15.4 - Key Design Principles

High quality design supports the creation of good places and has a positive impact on health and well-being. All development will be expected to incorporate exemplary standards of high quality sustainable and inclusive urban design and architecture befitting the city’s environment and heritage and its diverse range of locally distinctive neighbourhoods. The following key design principles will be considered in the assessment of development proposals.

15.4.1 Healthy Placemaking

Healthy placemaking is a combined approach to planning, design and management of public spaces. Good placemaking design will ensure the success of local areas and spaces which will promote activity and provide vitality to an area, positively contributing to public health and well- being. It is essential that new developments have regard to good healthy placemaking principles to create climate resilient environments in which people want to engage, resulting in sustainable, well designed and strong communities.

All developments will be encouraged to support the creation and nurturing of sustainable neighbourhoods and healthy communities, which are designed to facilitate active travel including walking and cycling, close to public transport insofar as possible, and a range of community infrastructure, in quality, more intensive mixed-use environments in line with the principles of the 15 minute city as set out in Chapters 4 and 5. The provision of active recreation and sports facilities in new neighbourhoods and public spaces will be supported as well as greening measures including the use of nature based water retention infrastructure in the public realm (see policy GI27, objective GIO5).

Key principles to consider are:

  • The contribution to the public realm for the benefit and / or enjoyment of the locality.
  • The ability to create a sense of place and community using existing site features, tree coverage and landscaping to support green infrastructure and healthy streets.
  • The use of high quality materials and finishes including hard and soft landscaping.
  • The orientation of open space and the accessibility to daylight and sunlight.
  • Quality of proposed public, private, and communal open spaces and recreational facilities and the relationship of proposed open spaces with any existing public open space including linkages and permeability to adjacent neighbourhood, facilities and streets.
  • The accessibility of the development and the traffic calming measures in place in accordance with DMURS.
  • The attractiveness of the development for various activities such as walking, cycling, sitting, dining etc.
  • Inter-relationship of buildings / dwellings, roads, pedestrian ways, neighbourhood centre facilities and local parks and green areas – active frontages and passive surveillance will be encouraged.

15.4.2 Architectural Design Quality

Imaginative, innovative and contemporary architecture is encouraged in all development proposals, provided that it respects Dublin’s heritage and local distinctiveness and enriches the city environment. Through its design, use of materials and finishes, development will make a positive contribution to the townscape and urban realm, and to its environmental performance.

Through the use of high quality materials and finishes and the appropriate building form, the architectural quality of development should positively contribute to the urban design and streetscape, enhancing the overall quality of the urban environment. In particular, development should respond creatively to and respect and enhance its context.

The urban form and layout of a development can influence a range of factors including microclimatic impacts and visual impacts. In this regard, the layout, position and composition of buildings on a site should be considered. The layout of a development should be designed to be attractive to all users, particularly pedestrians, cyclists, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Key principles to consider are:

  • The character of both the immediately adjacent buildings, and the wider scale of development and spaces surrounding the site.
  • The existing context and the relationship to the established pattern, form(s), density and scale of surrounding townscape, taking account of existing rhythms, proportion, symmetries, solid to void relationships, degree of uniformity and the composition of elevations, roofs and building lines. The scale and pattern of existing streets, squares, lanes and spaces should be considered.
  • The existing palette of materials and finishes, architectural detailing and landscaping including walls, gates, street furniture, paving and planting.
  • The suitability of the proposed design to its intended landuse and the wider land-use character of the area, along with its relationship with and contribution to the public realm.
  • The design of new development should respect and enhance the Dublin’s natural assets such as river and canal frontages, the River Liffey and many quality open spaces that contribute positively to the cityscape and urban realm, the settings of protected structures, areas of special interest and important views and that the design incorporates high quality detail, materials and craftsmanship.
  • The need to protect and enhance natural features of the site, including trees and any landscape setting.
  • The context and orientation in relation to daylight, sunlight and overshadowing and environmental performance including climate impacts such as downdraft or wind tunnelling.
  • The main routes which should be distinguished by exploiting vistas, key buildings and landmarks with the activities and functions of the places made visible, thus bringing a sense of liveliness to spaces.
  • Landmark features which can be used to give treatment to main entrances to a development, complement open spaces and assist in place-making and identity.

15.4.3 Sustainability and Climate Action

Good design has a key role to play in both reducing waste and emissions which contribute to climate change. These issues must be considered from the outset of the design process. Development proposals will be expected to minimise energy use and emissions that contribute to climate change during the lifecycle of the development with an aspiration towards zero carbon, and ensure the reduction, re-use or recycling of resources and materials, including water, waste and aggregates. To minimise the waste embodied energy in existing structures, the re-use of existing buildings should always be considered as a first option in preference to demolition and new build. See Section 15.7 for further details on energy requirements.

