In order to cope with the rapid growth, the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) has developed a standard for the control of residential development throughout the state. This standard is titled the “Residential Design Codes” (R-Codes) which essentially provides guidelines for the quantity and type of residence/s that can be built on a block of land.

Here are a few things you need to know about the R-Codes to help you understand the possibilities you may have when purchasing a block of land.

The R-Codes designates 3 dwelling classifications:

  1. Single: “a dwelling standing wholly on its own green title or survey strata lot […] and excludes dwellings on titles with areas held in common property.”
  2. Grouped: “a dwelling that is one of a group of two or more dwellings on the same lot such that no dwelling is placed wholly or partly vertically above another, except in conditions where the landscape or topography dictates otherwise, and includes a dwelling on a survey strata with common property.”
  3. Multiple: “a dwelling in a group of more than one dwelling on a lot where any part of the plot ratio area of a dwelling is vertically above any part of the plot ratio area.” This includes any dwellings above the ground floor, in a mixed use development. However, it excludes those already classified as grouped dwellings.

The R-Codes are determined by a number of different R-Zoning such as R20, R30 or R80. These numbers may cause confusion but are simply there to give you information on the number of residences you could fit on a 10,000m2 block of land. It is helpful to work out the minimum block size you can achieve per residence and maximize the potential of your lot. However, keep in mind that many other factors will impact your development like the existing configuration, the type of dwellings and the frontage of the lot. Before you commit to a block of land and delve into the planning stage of the building, check with your council the R-Zoning. To give you an overall idea on the R-Zoning, the codes R25 and below are considered low-density, whereas, the medium density is from R30 to R60. The codes R80 and above represent the high-density areas.

On the other hand, the Residential Design Codes are not only about densities and block sizes. It also gives you directions on other factors such as the mandatory minimum open space, the maximum height that a dwelling can reach, the boundary setbacks, the access and the parking required on the site, the site works requirements works etc.

For instance, a boundary setback will depend on the length and height of the proposal wall but also the size of the openings. The overall boundary setbacks are 6m from the primary street (front boundary – depending on density) and 1.5m from the secondary street (side street on a corner block). However, this data is subject to variations permitted under Design Principle clauses specified in the R-Codes.

Another example is that the R-Codes provide specific guidelines about the boundary setbacks impacting on privacy requirements and size of openings. It distinguishes two different sizes of openings as the following:

– Major opening: “a window, door or another opening in the exterior wall of a habitable room (i.e. used for normal domestic activities) that provides external means of light of view for that room of space”

– Minor opening: “in aggregate does not exceed 1m2 in any such wall; or is glazed in an obscure material; or is not able to be opened; or have a sill height not less than 1.6m above floor level.” (Definitions are taken from the R-Codes in use at time of writing). Minor openings will allow you to build closer to the boundary. See below an excerpt of Table 2a and 2b from the Residential Design Codes (2015) showing how close you can build to the boundary.

For instance, if the building you are proposing has a 11m long wall along the side boundary with a major window for your bedroom. If, that wall is 6m high (measured from the natural ground level to the top of the wall), then according to Table 2b you will need 3.1m setback.

In a nutshell, it is important to keep in mind that the R-Codes can be interpreted differently from one person to another. Each council has developed variations to the R-Codes which can at times allow a more flexible approach but sometimes can also restrict your design.

If you are planning on designing your house and would like advice on the relevant R-codes and what you are allow to do on the site, ⇒ GET IN TOUCH ⇐ with one of our building designers to help you work out the best solution.