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Architects, Building Designers and Draftings

Designing your home for the Small lot code : Questions and Answers

 Question; I am looking at advice on what I can do with a small lot, a friend said I need a town planner, is that true?

This is not the case. The small lot code is self accessible which means that as long as your small lot home fits within the code there is no special planning required. Only when you are trying to design your house outside of the code's restrictions or if your project is in a Traditional Building Character Overlay will a development approval be triggered.

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Question:  What are the building restrictions in regards to the size of the house that I can put on a small lot?​

The rules for the dwelling house (small lot) code for the allowable building footprint, building heights and setbacks are quite complex. The allowable building footprint depends upon the size of your block, here are some quick guides to help.

​​Maximum building footprint:
  • 50% where the lot is 400m2 or more; or

  • 60% where the lot is 300m2 or more and less than 400m2; or

  • 70% where the lot is 200m2 or more and less than 300m2; or

  •  80% where the lot is less than 200m2.


The maximum overall building length on a small lot is:

  • 25.0m regardless of the length or size of your block


The maximum building height on a small lot is:

  • 9.5 m overall above natural ground (eg roof apex or viewing decks etc)  but... the dwelling can only have a maximum of 7.5m at the side setbacks where the building is typically 1.0m from the side boundary.

  • This is part of the code that a lot of people find confusing, even though the general rule for a maximum building ht is 9.5m this generally refers to the roof apex. So why is there a 7.5m rule to the minimum side setbacks? Well council is concerned about is overshadowing your neighbour's property and with most small lot homes typically built with a 1.0m side setback, this will occur. 

  • But don't panic!  if you have good cause to exceed the 7.5m rule such as building on a sloping block you can apply for a code accessible DA and still get council approval, provided that what you are intending to do is within reason.

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Question: What are the building setbacks for small lot homes?
  • 3.0m where there are no adjoining houses; or

  • The same as the least setback of adjoining houses; or

  • 6.0m where both adjoining dwellings have a setback of more than 6.0m.


Sides: (in general)

  • 1.0m for habitable areas with a maximum height of 7.5m; or

  • 0.5m for non-habitable areas with a maximum length of;

    • 15.0m in low-medium density, medium density and high density zoned areas with a maximum height of 3.5m;

    • 9.0m   in a low-density residential zone or Character residential zone areas with a maximum height of 3.5m.

    • Built to boundary walls in Character residential areas require your neighbour's consent.

  • 0.0m where;

    • you are matching the extent of an existing built to boundary wall on the adjoining property, or

    • the adjoining property is 300m2 or less and not in a Character zone precinct, or

    • further conditions may be applicable if your block is 7.5m or less in average width so please seek further advice. 

Rear setbacks:

  • 6.0m on a lot with an average depth of more than 25m; or

  • On a lot with an average depth of 25m or less;

    • 3.0m for a wall up to 4.5m high or

    • 4.5m for a wall over 4.5m high.

Question; I am looking at the small lot code and it states that the upper level must overhang the garage.

Is there a way around this?

The reason for this is to create a shadow effect over the garage making it look a little less dominating from the street.  The only time you don't have to comply with this is when the slope of the block is quite steep (1:4) and the garage needs to be separated from the main house.  The disadvantage of this is the overall length of the house must still be no greater than 25.0m​

Question;  I am trying to understand the screening and privacy solutions that are stipulated in the small lot code. It looks like I need to have privacy screens to all my upstairs windows, mainly to the side of my home and this includes my balcony as well, this sounds pretty severe? 

Privacy screening is only an issue when you can look directly into a neighbour's window that is within a 45 deg angle of your view and is usually only an issue on the upper level.

If you do have to comply with screening you can either screen the windows externally as per the code or think about ​having you window sill finish 1500 above the floor. 

Question: I would like to have a roof deck or viewing platform incorporated into the design.

This is a regular request and just because you see different on other existing developments you must abide by the following rules, any viewing platform:

(a) is set back at least 1.5m from the side boundary;

(b) has a floor level no more than 7m above natural ground level

or 1.5m less than the height of the roof, whichever is less.

* Explanation of (b) means that no matter how high your development is, your rooftop deck cannot be higher than 7m above the natural ground ht if you are sticking to the code.

One last question; Are these all of the answers I need to know regarding the small lot house code?

I have only touched on the areas where I see a lot of people asking about or misinterpreting the small lot code.

Feel free to contact me at any time to gain further advice.

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