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Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria




The ease of reaching destinations. In a highly accessible location, a person, regardless of age, ability or income, can reach many activities or destinations quickly, whereas people in places with low accessibility can reach fewer places in the same amount of time. The accessibility of an area can be a measure of travel speed and travel distance to the number of places ('destination opportunities') to be reached. The measure may also include factors for travel cost, route safety and topography gradient.

Active frontage

Refers to street frontages where there is an active visual engagement between those in the street and those on the ground and upper floors of buildings.

This quality is assisted where the front facade of buildings, including the main entrance, faces and opens towards the street. Ground floors may accommodate uses such as cafes, shops or restaurants. However, for a frontage to be active, it does not necessarily need to be a retail use, nor have continuous windows. A building's upper floor windows and balconies may also contribute to the level of active frontage. Active frontages can provide informal surveillance opportunities and often improve the vitality and safety of an area. The measures of active frontage may be graded from high to low activity.

Active use

Active uses are uses that generate many visits, in particular pedestrian visits, over an extended period of the day. Active uses may be shops, cafes, and other social uses. Higher density residential and office uses also can be active uses for particular periods of the day.

Activity centre

Activity centres within cities and towns are a focus for enterprises, services, shopping, employment and social interaction. They are where people meet, relax, work and often live. Usually well-served by public transport, they range in size and intensity of use from local neighbourhood strip shopping centres to traditional town centres and major regional centres. An activity centre generally has higher intensity uses at its central core with smaller street blocks and a higher density of streets and lots. The structure of activity centres should allow for higher intensity development, street frontage exposure for display and pedestrian access to facilities.

Adaptability (or 'adaptive re-use')

The capacity of a building or space to respond to changing social, technological, economic and market conditions and accommodate new or changed uses.


The features of an area, street or building, that provide facilities and services that contribute to physical or material comfort and benefit, and are valued by users. An amenity can be either tangible, such as open space, seating, a swimming pool or gym; or intangible, such as pleasant views, air quality, or proximity to a local school or supermarket.

Arterial road

The principal routes for the movement of people and goods within a road network. They connect major regions, centres of population, major transport terminals and provide principal links across and around cities. Arterial roads are divided into primary and secondary arterial roads. Declared arterial roads are managed by VicRoads. Also see 'Major roads'.


Barriers and fences

Barriers such as bollards and fences can define boundaries and protect people from traffic hazards and level changes. They also protect trees and shrubs from people and vehicles. A barrier may be made as bollards, screens, rails, fences, kerbs and walls. Barriers and fences can provide an opportunity for public art or to communicate local stories. They may also provide opportunities for seating.

Blank wall

A wall which has few or no windows or doors, and has no decoration or visual interest. See also active frontage.

Building line

The actual or apparent line created by a building's front wall along a street.

A consistent building line in a street can visually unify diverse building types and forms, and can assist new buildings to fit in with the surrounding context. The building line, whether setback or situated on the street edge, is an important aspect of urban character.

Buildings in activity centres

Buildings in activity centres accommodate a wide range of uses, such as living, working, shopping and services. Buildings in these locations may be larger than those in surrounding neighbourhoods, occupy more of the site area and be built to the front and side boundaries. They may incorporate a mix of uses that mean people are present at different times of the day.

Built form

The height, volume and overall shape of a building as well as its surface appearance.


Car parking lot

Car parking lots are open areas of land used for parking cars. They can be publicly or privately owned and are generally located in activity centres, at train and bus stations, and other facilities accessed by car. Some higher density residential developments may incorporate private car parking lots.

Car parking structure

Car parking structures are buildings used solely for car parking or mixed with other uses, and may provide parking for residents, commercial tenants, shoppers and visitors. They can be constructed above or below ground.

Car parking structures cater for both vehicle and pedestrian movement, however pedestrians may be required to share paths with vehicles to reach a lift or stairwell, which can be a safety hazard.

