Sustainable design assessment

Environmentally sustainable development

We are committed to reducing environmental impacts of the built environment through Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) principles. Changes to planning requirements for residential and non-residential developments will help to: 

  • improve amenity and liveability of homes
  • reduce energy use and associated costs
  • reduce waste to landfill
  • reduce community greenhouse gas emissions. 

Eligible development applications must incorporate ESD, as required by the Kingston Planning Scheme, as well as any development located within an Activity Centre Zone (those being CheltenhamMentone and Moorabbin).  

For assistance with smaller retrofit, renovation, or new home building projects, we have developed checklists and technical guidance to help you understand and decide on the best sustainable upgrades to make to your project. Visit our ‘How to be more sustainable’ page to get started.  

Note: From 1 January 2024, new homes requiring a planning permit will be required to be all-electric. This means new homes and residential subdivisions that require a planning permit cannot connect to the gas network. 

Application requirements

The ESD Policy applies throughout the City of Kingston to residential and non-residential development that requires a planning permit

An application must be accompanied by either a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA) or a Sustainability Management Plan (SMP), depending on the type of development, as specified below.

An SDA is a simple sustainability assessment of a proposed design at the planning stage, while an SMP is a more detailed sustainability assessment used typically for larger developments. Developments need to demonstrate compliance with Clause 15.01-2L of the Kingston Planning Scheme and address the 6 key sustainable building categories.

Included in both is typically a Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard Assessment (BESS). A ‘pass’ score in BESS is required to demonstrate compliance with the Scheme. If the objectives cannot be met, an adequate explanation must be provided.

As part of this assessment you will also need to include a STROM/MUSIC assessment, as well as NatHERS certificates for each dwelling, if it is residential.

We recommend that applicants for medium and large developments lodge a pre-application advice request.

Medium developments

What is a medium development?

  • Residential: 3 to 9 new residential dwellings or 1000m2 to 2499m2 of building used for accommodation other than dwellings
  • Non-residential: non-residential building with gross floor area of 1000m2 to 2499m2

What documentation do medium developments need?

An SDA is required for all small to medium developments. You can complete your SDA using the BESS tool. The SDA will need to be provided when lodging your planning application.


  1. SDA 
  2. BESS Report 
  3. Preliminary NatHERS Ratings for all dwellings 
  4. STORM or MUSIC assessment 
  5. Green Factor* 


  1. SDA
  2. BESS Report
  3. MUSIC assessment
  4. Green Factor*

*Please note: Green Factor is optional for all development types

Large developments

What is a large development?

  • Residential: 10 or more residential dwellings or 2500m2 or greater of building used for accommodation other than dwellings
  • Non-residential:  2500m2 or greater of non-residential

What documentation do large developments need?

Larger developments will require an SMP that has been prepared by qualified environmental, sustainability and transport consultants. We may ask you to submit a BCA Section J assessment and/or your expected NABERS rating. 


  1. SMP
  2. BESS report
  3. Preliminary NatHERS Ratings for all thermally unique dwellings
  4. Green Travel Plan
  5. Green Factor*


  1. SMP
  2. BESS report
  3. Green Travel Plan
  4. Green Factor*

*Please note: Green Factor is optional for all development types.

Activity Centre Zone

A key purpose of the Activity Centre Zone is to facilitate use and development of land in accordance with the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

What type of Activity Centre Zone development requires documentation?

Any building or work within an Activity Centre Zone, as appropriate other than:

  • An application to alter, extend or make structural changes to an existing building provided the gross floor area of the building is not increased by more than 1000 square metres
  • An application to construct a building with a gross floor area not exceeding 50 square metres
  • An application to construct or carry out works with an area not exceeding 50 square metres.

What documentation does a development in an Activity Centre Zone need?

  • SMP
  • BESS Report
  • Preliminary NatHERS Ratings for all dwellings
  • STORM or MUSIC assessment
  • Green Travel Plan
  • Green Factor*

*Please note: Green Factor is optional for all development types.

Recommended environmental considerations

The Kingston Planning Scheme (Kingston Local Planning Policy Clause 15.01-2L) sets out a number of policy objectives under key sustainability categories. In addition, applications should demonstrate how the development supports the transition to net zero emissions and responds to climate change. It is requested that developments include the following commitments:

  • all-electric development, including high-efficiency appliances such as reverse cycle heating and cooling, heat pump hot water, induction stove tops and electric ovens
  • rooftop solar PV systems for all buildings
  • electric vehicle ready infrastructure
  • operable shading devices to east and west facing habitable room windows
  • fixed shading devices to all north facing habitable rooms windows
  • 10% improvement on National Construction Code (NCC) minimum energy efficiency requirements (commercial)
  • 7 Star minimum NatHERS rating (residential)
  • passive cross ventilation for all buildings and install windows that allow for the highest level of ventilation such as a louvre and casement windows
  • urban cooling measures including:
    • provision of light-coloured or reflective building materials
    • provision of lighter-coloured driveways
    • increased vegetation, with green walls if practical
    • permeable paving including driveway surfaces.
  • commitment to purchase of offsite renewable energy for the residual energy use through GreenPower or similar.

Important notes: All environmentally sustainable design initiatives should be shown and/or annotated on architectural drawings.

All approved sustainable design assessment reports will be endorsed as part of the planning permit from Council.

Resources, fact sheets and checklists

All applicants are encouraged to consider the 6 key sustainable building categories within their design, as outlined in the fact sheets, and to use the provided online resources and guides to help with achieving more sustainable outcomes.

Checklists and fact sheets


Council has developed four checklists with technical guides to help you understand and decide on the best options or upgrades to select in your sustainable building project. Get started by picking the checklist below that best suits your project type.

Fact sheets

Together with other Victorian councils we have implemented the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) program. The SDAPP program recognises that many decisions affecting the sustainability of a new building are best made early in the design process.

Fact sheets can be found below for each of the key sustainability categories. These fact sheets provide more information about each category including design strategies, guidelines and best practice standards. 

Assessment tools and resources

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

  • BESS (Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard 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.
  • Accurate and FirstRate 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.