Building heights for medium density housing would respond to factors such as street character, landform and existing buildings whilst gross floor area would fill only 70 percent of the building envelope and street masterplans and public domain plans would inform decisions regarding setbacks under a new draft code released by the New South Wales Government.

Released for public consultation by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, the draft Medium Density Design Guide  contains 327 guidelines which are considered to be best practice in terms of critical design concepts for units, townhouses and low-rise apartment dwellings.

Accompanying  the guide, the draft Medium Density Housing Code sets out specific which proposals for medium density development will need to meet in order to be assessed as complying development and thus qualify for fast-track approval processes.

Separated into 26 different categories, the guidelines cover issues such as size and layout, open space, water and energy conservation, natural light, ventilation, storage, noise, waste management and universal design.

In terms of building heights, for example, the guidelines specify typical dimensions regarding floor to ceiling heights, floor depth, roof articulation and topography.

The code also specifies that building heights should respond to matters such as the future designer scale and character of the local street area, existing buildings within the immediate surrounds (such as heritage buildings) and the surrounding land form.

In terms of floor space ratios, meanwhile, these should fill only 70 percent of the desired building envelope and should be tested to ensure that these are coordinated with other requirements relating to building envelope, height, depth, setbacks and open space.

The new draft code comes amid a desire on the part of the government in New South Wales to unlock greater volumes of medium density developments as part of its strategy to increase housing supply and address affordability issues.

Comfortable and well-designed dwellings are considered to be essential for this strategy to work as these are what will most likely gain public acceptance.

Once in effect, the new code will apply to low rise medium density development which typically contains more than one dwelling, has a height of less than ten metres and results in a net density of 25-45 dwellings per hectare.

This includes terrace style housing, dual occupancy and semi-detached dwellings, community titled master planned medium density developments or manor houses and ‘on top of one another’ dual occupancies.

According to the department, it is envisaged that the new guidelines will help to inform planners, designers and the community about what is required in medium density dwellings to deliver upon positive design outcomes, and will assist planners and designers when preparing a complying development or development proposal.

The draft new code, meanwhile, sets out specific requirements  which the department says that a proposal must meet in order to be assessed as complying development and thus qualify for fast tracked approval processes.

Consultation with regard to the draft code is open until December 12th 2016.