Sustainable design assessment in the planning process

Moreland City Council is committed to creating an environmentally sustainable and liveable city.

Incorporating sustainable design into new development

Incorporating environmentally sustainable design into new development is now a requirement under the Merri-bek Planning Scheme. Clause 22.08 Environmentally Sustainable Development was introduced in November 2015. The overarching objective is that development should achieve best practice in environmentally sustainable development from the design stage through to construction and operation.

The policy provides objectives and application requirements for residential, mixed use and non-residential development. It recognises the importance of considering environmentally sustainable design at the time of planning approval for new development.

If you are applying for a planning permit to construct a new building, you will need to provide information with your planning permit application across the following areas:

  • Energy
  • Water resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Stormwater management
  • Transport
  • Waste management
  • Urban ecology

For more information about each of these categories, including design strategies, see Moreland's Sustainable Design Standards.  

If you are preparing a planning application, we encourage you to come in for a pre-application meeting or speak to Council's Sustainable Built Environment Unit on 9240 1111 to discuss your application.

Application requirements

The information to be submitted with a planning application is proportionate to the scale and complexity of the proposed development. 

Type of development Application requirements Example tools
Accommodation / Mixed Use with residential component of:    
  • 2-9 dwellings; or
  • Development of a building for accommodation other than dwellings with a gross floor area between 50sqm and 1000sqm
Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA)



  • Development of 10 or more dwellings
  • Development of a building for accommodation other than dwellings with a gross floor area of more than 1000sqm
Sustainability Management Plan (SMP)


Green Star



  • Development of a non-residential building with a gross floor area between 100sqm and 1000sqm
Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA)




  • Development of a non-residential building with a gross floor area or more than 1000sqm

Sustainability Management Plan (SMP)

Green Travel Plan (GTP)


Green Star




Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA) for small scale development

A Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA) is a document that sets out the sustainable design features of a proposed development.

The Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS) can be used to undertake a Sustainable Design Assessment. Submit the BESS report with your planning application to satisfy the requirements under Clause 22.08 for an SDA.

It is important that all relevant initiatives are clearly annotated on architectural drawings.

Typically, it should not be necessary to engage a sustainability consultant to prepare a Sustainable Design Assessment.

We have prepared an example SDA and accompanying plans to assist you preparing your own documentation.

Download example architectural plans

These plans contain the required ESD aspects, such as details about glazing, external shading, rainwater tanks and water sensitive urban design measures. An accompanying example SDA is found here (insert hyperlink). This example SDA contains an overview of the development, a BESS report, preliminary NatHERS ratings and a STORM report.

Sustainability Management Plan (SMP) for large scale development

A Sustainability Management Plan (SMP) is more detail than an SDA. It sets out the sustainable design features of large developments as defined in the above table, and it provides more information about how the performance outcomes will be achieved (including implementation schedules).

A BESS report alone will not satisfy the requirements under Clause 22.08 of the Merri-bek Planning Scheme for a Sustainability Management Plan.

The nature of larger developments provides the opportunity for increased environmental benefits and major resource savings. Hence, greater rigour in investigation is justified.

Preparation of a Sustainability Management Plan will generally require the engagement of a sustainability consultant.

Example tools

  • BESS is a free, online sustainability assessment tool purpose-built for the planning application stage. It can assess single dwellings, multi-dwellings, non-residential and mixed use developments of any size.
  • STORM is a free, online calculator for testing whether a site achieves best practice water quality objectives. STORM is managed by Melbourne Water.
  • MUSIC is a detailed stormwater modelling software that is available for purchase from eWater.
  • Green Star is a green building certification system administered by the Green Building Council of Australia. The Green Star Design and As Built rating tool is suitable for use by large developments.

Need help planning a sustainable renovation?

The energy experts at the Australian Energy Foundation (AEF) can offer free advice to help you make sure your renovation is as energy efficient as possible, saving you money on power bills and ensuring year-round comfort. Merri-bek residents can book a call-back 20 minute phone consultation online or you can call directly on 1300 236 855 and speak with a consultant from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. 

There are some documents that are only available as PDFs on this page. If you have trouble opening or viewing a PDF document, you can contact us through our Contact page and we will arrange to provide the information in a format that suits your needs. You can also go to our Accessibility page to find out further details.