Car parking, on-street (see On-street parking)

On-street parking is part of the movement network. On-street parking provides convenient, short-term parking in close proximity to activities and destinations. On-street parking may be arranged as parallel, indented, or angled bays, at kerbside or in centre-road islands. The street type and use pattern determines the appropriate type of on-street parking used. It plays an important role in inner urban areas with limited off-street parking.


A commercial system providing access to cars on demand for rent either by the hour or by the day. Carshare vehicles have dedicated on-street parking spaces, at locations throughout the service area, and often located for access by public transport.

Circulation space (or 'circulation area')

Circulation spaces are part of the common area of a commercial, mixed use or higher density residential building and are used by occupants, residents and other building users. These spaces include foyers, corridors, car parking areas, and garden and recreation areas.

Communal open space

An area within a private site providing for informal recreation activities for common use by building occupants and, in some cases, visitors. It is distinct from private open space. Some communal open spaces can be accessible to the public (such as that associated with a library or hospital) while other spaces can be accessible to customers only (such as the courtyard of a restaurant or café).

Concealment place

Spaces that are not easily visible and provide the opportunity to conceal potential offenders, their victims, illegitimate uses, antisocial activity or crimes.


The number of connecting routes within a particular area, often measured by counting the number of intersection equivalents per unit of area. An area may be measured for its 'connectivity' for different travel modes – vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian. An area with high connectivity has an open street network that provides multiple routes to and from destinations.

Continuous accessible paths of travel (CAPT)

An uninterrupted path of travel to or within a building that provides access to all facilities. This kind of path avoids any step, stairway, turnstile, revolving door, escalator or other impediment that would prevent it being safely negotiated by people with disabilities.

Crossover (vehicle crossover)

Part of a pedestrian path where motor vehicles cross to access a property. The pedestrian path section may be raised to path level to alert drivers to the crossing, or the path may be dropped to form a ramp for pedestrians.


A street with only one inlet/outlet connected to the wider street network.

A closed cul-de-sac provides no possible passage except through the single road entry. An open cul-de-sac allows cyclists, pedestrians or other non- automotive traffic to pass through connecting paths at the cul-de-sac head.


Design response

Explanation and demonstration of how a proposed building development or public space design is informed by and responds to the site and context analysis.

Design standard

A statement of function and performance criteria for the production of an object or place, often as agreed by a professional, technical or representative body.

Desire-line (or 'pedestrian desire-line')

The desire-line path usually represents the preferred route and the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination. Desire- lines can often be seen as alternative shortcut tracks in places where constructed pathways take a circuitous route. They are almost always the most direct and the shortest route between two points.


Edge condition

A term used in urban design analysis to describe the transition or interface characteristics of a public space with its adjacent land uses and structures. An edge may be 'active', with a building's doors and windows addressing the space, or it may be 'inactive', with blank walls or a barrier edge, such as a water body, high traffic volume road or infrastructure corridor. The edge condition assessment is part of the urban context analysis.

Enclosure (or 'sense of enclosure')

Where the building frontage height, street width and street tree canopy creates a feeling of a contained space within the street.

Entrapment place

Small confined areas, shielded on three sides by some sort of barrier that may be used by criminal offenders to trap potential victims or to conceal themselves. The area may be poorly lit, have limited sightlines and have no possible escape route.

Escape route

An alternative and safe means of exit from an area. See also 'Entrapment place'.


Facade (or 'building facade')

The principal wall of a building that is usually facing the street and visible from the public realm. It is the face of the building and helps inform passers-by about the building and the activities within.

Frontage (or 'front lot line')

The property boundary that abuts the street. If a property abuts two or more streets, it is the boundary the building or proposed building faces.


Higher density residential building

Higher density residential buildings house a number of individual apartment dwellings in a single building, and are five or more storeys in height. They may be residential only or residential combined with other uses such as retail, offices or car parking

Higher density residential precinct

A higher density residential precinct generally has larger lot sizes that are able to accommodate apartment and mixed-use developments. The precinct may be in or adjacent to an activity centre or within a large development site. The structure of a higher density residential precinct provides a high level of amenity in public spaces, access to facilities and services, while protecting privacy and personal safety.


