15.9 - Apartment Standards

Apartment schemes make up the majority of the new housing stock in Dublin City. In this respect, it is, therefore, essential that high quality, attractive and liveable apartment units are provided. All apartment developments should make a positive contribution to the local area in terms of public open space and / or public realm improvements and should provide long term living environments for future residents through quality communal amenity spaces and attractive and sustainable internal units.

The Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (December 2020) available at the following link: http://www.housing.old.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/december_2020_-_design_standards_for_new_apartments.pdf or any other future amendment thereof, sets out specific planning policy requirements (SPPR) for apartment developments. These Section 28 guidelines should be referenced as part of any planning application for apartment developments. A summary of these SPPR’s together with additional requirements and standards for apartment developments are set out below.

15.9.1 Unit Mix

Specific Planning Policy Requirement 1 states that housing developments may include up to 50% one bedroom or studio type units (with no more than 20-25% of the total proposed development as studios) and there shall be no minimum requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms unless specified as a result of a Housing Need and Demand Assessment (HNDA) carried out by the Planning Authority as part of the development plan process.

As part of the preparatory research for this Plan, alongside the preparation of a HNDA for the city, two sub areas were identified for sub-city level HNDA analysis; (i) the Liberties and (ii) the North Inner City. These areas were selected due to three main factors that differentiates them in relation to this particular issue:

  1. these areas have higher volumes of smaller housing stock (both historic and twentieth century);
  2. they have significant regeneration opportunity lands and
  3. they have in recent years experienced a high proportion of Strategic Housing Development applications, which have been dominated by BTR and a preponderance of smaller units.

The outcome of these two local HNDAs indicates increased demand for two and three person households and declining demand regarding single person households. (Section 2.4.1 of Appendix 1, Annex 3 refers.)

Taking into account (i) the modelled changing demand over the lifetime of the Plan which indicates a declining demand for one bed units, and (ii) the current pattern of applications for development that have high proportions of studio and one bed units and no three bed units; it is considered appropriate that a policy response is made to address this issue within these locations.

The following requirement for unit mix are, therefore, required in these two sub-city areas; (i) the Liberties and (ii) the North Inner City. SPPR1 is applicable to the remainder of the Dublin City Council administrative area:

To require planning applications that include residential accommodation of 15 residential units for more in the North Inner City and Liberties Sub-City Areas (as per Figure 1.2 as part of Appendix 01, Annex 3) include the following mix of units:

  • A minimum of 15% three or more bedroom units.
  • A maximum of 25%-30% one bedroom / studio units.

Council Part 8 or Part 10 residential schemes may propose a different mix having regard to the specific needs of the Housing & Community Services Department.

Standards may be relaxed for other social housing needs and/or where there is a verified need for a particular form of housing, for example for older people, subject to the adjudication of the Housing & Community Services Department.

SPPR 2 provides some flexibility in terms of unit mix for building refurbishment schemes on sites of any size, urban infill schemes on sites up to 0.25 ha, schemes up to 9 units and for schemes between 10 and 49 units. The planning authority will assess each application having regard to SPPR 2 on a case by case basis. For further details, please refer to The Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (December 2020) guidelines. For clarity, in accordance with SPPR 8, the unit mix requirement for the North Inner City and Liberties Sub-City Areas does not apply to units that are designed to a BTR standard.

15.9.2 Unit Size / Layout

Specific Planning Policy Requirement 3 sets out the minimum floor areas for apartments. The minimum standards for apartments, as set out in the guidelines are as follows:

Table 15-5:      Minimum Floor Area Requirements for Apartments

Unit Type


Floor Area Requirement (min)


1 bedspace

37 sq. m.

1 bed

2 bedspaces

45 sq. m.

2 bed

4 bedspaces

73 sq. m.

3 bed

5 bedspaces

90 sq. m.


The introduction of a 2 bedroom, 3 person unit may be considered within a scheme to satisfy specialist housing for Part V social housing requirement or to facilitate appropriate accommodation for older people and care assistance.

