA report. 

What information needs to accompany my SDA or SMP?

To assist in our appraisal of a project, we may request one or more of the following pieces of information in conjunction with your SDA or SMP.

For all developments - residential and non-residential

We may ask you to submit or tell us:

  • Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS) tool reports (or similar)
  • a STORM or MUSIC rating, relating to stormwater management
  • your anticipated minimum energy efficiency rating of major appliances for heating, cooling and hot water
  • your anticipated minimum water efficiency rating of taps and fittings (WELS ratings)
  • Which type of light fittings you intend to use - for example, incandescent, compact fluorescent or LED?
  • whether you intend to install any on-site renewable energy devices 
  • which major construction materials you intend to use
  • all the sustainable design features and where they’ll be located, for example water tanks, solar panels, external shading devices, openable windows for cross ventilation, landscaping (in particular, location of existing or proposed mature trees), permeable paving.

For residential developments

We may ask you to submit a NatHERS (for example, FirstRate) report or anticipated minimum standard.

For non-residential developments

We may ask you to submit:

  • a BCA Section J assessment or anticipated minimum standard
  • your expected NABERS rating.

We recommend that applicants for medium and large developments schedule a pre-application meeting with our Environmental Sustainable Design Officer. You can get free advice on the process and we can provide ESD measures.

What’s the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process?

The City of Stonnington uses the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) program. It’s developed by the Municipal Association of Victoria

The SDAPP is:

  • a practical approach to assessing sustainable development matters during the planning permit application process
  • the consistent inclusion of important environmental performance considerations into the planning approvals process
  • your guide to achieving more sustainable building outcomes for the long-term benefit of the wider community.

The SDAPP provides clear guidance on sustainability goals. It helps us keep our processes consistent with other participating councils across Victoria.

You can find out more about the SDAPP in this booklet(PDF, 467KB).

Which SDAPP category does my development fall into?

All planning applicants should consider sustainable design within their developments. There are, however, specific sustainability requirements based on the SDAPP category your development falls into: Large, Medium or Small. 

This SDAPP Flowchart will help you determine your SDAPP category.

The 10 key sustainable building categories 

In collaboration with the Cities of Port Phillip, Melbourne and Yarra, we’ve developed fact sheets outlining the 10 key sustainable building categories to support Council's SDAPP program. 

These resources provide an overview of the SDAPP process, as well as more detailed information on design measures that you can incorporate into a development to improve its sustainability. They also contain useful references and links.

They cover the following key categories:

Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS)

Sustainable Design tools can assist in benchmarking and reporting the sustainability achievements of a project to both the applicant and Council. The Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS) is a new online sustainability assessment tool. BESS has been developed especially to support the SDAPP framework.


  • is free for planning permit applicants to use
  • assesses any size and type of building, including mixed-use developments
  • is easy to use
  • can be used to benchmark against other developments.
  • streamlines the planning permit process
  • reduces running costs of new buildings
  • provides liveability and usability benefits for building owners and users.

The information required to complete a BESS assessment is simple for small developments and increases in complexity for larger developments.

BESS replaces the STEPS and SDS tools.

STEPS and SDS have been retired from use. STEPS is now locked to new applications, however will remain online until 31 October 2018 so that existing projects can be accessed.

STEPS and SDS will no longer be accepted for new applications.

Developers may use any tool of their choice to complete an ESD assessment for a planning permit application, however it is recommended that all new applications use BESS.

BESS is owned by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) and was developed with support by the Victorian Government.

The BESS tool provides an assessment of the environmental performance of a given development, and can be used to generate a report outlining this performance as part of the planning application. BESS can assist in the development of SDAs and SMPs. Applicants are requested to enclose a print-out of the relevant report with their applications.

More information

There are a number of web-based resources and guides available to help residents and developers achieve more sustainable outcomes. They include:

  • BESS (Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard, which assists builders and developers to demonstrate that they meet sustainability information requirements as part of a planning permit applications.
  • The Australian Building Codes Board provides information on minimum building energy-efficiency ratings to be met by developments.
  • AccurateFirstRate,  BERS Pro (also be Energy Inspection) and HERO (Home Energy Rating & Optimisation) software tools, developed under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), estimate your home’s future demands for heating and cooling. They’re typically used to estimate building energy efficiency against the Building Code requirements.
  • NABERS rates the operational impact of non-residential buildings on the environment.
  • NatHERS enables skilled professionals using computer modelling programs to assess and improve the quality of a home design and achieve building approvals.
  • STORM is a tool to assess whether you’ve achieved best practice water quality objectives on your site.
  • Green Star includes the building rating tools from the Green Building Council of Australia. These are typically used for larger building developments.  
  • Environment Victoria's Sustainable Living Hub contains information and fact sheets to assist households in becoming more sustainable.
  • Your Home provides advice and design guides for passive design and sustainable living.