What is Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS)?

Understanding BESS

The Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS) is an online assessment tool created and maintained by local governments to help development applicants and councils achieve sustainable design outcomes for their communities. The tool is available at bess.net.au and assesses the sustainability of all building types in the early stages of design. Initially funded by the Victorian State Government and local government contributions, BESS was launched in 2015. It is owned by the Municipal Association of Victoria for the Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE) and is governed by the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) framework and advised by the SDAPP Technical Reference Panel.

In order to produce more sustainable building outcomes for the long-term benefit of the larger community, the SDAPP framework incorporates essential environmental performance objectives as part of the planning permit approvals process. Water, energy, stormwater quality, indoor air quality, transportation, trash, urban ecology, building management to support these, and innovation are all included in this. BESS was created specifically with the planning permission stage and the SDAPP architecture in mind.

To meet council sustainability requirements, developers and building owners can utilise a dynamic interface to construct a sustainability evaluation of their project. It is meant to be adaptable and offers a variety of approaches and options for proving compliance.  Over 33,000 new homes and 5.6 million square metres of building floor space were covered by over 4,000 new BESS projects developed in 2020–21. BESS is capable of evaluating any form of building, including mixed-use, commercial, and residential ones. It does not penalise a development depending on location because it is location neutral.

The tool is updated often; for information on the most recent version, visit the BESS website or subscribe to the BESS newsletter. Although developers are free to use whichever technology they like to perform an ESD evaluation for a planning permit application, BESS is strongly advised for all new applications.

What is the history of BESS?

Under the direction of the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE) is an autonomous coalition of municipalities in Victoria. Through the Victorian planning process, it aims to increase the built environment’s sustainability. As of mid-2022, CASBE has 40 member councils, encompassing over 67% of the state’s planning activities and representing more than 70% of Victorians.
BESS has 29 subscriber councils as of mid-2022. A tool maintained by CASBE called BESS, or the Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard, is intended to help councils and development applicants achieve sustainable design results for their communities. The only source of funding for BESS operations is subscription fees from municipalities. The SDAPP Governance Board, a division of the CASBE Steering Committee, is in charge of managing the tool. The BESS Manager is in charge of the tool’s daily administration.

Users of BESS in the development sector are limited to organising initiatives through BESS subscriber councils. In order to facilitate a more efficient relationship between local government and the development industry in Victoria, CASBE enables councils to pool resources and harmonise processes.

The BESS, the ESD Local Policies, and the Sustainable Design Fact Sheets are under the control of CASBE councils. All of these tools help councils provide a unified strategy for evaluating the sustainability of buildings. For at least 20 years, councils have been attempting to include sustainability into planning.

On the CASBE website, www.casbe.org.au, you may find a current list of the organization’s members. The BESS website, www.bess.net.au, maintains a current list of BESS subscriber councils. The first six local ESD policies were gazetted in 2015, the same year that BESS was introduced. Councils started working together in 2004 to figure out how to incorporate sustainability evaluation into planning. With the help of the MAV, CASBE and the SDAPP framework were formally established in 2009.


What is the role of BESS in planning?

Victorian councils created the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) Framework to offer a simplified and uniform framework for asking for, obtaining, and evaluating built environment sustainability results during the planning process.

The SDAPP Framework identifies opportunities to enhance environmental building performance and acknowledges the importance of local governments as statutory authorities in planning matters. It also ensures that sustainability is taken into account very early in the design process by providing a framework for the evaluation of sustainable design components of planning applications.
The optimum time to take advantage of chances for effective orientation and other activities that produce habitable, comfortable, sustainable building is now.

The SDAPP Framework is made up of:
• The policy objectives outlined in the Victorian Planning Policy Framework and more generally in local ESD Planning Policies.
• Best Practice Standards, which set forth the requirements necessary to achieve the policy’s goals (articulated in the Sustainable Design Fact Sheets and BESS)
• SDAPP auxiliary materials and resources, such as the Sustainable Design Fact Sheets and BESS

The design strategies contained in BESS are intended to achieve the goals of the regional planning policies and have a clear relationship to the Best Practice Standards indicated in the Sustainable Design Fact Sheets. The local ESD Planning Policies cite the Sustainable Design Fact Sheets and the BESS tool as sources. The CASBE website, which may be located at www.casbe.org.au, has a list of all local ESD Policies. On the DELWP website, Planning Schemes Online, at https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/schemes-and-amendments/browse-planning-schemes, you may find specific council ESD local planning policies. The websites of each council feature the Sustainable Design Fact Sheets.

The size of a project affects the amount of information and the kinds of sustainability measures that may be included, according to councils.
Two evaluation approaches have been created for projects of various sizes to address this issue: the Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA) and a Sustainability Management Plan (SMP). Each council’s local planning policy includes a set of goals and tactics that are essentially consistent.

The criteria for a Sustainable Design Assessment are met by a BESS report. The BESS report is an appendix to a more comprehensive report for bigger projects that call for a Sustainability Management Plan. These conditions must be met for both residential and non-residential developments, according to each council’s local planning policy. Different councils have different triggers. If uncertain, check with the relevant council or view their online planning scheme. An SDA or an SMP can be prepared using BESS.

Any planning permission documentation that has been endorsed will contain a reference to the final version of the SMP or SDA. The BESS questions and credits are modified to reflect the kind and extent of your growth. This occurs following the creation and configuration of your project on the Project Details page. To decide if your development needs an SDA or an SMP, there is nothing you need to do in BESS.

The consultant writing this report must consult the endorsed SMP, which also includes the BESS report. Planning enforcement officials from the council also monitor adherence to planning permits. As the responsible body charged with enforcing and administering the planning scheme, councils play a part in this. If they believe a planning violation has occurred, members of the public may ask the council to conduct a planning enforcement enquiry.

However, you should consult the local planning scheme to find out if an SDA or SMP is necessary. In addition to a Sustainability Management Plan that has been approved, council may impose a planning permit requirement that calls for the submission of a report before occupation that certifies all SMP-related actions have been taken. This might also be known as a Post Construction SMP, ESD Implementation Report, or ESD Compliance Report.

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