These units will be restricted to a maximum of 10% of the overall unit mix. The 2 bedroom, 3 person unit will only be considered as part of specialist housing provision as specified above and will not be considered as standard residential accommodation.

The majority of all apartments in any proposed scheme of 10 or more apartments (excluding Build to Rent accommodation) shall exceed the minimum floor area standard for any combination of the relevant 1, 2 or 3 bedroom unit types, by a minimum of 10% (any studio apartments must be included in the total, but are not included as units that exceed the minimum by at least 10%). In accordance with the Housing Options for an Ageing Population Policy Statement 2019, 50% of the apartments that are in excess of the minimum sizes should be designed in accordance with the guidance set out in Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland 2015 to ensure that they are suitable for older people, mobility impaired people, people living with dementia and people with disabilities.

Flexibility and adaptability are key considerations in the design of residential units. The concept of habitable rooms as distinct from bedrooms is important as it allows a residential unit to adapt to the needs of its residents over time (with the exception of the studio unit).

A habitable room of suitable size and design can change from a dining room to a bedroom, to a study as needs change. In particular, the second/ third bedroom should be flexible and the residential unit made attractive to households at different lifecycle stages. Furthermore, layouts and dimensions should allow for the delivery of furniture and facilitate home working where feasible. For larger dwellings, the provision of one main living room separate from a combined kitchen/dining area should be considered.

The needs of children must be considered in the design of the unit and this includes play areas, storage for play equipment, bathrooms big enough to bath a child, study areas, etc.

15.9.3 Dual Aspect

A dual aspect dwelling is defined as one with openable windows on two external walls, which may be either on opposite sides of a dwelling or on adjacent sides of a dwelling where the external walls of a dwelling wrap around the corner of a building. The provision of a bay window does not constitute dual aspect.

Dual aspect units significantly enhance the residential amenity obtained in a unit providing for better daylight and sunlight penetration and cross ventilation. Achieving dual aspect in living rooms is the most preferable unit configuration, allowing for high amenity value in the predominant living space.

Specific Planning Policy Requirement 4 requires a minimum of 33% dual aspect units in central and / or accessible urban locations and 50% of units in suburban and / or intermediate locations.

Dublin City Council will encourage all developments to meet or exceed 50% dual aspect within the development unless specific site characteristics dictate that a lower percentage may be appropriate.

In prime city centre locations, adjoining or adjacent to high quality, high frequency public transport, 33% dual aspect may be accepted in locations where there are specific site constraints such as tight urban infill sites up to 0.25ha or where there is a need to maintain a strong street frontage. In the outer city (beyond the canal ring) and within the SDRA’s, schemes with a minimum of 33% dual aspects units will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Where single aspect is proposed, the number of south facing units should be maximised. East and west facing units are also considered acceptable. The living spaces in these units should be situated with the most preferable orientation for maximum access to direct sunlight. North facing units will only be considered where they face an area of high amenity value such as a public park, water body or another significant view of interest. For clarity, north facing units are units which predominantly face north (i.e. over 50% of the façade). North east and north west units are defined as units that fall within a 45 degree angle of due north. This unit configuration will be considered in limited circumstances on a case by case basis.

The following example of unit configuration is considered dual aspect and can contribute toward the SPPR percentage requirement. Similar examples that clearly provide openable windows to two elevations will also be considered.

Figure 15.2: Example of Dual Aspect Residential Unit

Figure 15.2: Example of Dual Aspect Residential Unit

Unit configurations that do not qualify as dual aspect and will not be considered to contribute to the SPPR percentage requirement include:

Figure 15.3:  Residential Unit that Does Not Qualify as Dual Aspect - Example 1

Figure 15.3:   Residential Unit that Does Not Qualify as Dual Aspect - Example 1

Figure 15.4:Residential Unit that Does Not Qualify as Dual Aspect - Example 2

Figure 15.4:Residential Unit that Does Not Qualify as Dual Aspect - Example 2

15.9.4 Floor to Ceiling Height

SPPR 5 of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) set out the requirements for minimum floor to ceiling heights.

A minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.7m for ground floor residential units and a minimum of 2.4m in upper floor shall be provided. Where commercial units are proposed or where flexibility for adaptation to alternative uses is required at ground floor level, a floor to ceiling height of 3.5m to 4m shall be applied. This will be assessed on a case by case basis.

See Section 3.20 to 3.25 of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) for details.

15.9.5 Lift, Stair Cores and Entrance Lobbies

Specific Planning Policy Requirement 6 as set out in the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) specifies that a maximum of 12 apartment per core may be provided. The maximum provision may be relaxed for refurbishment or infill sites of 0.25ha on a case by case basis.

See Section 3.26 to 3.34 of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) for details.

15.9.6 Internal Storage

Internal storage within an apartment unit shall be provided in accordance with the Sustainable Urban Development: Design Standards for New Apartments as set out in Appendix 1 and Section 3.30 to 3.34 of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) for details.

Flexibility shall be provided in certain circumstances on a case by case basis.

15.9.7 Private Amenity Space

Private amenity space shall be provided in the form of terrace, balcony or private garden and should be located off the main living area in the apartment. The minimum areas for private amenity are set out in Appendix 1 and Section 3.35 to 3.39 of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) for details.

At ground floor level, private amenity space should be sufficiently screened to provide for privacy. Where ground floor apartments are to be located adjoining the back of a public footpath or other public area, consideration may be given to the provision of a ‘privacy strip’ of approximately 1.5 m in depth, subject to appropriate landscape design and boundary treatment.

15.9.8 Communal Amenity Space

All new apartment developments are required to provide for communal amenity space externally within a scheme for the use by residents only. Communal open space provision is in addition to any private or public open space requirements. Communal amenity spaces may comprise of courtyard spaces and linear open spaces adjacent to the development.

The minimum areas for private amenity are set out in Appendix 1 and Section 4.10 to 4.12 of the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments (2020) for details.

Communal amenity space must be clearly defined and distinguished within a scheme and clearly identified as part of any planning application. The communal amenity areas should be of high landscape quality and provide for adequate daylight and sunlight access throughout the year. The communal amenity area should be functional and usable to a range of activities including, children’s play (see Section 15.8.8 for further details), passive recreation and leisurely activities such as games and exercise.

Communal amenity space should be located in areas that are overlooked and passively supervised. Where ground floor balconies/terraces bound directly onto communal spaces the use of a separation strip of low level planting between the two areas will be encouraged. Regard must also be had to future maintenance of amenity spaces in order to ensure that this is commensurate with the scale of development and does not become a burden on residents.

On refurbishment or infill sites of up to 0.25 ha, the communal amenity requirements may be relaxed on a case by case basis.

Development proposals shall demonstrate that the communal open space:

  • Complies with the minimum standards based on each individual unit.
  • Will be soft and/or hard landscaped with appropriate plant species and landscaping materials such as those with good resistance to accidental damage and low maintenance characteristics.
  • Is secure for residents and benefits from passive surveillance.
  • Considers the needs of children in particular in terms of safety and supervision and is fully accessible to all.
  • Achieves good sunlight penetration – see Appendix 16.
  • Has appropriate arrangements for maintenance and management such as a conveniently accessed garden maintenance and storage area with water and drainage connections.

15.9.9 Roof Terraces

Roof terraces may be provided in certain circumstances subject to an assessment of accessibility, safety and micro-climatic impacts. Roof terraces will not be permitted as the primary form of communal amenity space but may contribute to a combination of courtyard and or linear green space. The provision of roof terraces does not circumvent the need to provide an adequate accessible ground floor residential amenity that achieves adequate sunlight and daylight levels throughout the day unless exceptional site specific conditions prevail.

It must be demonstrated that roof terraces are suitable for the intended use in terms of wind comfort levels, daylight and sunlight, noise impacts and safe and secure accessibility for all users, particularly children. Roof terraces must also accommodate landscaping features such as tree planning, shrubs and outdoor seating in order to create a quality green environment. Any such planting should be of species which can thrive in low soil depth planters and when exposed to wind conditions. How such roof terraces are to be maintained and managed must also be demonstrated. See also Appendix 11 for guidance on green roofs.