Key sustainable design principles to consider are (See also Section 15.6 on Green Infrastructure):

  • Buildings should be designed to minimise resource consumption, reduce waste, conserve water, promote efficient energy use and use appropriate renewable technologies.
  • Design should optimise natural or heat recovery ventilation, minimise overshadowing and minimise glare and excessive solar gain.
  • Materials should be selected which are sustainably sourced and existing materials re-used and recycled wherever possible. The use of green building materials and low embodied energy products such as low carbon cement and recycled materials is encouraged.
  • Design should enhance biodiversity and provide for accessible open space and landscaping which enhances the ecological value of a site. Greening measures should be included such as the incorporation of green roofs and walls, planting and trees. See also policies as detailed in Chapter 10.
  • Developments should incorporate a Surface Water Management Plan in accordance with the requirements of Appendix 13 – the Council’s Surface Water Management Guidance – see policy SI25.
  • New public and private spaces must incorporate proposals for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) in their design, where appropriate, in accordance with the Council’s Guidance Document for implementing SuDS Solutions (2021). See also Appendix 12 and policy SI22 and SI23.
  • For larger schemes, consideration should be given to district heating schemes and combined heat and power (CHP) – see policy CA11, CA15, CA16, CA17, CA18 and Section 15.7.2 below.

15.4.4 Inclusivity and Accessibility

An inclusive environment is one which values diversity and difference and encompasses the needs of a wide range of user groups, as well as being sufficiently flexible and versatile to be able to adapt to diverse and changing needs and life circumstances. Development proposals, including all new large scale developments, whether they relate to new buildings, public realm works, changes of use or alterations to existing buildings, must be designed to meet the mobility needs and convenience of all, and incorporate inclusive design principles particularly for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Within new buildings and spaces, this will include consideration of issues such as provision of level circulation, lifts, doors widths, surface finishes, signs and information. The needs of occupants of different ages and stages of life should also be considered, ensuring form, construction and internal arrangement of the building will enable future adaptability. Access to the environment should also consider ways in which services and information can be provided to meet the needs of all users. All public buildings should ensure appropriate disability access, including disability car parking where feasible. The Council will support the retrofitting of public buildings where appropriate to ensure optimal accessibility.

The historic environment poses particular challenges for fully delivering all-inclusive access, however, there will almost always be scope to improve access for all without compromising the character of an existing structure of special interest – detailed advice is provided in the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities re-issued by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG) in 2011. Access to the environment in this context, may not just be about physical access, but should also consider the ways in which services and information can be provided to meet the needs of all users. See also Section and

Dublin City Council will have regard to the Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland issued by the National Disability Authority and Housing Options for our Ageing Population, issued by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Health, the National Disability Authority’s Building For Everyone: A Universal Design Approach 2012 and will seek to encourage the implementation of best practice standards with regard to access in relation to both indoor and outdoor environments. Part M of the Building Regulations sets out standards to ensure that buildings are accessible and usable by everyone, including the aged, people with disabilities and people with children. The Technical Guidance Document in relation to Part M provides guidance on the access requirements for public buildings and for residential dwellings. Volume 2 of the Development Plan, under Appendix 5 Transport and Mobility: Technical Requirements, provides a list of requirements for retail and commercial planning applications.

15.4.5 Safe and Secure Design

The relationship between buildings and their adjoining spaces strongly influences the sense of personal safety and design plays a key role in ensuring that spaces are well designed and have appropriate passive surveillance. All residential developments shall refer to Design for Safety and Security’ guidance contained in the DEHLG ‘Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities – Best Practice Guidelines for Delivering Homes Sustaining Communities’ (2007).

New developments and refurbishments should be designed to promote safety and security and avoid anti-social behaviour by:

  • Maximising passive surveillance of streets, open spaces, play areas and surface parking.
  • Avoiding the creation of blank facades, dark or secluded areas or enclosed public areas.
  • Eliminating leftover pockets of land with no clear purpose.
  • Providing adequate lighting.
  • Providing a clear distinction between private and communal or public open space, including robust boundary treatment.
  • Enabling residents to watch over the entrance to their home; recessed entrances should be avoided and front doors should also be overlooked from other houses or from well-trafficked public areas.
  • Locating back gardens next to other back gardens or secure private areas rather than on to roadways or other public areas.
  • Ensuring that the layout and design of roads within residential areas encourages appropriate traffic volumes and speeds.
  • Providing clear and direct routes through the area for pedestrians and cyclists with safe edge treatment, maintaining clear sight lines at eye level and clear visibility of the route ahead.
  • Using materials in public areas which are sufficiently robust to discourage vandalism.
  • Avoiding the planting of fast-growing shrubs and trees where they would obscure lighting or pedestrian routes; shrubs should be set back from the edge of paths.
  • Consulting with An Garda Síochána crime prevention design advisor where appropriate; Dublin City Council will also have regard to the Guidelines on Joint Policing Committees as established under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended (2014), in order to ensure safe and secure communities.


On housing developments over 100 units, the Council will require the submission of a Community Safety Strategy (see objective QHSNO15) which would set out the design features incorporated to address the above measures to ensure a high level of safety and security is maintained including, overlooking, passive surveillance, street lighting and clear accessible routes.