Medium developments - Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA)

Yarra’s Planning Scheme outlines the minimum environmentally sustainable design (ESD) requirements.

If you are planning for a medium development you need to complete a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA). For more information on the definitions of 'medium' .

What is a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA)?

SDA is a simple sustainability assessment of a proposed building at the planning stage, that demonstrates best practice in ESD performance. The assessment will support your planning application by showing how you address the 10 key sustainable building categories.

You need to make sure all Environmentally Sustainable Design initiatives are clearly demonstrated and annotated on your architectural drawings.

Sustainable Design Assessments should also be clear and definitive about sustainability commitments and avoid the use of vague language. An example of vague language: Energy efficient light fittings will be used ‘where practical’. An example of clear language: All lighting in dwellings will be energy efficient LED lighting.

10 key sustainable building categories

If your application is for a medium development, your application needs to address the 10 key sustainable building categories.

The categories are:

  • indoor environment quality
  • energy efficiency
  • water efficiency
  • stormwater management
  • building materials
  • transport
  • waste management
  • urban ecology
  • innovation
  • construction and building management


What information will I need in order to prepare an Sustainable Design Assessment?

An SDA can be prepared using the free online tools, template report on our website or preparing your own report. In addition to your architectural drawings, you will generally require the following information:

For all developments (residential and non-residential):

  • BESS report print out (or equivalent tool)
  • STORM rating, a free online tool that measures your application’s storm water management qualities
  • anticipated minimum energy efficiency rating of major appliances for heating, cooling and hot water (energy labelling)
  • anticipated minimum water efficiency rating of taps and fittings (WELS ratings)
  • anticipated light fittings (e.g. incandescent, compact fluorescent of LED?)
  • on-site renewable energy devices (if applicable)

Use a Sustainable Design Assessment template

We have developed a Sustainable Design Assessment template to which aims to provide guidance on how to prepare an Sustainable Design Assessment. The template provides an indication of the expected information that you need to provided in a Sustainable Design Assessment.

Use the Build Environment Sustainability Scorecard to support your planning application

The Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS) is an online sustainability assessment tool purpose-built for the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) framework.

A BESS assessment will demonstrate how your project meets a best practice standard in ESD.

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

An Sustainable Design Assessment can be submitted including the printout of a BESS report with your planning application.

Here’s an example BESS report that would typically be an attachment to the SDA and support the design elements shown on the plans and the various statements made in the SDA.

Residential-only developments will also need a:

  • NatHERS (e.g. FirstRate) report or anticipated minimum standard

Non-residential-only developments will also need the following:

  • NCC Section J assessment or anticipated minimum standard
  • Expected NABERS rating (as relevant).

When preparing an SDA, do I really have to know what appliances I will install?

As part of an SDA submission, we don't expect you to know what appliance models you will be installing in the future. We recommend committing to an energy efficiency standard, for example through declaring the Star rating for different appliances (commonly heating, cooling and hot water).

Can I use the BESS tool without having completed a NatHERS (e.g. FirstRate) assessment?

An energy rating under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) will have to be completed for most new dwellings and some extensions at the building permit stage at the latest.

A building’s orientation, glazing proportions and construction materials largely impact the rating, we strongly recommended to conduct a preliminary assessment before lodging your drawings for a planning permit.

You might have to apply for an amendment to your planning permit if a later energy rating shows that you have to amend the building design to meet minimum NCC standards. Many designers now use energy rating tools as design tools rather than as compliance tools.

If you are confident that your building design will meet a certain minimum standard, you can use the following values for the BESS assessment:

Climate Zone 21 Melbourne:

  • 5 Stars - 149 MJ/m2
  • 5.5 Stars - 131 MJ/m2
  • 6 Stars - 114 MJ/m2
  • 6.5 Stars - 98 MJ/m2
  • 7 Stars - 83 MJ/m2
  • 7.5 Stars - 68 MJ/m2
  • 8 Stars - 57 MJ/m2
  • 8.5 Stars - 39 MJ/m2
  • 9 Stars - 25 MJ/m2
  • 9.5 Stars - 13 MJ/m2
  • 10 Stars - 2 MJ/m2

The MJ/m2 values can be split with an 80% heating and 20% cooling ratio for detached houses, and a 70% heating 30% cooling split for apartments.