Informal surveillance

Observation, from the street or from adjacent buildings, provided by ordinary people as they go about their daily activities. This kind of observation can deter criminal activity or anti-social behaviour and make places feel safer.

Sometimes termed 'casual surveillance' and 'eyes-on-the-street'.


Key public space

Key public spaces may be located in parks, plazas, or streets. They are generally public places of significance, with high levels of amenity. They may be identified through strategic assessment processes.


Land development

The construction, buildings or works made on a parcel of land to support the use to which the land is put.

Land use

The purpose for which the land has been or is being or may be developed. The activity on the land.


A travel path for a vehicle as part of a roadway. As in 'bicycle lane', 'traffic lane', or 'bus lane'.


A vehicular way or pedestrian access way, often narrower that a street, located to the rear or side of lots providing access to the service areas, parking and outbuildings, and it may accommodate utility easements.

Large development site

Large parcels of land within cities and towns sometimes become available for redevelopment and new uses. Often in prime locations, these sites can be publicly owned (such as railway corridors, surplus government land or dockyards) or they can be former commercial, industrial or institutional sites that are no longer needed for their original purpose. They may be located in activity centres or are accessible to transport connections, services and jobs.

Large format retail premises

Large format retail premises are mostly free-standing buildings or complexes with a single large building footprint, and associated infrastructure. They are often single-level or low-rise buildings and they may include large at-grade car parking lots or car parking structures. They can be shopping centres, supermarkets, restricted retail premises or department stores. Large format retail premises differ from other large buildings with regard to visitor patterns, goods delivery requirements, and goods display practices. They are often located in high visibility places, for example at major road intersections or adjacent to highways that are highly accessible by car.


The ease with which a person is able to see, understand and find their way around an area, building or development. A 'legible' layout is one that people find easy to navigate and move through.

Level-of-service (also called 'quality of service' or 'service quality')

The capacity and effectiveness of a system's functionality, as experienced by users, to provide the service for which it is intended. For a pedestrian street or a park, the service can comprise various factors such as active, interesting surroundings, path width, pavement surface, seating opportunities, obstacles, safety from traffic, cleanliness.

Light spill

Unwanted light falling on areas outside those intended for illumination, and  that causes annoyance, discomfort, distraction, or a reduction in visibility. Often defined as light illuminating areas outside the property line containing the lighting system. But may also be applied to lighting in public spaces that affects amenity in private spaces.


Lighting performs a number of functions, from supporting way-finding, orientation and safe movement at night to providing a decorative effect for building facades, landmarks and paths. Lighting systems can be large- scale and utilitarian, or small and ornamental. They may use overhead lamps, bollards, up-lights, bulkhead or veranda lighting, feature and facade illumination. Shop display lighting can also contribute to overall public realm lighting levels. Lighting is critical to creating a public realm that is safe and inviting for users.

Local park

Local parks are green public spaces up to about one hectare in size and may include trees, grass, gardens and playgrounds and are located within easy reach of users. Some local parks also include water features, cafes or sports facilities. The location of a park in the movement network often influences its useability.


Main street

The principal retail and small business street in an area, a focus of many local trips, and accommodating higher volumes of pedestrians.

Major road

Major roads accommodate high volumes of motor vehicle traffic including public transport and freight, and have higher design speeds (60–100 km/h). Major roads can have two or more traffic lanes in each direction and may provide for on-street car parking, bus lanes or tram tracks, bicycle lanes, as well as verge space for pedestrian paths, infrastructure and landscaping. Also see 'Arterial roads'.

Mixed-use development

A range of complementary uses within the same building, site or precinct. The different uses may be arranged floor by floor, or side by side. The uses may be residential, commercial, retail or institutional.

Movement network

The interconnected system of streets, roads and paths that accommodates pedestrians and cyclists, on-road public transport, emergency and private vehicles. The movement network connects places and activities, and allows people and goods to reach their intended destinations and to access private land. The movement network is managed by a number of agencies, each with different responsibilities and interests.


