Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD)

Geelong is committed to achieving sustainable design and development to ensure that the quality of the environment is protected and enhanced for future generations.

Promoting residential and commercial buildings that achieve higher than mandated environmental sustainable design standards is key to achieving this commitment.

Consideration of ESD principles at the design phase of a development provides the best opportunity to make the greatest amount of difference in terms of sustainability for the least amount of cost.

Large environmental improvements can be made at a profit, rather than a cost, through ESD to achieve up to an 85 per cent reduction in energy use, 60 per cent reduction in water use and 70 per cent reduction in construction waste. Research has shown that including ESD in your development can also add to the re-sale value.

ESD principles

ESD principles aim to reduce negative impacts on the environment and improve the health and comfort of buildings for occupants. ESD is an integrated and holistic approach that encourages decisions at each phase of the design process to reduce negative impacts on the environment, it includes:

  • optimising site potential

  • minimising non-renewable energy consumption

  • using environmentally friendly products

  • using energy and water efficient appliances

  • reducing potable water use

  • enhancing indoor environmental quality

  • optimising operational and maintenance practices.

Benefits of incorporating an ESD

Early consideration of ESD at the concept and design stage is key to achieving the most benefits including:

  • reduced running costs

  • lower energy bills

  • lower water consumption

  • improved amenity and liveability

  • compliance with building regulations

  • cheaper operational costs
  • improved comfort and productivity

  • demonstration of corporate responsibility

  • being able to market a building that meets or exceeds current best practice

  • reduced of costs over life of the building

  • cleaner air

  • reduction of waste during construction and life of the building.

Building regulations and ESDs

The Building Regulations mandate a minimum standard only. The benefits of looking at ESD at the planning stage includes:

  • optimising your building design as early as possible - when it comes at the lowest cost

  • obtaining planning certainty in relation to ESD by addressing Building Code of Australia (BCA) energy efficiency requirements as early as possible

  • factors such as a building’s orientation, external shading, re-use of water or the materials used can make a lasting difference to the environment and provide improved indoor comfort

  • building to best practice standards today not only future-proofs occupants against the rising costs of power and water but commonly commands higher property returns in the future.

ESD assessments

An ESD assessment looks at how a development performs against key sustainability development criteria.

Developments will ideally aim to achieve ‘best practice’ rather than just the minimum standard. Council’s free ESD assessment will be carried out against 10 Key Sustainable Building Categories (see below) by Councils ESD Advisor:

  1. indoor environment quality

  2. transport

  3. energy efficiency

  4. waste management

  5. water efficiency

  6. urban ecology

  7. stormwater management

  8. innovation 

  9. building materials

  10. construction and building management

The assessment process

  1. Suitable applications are identified for an ESD assessment

  2. Applicants offered free ESD assessment

  3. If an assessment is requested the ESD Advisor will be complete it within 2 weeks

  4. ESD Report issued to applicant for consideration

  5. Applicant chooses to take up none, some or all of the ESD recommendations

  6. If some or all of the recommendations are taken up an ESD Statement of Intent is issued.

  7. ESD Advisor to follow up with applicant for feedback

Free ESD Assessment Pilot

Council are now offering an ESD assessment for medium to large planning applications. An ESD Advisor is now available to provide pre-application advice, assess development plans and make recommendations to improve ESD credentials.

The assessment is free and any take up of recommendations is voluntary.

This pilot forms part of our broader commitment to improving the environmental outcomes within the built environment.


Initially the pilot will focus new accommodation including 3+ dwellings, mixed use development with residential components, new non-residential development creating more than 500 square metres of gross floor area (excluding outbuildings).

Additional information

It is not necessary to provide additional information in your ESD assessment - the assessment offered is based on the standard information provided as part of a planning permit application.

ESD assessment processing times

The ESD assessment process will run alongside the normal permit assessment process. It will not hold up the issuing of a permit.

ESD fact sheets - design advice across 10 key sustainable building categories

A series of fact sheets are provided with detailed advice on sustainable building design at the planning permit application stage.

These fact sheets were developed by the Cities of Port Phillip, Stonnington, Melbourne and Yarra as part of the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) program.

Page last updated: Wednesday, 14 August 2019