15.9.10         Internal Communal Facilities

Large scale developments in excess of 100 or more units are encouraged to provide for internal communal facilities for use by residents. These facilitates include laundry rooms, community or meeting rooms, management offices, co – working spaces etc. Other uses such as gyms or co-working spaces can also be provided and available to non-resident users also. The range of uses proposed should be discussed with the planning authority at pre application stage.

15.9.11         Security

New apartment developments should incorporate safe and secure design principles throughout the scheme by maximising natural surveillance of all common areas, streets and parking areas. The design of the development should ensure activity along all building facades to create a sense of safety and security.

The location of entrance doors and lobbies should be located in highly visible areas of the building and should be well lit and overlooked.

Ground floor level apartments should be provided with a privacy strip of approximately 1.5m in order to maintain adequate security and privacy within the unit.

15.9.12         Access and Services

Pedestrian and vehicular access points should be clearly identified and located in areas that are physically overlooked. Pedestrian access should cater for all users including disabled persons and the elderly.

Internally within a scheme, access to each individual unit should be clearly identified and well lit through natural light where feasible.

Service ducts should be easily accessible from common circulation area to facilitate maintenance.

15.9.13         Refuse Storage

Refuse storage and collection facilities should be provided in all apartment schemes. Refuse storage should be accessible to each apartment stair/ lift core and be adequately sized to cater for the projected level of waste generation, types and quantities.

All applications for 30 or more apartments should be accompanied by an Operational Waste Management Plan that clearly identifies the projected quantities of waste and the proposed waste collection strategy. Refer to Appendix 7 and Policy SI29 and SI30 for further details.

15.9.14         Lifecycle Reports

All residential developments should include a building lifecycle report that sets out the long term management and maintenance strategy of a scheme.

The lifecycle report should include an assessment of the materials and finishes proposed, the ongoing management strategy, the protocol for maintenance and repair, the long term maintenance costs for residents and the specific measures that have been taken to effectively manage and reduce the costs for the benefit of residents.

The reports should address each of the following headings:

  • Assessment of Long Term Running and Maintenance Costs
    • Property / Owner Management Company and Common Areas
    • Service Charge Budget
  • Measures to Manage and Reduce Costs
    • Treatment, Materials and Finishes
    • Construction Methodology
    • Material Specification
    • Landscaping
    • Waste Management
    • Human Health and Well –being
    • Residential Management
    • Energy and Carbon Emissions
    • Transport and Accessibility

Compliance and acknowledgement of the provisions set out in the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 for the ownership and management of multi- unit developments should also be included.

15.9.15         Operational Management and Maintenance

On-going planned maintenance ensures the longevity of architectural and landscape design, sustains and increases the value of the property and minimises the life-cycle cost of development to owners and residents.

Service ducts serving two or more apartments should as far as practicable be accessible from common circulation areas to facilitate easy maintenance. The running of services overhead, particularly above the ceiling of a different unit should be avoided. To prevent demands for the installation of numerous individual satellite dishes on visible parts of the façades or roof of apartment buildings, provision should be made for locating communal or individual dishes on less visible parts of the building, such as at roof level. Ideally larger schemes will provide space for maintenance facilities such as a management room, maintenance store(s) and in some circumstances accommodation for a caretaker should be included.

All apartment developments will be required to address the maintenance and management of a development to clarify the overall operational management plan for the development together with the maintenance strategy for the upkeep of the building.

These plans will assist the planning authority in considering the long term contribution of the development and the strategy and objectives for the maintenance and operation of the development.