Objects in the public realm (includes 'street furniture')

Objects in the public realm include those items located in streets and public spaces that are either for public use and convenience, or for utilities infrastructure and services. Objects include street furniture, service cabinets, trees and planting, barriers and fencing, lighting, signs and small public buildings and structures.

Off-road public transport

Public transport that runs on a network largely independent of streets and arterial roads. It includes light rail, metropolitan and regional rail. It does not include on-road public transport such as the metropolitan bus and tram network.

On-road public transport

See 'Public transport on roads'.

On-street parking

On-street parking is part of the movement network. On-street parking provides convenient, short-term parking in close proximity to activities and destinations. On-street parking may be arranged as parallel, indented, or angled bays, at kerbside or in centre-road islands. The street type and use pattern determines the appropriate type of on-street parking used. It plays an important role in inner urban areas with limited off-street parking.

Open space

See 'Public open space' and 'Private open space'.


A place from which a view is possible; a vantage point.



A pedestrian path, bicycle path or other area for use by people but not by motor vehicles.

Pedestrian and bicycle crossings

Pedestrian and bicycle crossings provide points to safely and conveniently cross roads and streets, or other barriers such as motorways, railway lines or waterways. Many crossings are located on paths to activity centres and schools, or at stations, bus or tram stops. Crossings are either at-grade or grade-separated.

Pedestrian and bicycle paths

Pedestrian and bicycle paths specifically provide for people on foot, bicycle or other mobility aid vehicles. Paths may be located on local streets and major roads, in public spaces such as parks and reserves, or through semi- public spaces such as car parking lots, forecourts and arcades. Paths may be solely for pedestrian use, cyclist use, or shared paths for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Pedestrian priority street

Pedestrian priority streets give high priority to walking, cycling and facilitating social contact, while allowing for low-speed motor vehicle traffic (under 40km per hour). These streets are usually found in areas of intense and diverse activity such as activity centres, education facilities and public transport interchanges. They accommodate diverse travel modes as well as provide a public space function. Bicycle lanes may either be provided as a separate lane, or a shared path with other modes. Streets may also restrict vehicle types or access at times.

Pedestrian shed (or 'ped shed')

A graphic representation of the area surrounding a particular destination that can be reached on foot within a specific walking time. Its extent is related to walking distances to the destination, as opposed to a simple radius from a centre point. It can be expressed as walking time (10 minutes at average walk speed), or as a distance (800m). It is related to "walkable catchment".


The extent to which the urban structure permits, or restricts, movement of people or vehicles through an area, and the capacity of the area network to carry people or vehicles.


A type of public open space connected to the street network that can range in size from a building forecourt to a large city square. A plaza may be a wide mid-block pedestrian link, bordered by buildings or attached to a public building such as a town hall, school, or entertainment and sports facility.


The lower levels of a tall building that are built up to or near the property boundary edges. The upper levels (the tower component) are set back from the lower podium building edges. The podium and tower is often arranged to achieve a relationship between the new building and existing streetscapes and urban context.

Primary use

Primary uses are those uses that have induced people to spend time in the area, such as workplaces, businesses and residences, or institutions and services like museums or libraries. Also see 'Secondary uses'.

Private land

Land that is owned by a private person or group and kept for their exclusive use. Some privately held land is available for the public to access and use, but the land owner may control aspects of access and use – see 'Public space'.

Private open space

An open area or place that is privately owned and exclusively occupied. Private open space is usually attached to a private dwelling. See also communal open space.

Public open space

Under the Subdivision Act 1988 – SECT 18, public open space is intended as a place of public resort or recreation. A public open space may be provided as a plaza, park and square. See also 'Public space', 'Public realm'.

Public realm

The public realm comprises spaces and places that are open and freely accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic or social conditions. These spaces can include streets, laneways and roads, parks, public plazas, waterways and foreshores.

Public space

An area in the public realm that is open to public access, provides a public use or recreation function, and that is owned and maintained by councils or other government agencies. However, some privately-held land is available for the public to access and use, such as a building forecourt, a walk-through, or a shopping mall. The private land owner may control aspects of access and use - see Private land.

