Designing our outdoor spaces

By Cath Hart Housing Industry of Australia WA Regional Director     www.hia.com.au

One of the spaces Western Australians enjoy most is their homes is the outdoor space. When designing a new home or renovation, the R-codes (State Planning Policy 3.1) establish principles to ensure the outdoor area is functional and respectful of other properties in the area.

The principles establish outdoor living areas to provide spaces which can be used in conjunction with a habitable room of the dwelling, are open to winter sun and ventilation and optimise use of the northern aspect of the site.                                                                                                                             Similarly if our outdoor areas are a balcony or similar, the R-codes require the outdoor living areas are to be capable of use in conjunction with a habitable room of each dwelling, and if possible, open to winter sun.

To achieve these principles, prescriptive criteria can be met or an alternative design can be developed, which needs to be approved by the local government. The prescriptive criterion looks to ensure any outdoor area is provided away from the street by ensuring it is set into the lot. It also ensures accessibility from the home by having direct access from a habitable room such as a lounge or kitchen.

To ensure the outdoor space is usable and large enough to be functional for the type of home being designed, a minimum length and width dimension of 4m is prescribed, as the overall minimum size. The minimum size required depends on the zoning of your lot – for example if the lot is zoned R30, the minimum outdoor living area will be 24sqm. As the lot zoning increases, the minimum outdoor living area reduces. R40 requires 20sqm and R50 requires 16sqm.                                                    The R-codes also recognise the importance of providing shade in summer and allow up to one-third of the outdoor living area to be roofed. This means at least two-thirds of the required area is to be without permanent roof cover for outdoor activities.

It is also important to consider the impact our activities in outdoor living spaces may have on our neighbours. The R-codes seek to have minimal direct overlooking of active habitable spaces and outdoor living areas of adjacent dwellings, which for outdoor living areas is predominantly achieved by providing larger setbacks.

For houses with zonings less than R50, the required setback prescribed is 7.5m. Where setbacks cannot be provided, a secondary option to achieve effective privacy is to provide intervening screening.

Alfresco dining is a big part of our outdoor living and outdoor kitchens with gas barbecues are increasingly common. The ventilation requirements in the R-codes also help to meet the requirements for ventilation for your gas barbecue, so bear that in mind if you are thinking of closing up an area or installing blinds in the future.

HIA members can help you balance all of these requirements to design your dream home and outdoor space.

Find a local member by visiting www.tradebuild.com.au or head to a display village and make the most of twilight opening hours from 4-7pm on Wednesdays.

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