15.9.16         Microclimate – Daylight and Sunlight, Wind and Noise

All apartment schemes should be accompanied by an assessment of the microclimatic impacts including daylight and sunlight, noise and wind. These assessments should outline compliance with the relevant standards and ensure a high level of residential amenity is provided both within the apartment unit and within the surrounding residential properties.      Daylight and Sunlight

Good daylight and sunlight contribute to making a building energy-efficient; it reduces the need for electric lighting, while winter solar gain can reduce heating requirements. Daylight animates an interior and makes it attractive and interesting, as well as providing light to work or read by.

A daylight and sunlight assessment should be provided to assess the impact of the proposed development on the surrounding properties and amenity areas outside the site boundary and assess the daylight and sunlight received within each individual unit and communal areas of a proposed scheme.

A best practice guide for the assessment and methodology of Daylight and Sunlight Assessments is set out in Appendix 16.      Wind

A wind assessment will be required in certain circumstances where taller buildings are proposed or where there is potential for wind tunnelling in order to analyse the pedestrian wind comfort levels received in proposed balconies, communal amenity spaces, roof gardens and at the entrance points to the scheme.

The Lawson Comfort Criteria sets out an appropriate pedestrian comfort levels in a given space based on suitability for pedestrian activities. The purpose of the assessment is to clarify that the intended use of a space is suitable and to identify mitigation measures required (if any). The activities and locations can be defined as follows:

Table 15-6:      Activities and Locations to be considered in Wind Assessments





Regular use for reading a newspaper and easting / drinking

Private balconies / communal courtyards / roof terraces


Appropriate for bus stops, window shopping, building entrances and public amenity spaces such as parks

All entrances / public open space areas


General area of walking and sightseeing

New streets and internal walkways

Business Walking

Local areas around tall buildings where people are not expected to linger

City centre public streets only.


All areas within a development should be at a satisfactory level to ensure maximum comfort levels for all users.      Noise

Noise impact assessments are used to assess the noise levels received within a development and to identify the potential noise impact generated from a development.

Acoustic privacy is a measure of sound insulation between dwellings and between external and internal spaces. All apartment developments should be designed as to ensure noise transmission between units and from external or internal communal areas is minimised. Guidance for noise reduction in building is set out in BS 8233:2014.

The following principles are recommended for minimising disruption from noise in dwellings:

  • Utilise the site and building layout to maximise acoustic privacy by providing good building separation within the development and appropriate noise insulation measures to reduce noise transfer and vibration to neighbouring buildings and noise sources.
  • Arrange units within the development and the internal layout to minimise noise transmission by locating busy, noisy areas next to each other and quieter areas next to quiet areas.
  • Keep stairs, lifts, and service and circulation areas away from noise sensitive rooms like bedrooms. Particular attention should be paid to the siting and acoustic isolation of the lift motor room.

Proposals close to noisy places, such as busy streets / railway lines, may need a noise impact assessment and mitigation plan. (Noise maps and Noise Action Plan are available at www.dublincity.ie).

Please also refer to Section 15.18.9 – Noise which provides details on areas of the city with greater potential to be affected by noise given proximity to critical infrastructure such as Dublin Airport.

15.9.17         Separation Distances (Apartments)

Traditionally a minimum distance of 22m is required between opposing first floor windows. In taller blocks, a greater separation distance may be prescribed having regard to the layout, size, and design. In certain instances, depending on orientation and location in built-up areas, reduced separation distances may be acceptable. Separation distances between buildings will be assessed on a case by case basis.

In all instances where the minimum separation distances are not met, each development will be assessed on a case by case basis having regard to the specific site constraints and the ability to comply with other standards set out within this chapter in terms of residential quality and amenity.

15.9.18         Overlooking and Overbearance

‘Overbearance’ in a planning context is the extent to which a development impacts upon the outlook of the main habitable room in a home or the garden, yard or private open space service a home. In established residential developments, any significant changes to established context must be considered. Relocation or reduction in building bulk and height may be considered as measures to ameliorate overbearance.

Overlooking may be overcome by a variety of design tools, such as:

  • Building configurations (bulk and massing).
  • Elevational design / window placement.
  • Using oblique windows.
  • Using architectural features.
  • Landscape and boundary treatments.