Public transport environs

Public transport environs includes the public spaces, streets, buildings and activities located around railway stations, bus and tram interchanges, and adjacent to railway corridors.

Public transport interchange

Places where people can access or transfer between public transport modes and routes. For example, between train, tram or bus mode, or a multi-route bus or train station. Interchanges vary in size and may be stand-alone, adjacent to a railway station, or located at a transport node, such as a park- and-ride facility.

Public transport node

 A tram or bus stop, interchange or train station, and the area immediately around it.

Public transport on roads (sometimes called 'on-road public transport')

There are two main types of public transport that use the road network: the fixed tram network, which is usually located on major roads and streets; and the bus network, which operates within standard traffic lanes or in bus priority lanes. Bus and tram priority routes have priority over general traffic.


Railway corridor environs

Railway corridor environs includes the land and activities adjacent to the railway operating corridor. Along the length of the corridor, adjacent land may accommodate a variety of uses including streets and roads, public open space, residential or commercial development. Railway corridor crossing points channel and concentrate pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle movement to specific locations. Crossing points can be at-grade or grade-separated.

Railway station precinct

A railway station precinct is the area in the immediate surrounds of a railway station. Local movement networks converge on railway stations, concentrating activity in the precinct. Railway stations also provide for pedestrian crossing of the railway line. The railway station precinct can function as a social space where people meet or watch the world go by.


Safer design

Specific public space design responses aimed at promoting personal safety and reducing people's fear of and vulnerability to crime. Design actions focus on improving safety in places by increasing informal surveillance and community usage of public spaces, reducing opportunities for crime and antisocial behaviour, and creating connected and integrated streets and public places.


The size of a building in relation to its surroundings, or the size of parts or details of the building, particularly in relation to the scale of a person. Scale refers to the apparent size, not the actual size.

Secondary use

Secondary uses are those that capitalise on opportunities to serve people who are already in the area for other reasons, such as their work place, residence, or visiting institutions, services or facilities. Secondary uses may be service and convenience shops, or cafes. See also 'Primary uses'.


The distance of a building wall from any lot boundary. A building front setback can add to the perceived width of the street, provide additional public or private space, and allow space for landscaping. A building set on the front property boundary has zero street setback.

Shared path

A path that is shared by both pedestrians and cyclists, but does not accommodate motor vehicles. On a shared path, cyclists must give way to pedestrians.

Shared zone

A street where pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles share the roadway, and pedestrians outnumber motor vehicles. A shared zone has no cross motor traffic.


Lines of clear, uninterrupted sight from a viewer's location to other locations and distances.

Sign (see also 'Way-finding')

Signs give information about way-finding, directions, place and street names, cultural identity, buildings, uses and activities, or for advertising products.

They can also act as a landmark. Signs may vary in scale and appearance, and may use maps, text, images or symbols to convey information.

Site analysis

Detailed description and examination of the features of a site, to determine how these features will effect and contribute to the design of a proposed development. A site analysis directly informs the design response.

Site coverage

The proportion of a site covered by buildings.

Site description

An account of the essential characteristics of a site. It is a prerequisite for undertaking site analysis.

Small public buildings and structures

Small public buildings and structures include kiosks and vendor stalls, shelters, toilets, bicycle storage cages and utility buildings, such as electrical substations, which are most often located in public spaces. While most small public buildings and structures are permanent, some may be temporary or relocatable to allow for the flexible use of public spaces.

Street and park furniture

Street and park furniture includes seats, waste bins, drinking fountains, café furniture, bicycle parking hoops, post boxes, parking meters, payphone cabinets, vending and ticket machines. This element also includes public art, play and recreation equipment.

Street cross-section

A street cross-section is a diagram showing street details, generally from private property boundary to boundary, and includes building frontage, street edge, footpaths, verges, kerbs, services, below ground infrastructure and road space.

Street edge

The interface between building frontage or private property boundary and the street. The way a building, space or wall meets the street affects the character of the street.

Street spaces and plazas

Street spaces are that part of the street used for social purposes such as a wide footpath or a pedestrian-only mall. Plazas range from a building forecourt to a large city square. A plaza is often bordered by buildings or streets. Most street spaces and plazas are paved, and can include trees and other planting, but they are distinguished from parks. The spaces may have vehicles running adjacent to the pedestrian zone, be a shared zone, or may be free of vehicles.


The visual character of a street space that results from the combination of street width, curvature, paving, street furniture, plantings and the surrounding built form and detail. The people and activities present in the street also contribute to the streetscape.

Structure plan

A land use planning framework of policies, objectives and actions in an identified area, guiding decisions about change for a period of years into the future. The plan sets out an integrated vision for the desired future development of a place and can use clauses, diagrams and schedules to guide infrastructure, built form and land-use change in order to achieve specific environmental, social and economic objectives. The process is called structure planning.


The act of subdivision means the division of a land parcel into two or more parts which can be disposed of separately. It is also a term used for the resulting pattern of blocks and lots, and streets.


Traffic calming

Physical devices installed in streets to slow or reduce vehicle traffic and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic calming devices include speed humps, chicanes and narrows, sized for the desired speed. These measures can slow cars speed to between 15 and 40km per hour.

Trees and planting

Planting trees, shrubs and ground covers in urban areas contributes to visual interest and microclimate moderation. Trees can provide shade, shelter, and cool air pockets; they can screen an unsightly view, act as landmarks, or provide a sense of enclosure with leafy walls and ceilings. Trees are frequently the most important element for setting the character of an area.


Urban context (or 'context')

Urban context refers to the broader setting of an identified area. The context may include the physical surroundings of topography, movement patterns and infrastructure, built form and uses, the governance structures, and the cultural, social and economic environment. The urban context can include the community vision for the area, and preferred future character, form and function.

Urban context analysis

Similar to a site analysis, content analysis provides a detailed description and examination of aspects of the wider area around a site, to determine how these aspects will effect and contribute to the design of a proposed building development or public space design. An urban context analysis informs the building development or public space design response.

Urban design framework

A framework sets out, in words and graphics, the intentions, principles and actions to guide and manage changes in the public realm in particular places.

Urban structure

The overall topography and land division pattern of an urban area including street pattern, the shapes and sizes of blocks and lots. Urban structure also includes the location and types of activity centres, public transport corridors, public space, community facilities, and urban infrastructure. Whether at the scale of a city, town, neighbourhood, precinct or large development site, it is the interrelationship between all of the elements of urban structure, rather than their individual characteristics, that together make a place.

Utilities infrastructure

In this document, the utilities and infrastructure installations that are located on and take up space within street and public spaces. They may be traffic control boxes, fire hydrants, poles, overhead wires, traffic control signs.

Utilities infrastructure may also be installed below ground and could affect development at ground level.



The extent to which the built environment supports walking for transport and for recreation, where the walking environment is safe, connected, accessible and pleasant.

Walkable catchment

The area within a specified walking distance of a destination and where paths provide a specific level of service and amenity. Often a 400m walking distance is defined as walkable, being about a five minute walk for most people. More important destinations, such as train stations or major centres, may serve a wider walkable catchment.

Walkable neighbourhood

A neighbourhood where travel on foot, and also by bicycle, is made easy, direct and safe as possible for all members of the community including children, people with prams or shopping carts and those using mobility aids.

Water efficient urban design

Integrating and managing the water cycle in an area through collection, treatment and reuse technologies, to minimise environmental impacts and improve aesthetic and recreational appeal. It often includes managing both potable water use, and stormwater, groundwater and wastewater. Also known as water sensitive urban design.

Way-finding (see also 'sign')

The act of finding one's way around an area, and the experience of orientation and choosing a path within the built environment. Wayfinding can be aided by logical space planning and a consistent use and organisation of definite sensory cues, such as visual, audible or tactile elements along paths and at destinations. Signs can aid way-finding.

White light

Illumination produced from lamps where colours appear as in normal daylight.