16.10.1 Residential Quality Standards – Apartments

Residential Quality Standards – Apartments

The standards for apartment developments are set out in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government guidelines entitled Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments – Guidelines for Planning Authorities (December 2015), (www. environ.ie), hereafter referred to as the 2015 Department Guidelines. In addition, proposals for apartments shall comply with the standards set out below and with the requirements of other relevant development standards including public open space, play space, safety and security, and acoustic privacy standards.

Floor Areas:

The minimum floor areas permissible are as per the Sustainable Urban Housing:Design Standards for New Apartments – Guidelines for Planning Authorities, as follows:

Minimum overall apartment floor area* ­

  • Studio-type 40 sq.m ­
  • 1-bed 45 sq.m
  • 2-bed 73 sq.m ­
  • 3-bed 90 sq.m

* All apartment floor area measurements are taken from internal wall-to-wall dimensions.

It is not in the interests of sustainable and good quality urban developments if these standards are applied in a way that enables development to barely meet minimum internal standards. It is a requirement that the majority of all apartments in a proposed scheme of 100 units or more must exceed the minimum floor area standard by at least 10% (studio apartments must be included in the total but are not calculable as units that exceed the minimum). In schemes of 10-99 units the same approach is applied but it is acceptable to redistribute part of the minimum 10% additional floor space throughout the scheme, (refer to 2015 Department Guidelines for worked examples of this approach).

Mix of Residential Units:

Each apartment development shall contain: ­

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

These maximum and minimum requirements apply to proposals of 15 units or more and may not apply to certain social housing needs and/or where there is a need for a particular form of housing for older people and students having regard to the housing strategy.

The above mix of unit types will not apply to managed ‘build-to-let’ apartment schemes for mobile workers where up to 42-50% of the total units may be in the form of onebed or studio units. Communal facilities such as common rooms, gyms, laundry rooms etc. will be encouraged within such developments. This provision only applies to long-term purpose-built managed schemes of over 50 units, developed under the ‘build-to-let’ model and located within 500 m (walking distance) of centres of employment or adjoining major employment sites. Centres of employment are identified in Fig W Housing Strategy Appendix 2A, and for clarity these centres are located within the following Electoral Divisions: ­

  • North Dock B Mansion House A Pembroke West C ­
  • North Dock C Mansion House B Pembroke East E ­
  • North City Saint Kevins Pembroke East D ­
  • Royal Exchange A South Dock Ushers F ­
  • Royal Exchange B ­
  • Mansion House A ­
  • Mansion House B ­
  • Saint Kevins ­
  • South Dock ­
  • Pembroke West C ­
  • Pembroke East E ­
  • Pembroke East D ­
  • Ushers F ­
  • Beaumont B

The applicant shall be requested to submit evidence to demonstrate that there is not an over-concentration of such schemes within an area, including a map showing similar facilities within 0.25km of a proposal.

This particular managed rental model shall be retained in single ownership for 20 years (minimum) during which period units may not be sold off on a piecemeal basis.

Build-to-let schemes for mobile workers should be adaptable for future demographic needs of the city, e.g. by providing for the amalgamation of studios in a change of use scenario.

Aspect, Natural Lighting, Ventilation and Sunlight Penetration:

Daylight animates an interior and makes it attractive and interesting, as well as providing light to work or read by. 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. Living rooms and bedrooms shall not be lit solely by roof lights and all habitable rooms must be naturally ventilated and lit. Glazing to all habitable rooms should not be less than 20% of the floor area of the room. Development shall be guided by the principles of Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight, A guide to good practice (Building Research Establishment Report, 2011). Staggering of balconies on the façade of a building has a positive effect on sunlight/daylight. A sunlight/daylight analysis of the different units may be required and modifications to the scheme put in place where appropriate.

Dual aspect apartments maximise the availability of sunlight and should be provided where possible. It is a specific planning policy requirement in the 2015 Department Guidelines that the minimum number of dual aspect apartments that may be provided in any single apartment scheme shall be 50%. In certain circumstances, usually on inner urban sites, this may be further reduced to an absolute minimum of 33% where it is necessary to ensure good street frontage and subject to high quality design. Ideally 3-bedroom apartments should be dual aspect. Dual aspect can include corner units.

Where single aspect apartments are provided, the provision of south facing units should be maximised with west or east facing single aspect units also being acceptable. Living spaces in apartments should provide for direct sunlight for some part of the day. North facing single aspect apartments may be considered, where overlooking a significant amenity such as a public park, garden or formal space, or a water body or some other amenity feature. Particular care is needed where windows are located on lower floors that may be overshadowed by adjoining buildings and/ or balconies.

Ceiling heights also play an important role in allowing natural daylight to penetrate into an apartment. It is a specific planning policy requirement in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) 2015 Guidelines that a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.7 m shall be required for ground floor level units and 2.4 m for all other levels, measured from finished floor level to finished ceiling height. Providing higher floor-to-ceiling heights will be encouraged to enhance the amenity of spaces. Where apartments front onto or adjoin busy commercial streets in the city centre and key district centres with significant pedestrian footfall, ground floor apartment floor-to-ceiling heights shall be a minimum of 3.5-4 m to allow for future potential commercial uses. The top of the windowframe in all habitable rooms in a unit should be as high as is practicable within the particular form of construction in order to promote daylight penetration. The Department Guidelines also specify that in schemes with less than 50% dual aspect units, floor to ceiling heights must be a minimum of 2.7 m , with 3.0 m at ground floor.

Block Configuration:

There shall be a maximum of 8 units per core per floor, subject to compliance with the dual aspect ratios specified above, and with building regulations. Hallways and shared circulation areas should be appropriate in scale and should not be unduly narrow. They should be well lit, where possible with some natural light and adequate ventilation. Movement about the apartment building should be easily understandable by all users by keeping internal corridors short with good visibility along their length. In certain circumstances, deck access may be acceptable as long as bedrooms do not face out on to the deck and it is well proportioned and designed. In some cases, secondary bedrooms facing on to the deck may be acceptable if quality issues are satisfactorily addressed by careful design such as providing a semi-private external buffer zone. The key performance criterion is the quality of residential amenity.

Entrance Lobbies, Circulation and Safety:

Apartment design should provide occupants and visitors with a sense of safety and security, by maximising natural surveillance of streets, open spaces, play areas and any surface bicycle or car parking. Accordingly, blocks and buildings should overlook the public realm. Entrances and lobbies should be spacious and welcoming, be illuminated and covered, be highly visible from adjoining dwellings, have good natural light and ventilation and level access. The lobby should orientate visitors and occupants and the stairs should be prominently positioned to encourage use. The lobby and associated circulation spaces should be generous enough to allow for furniture deliveries. If the lobby gives access to the courtyard it should also be

spacious with a strong visual link. Particular attention should be given to the security of ground floor apartments and access to internal and external communal areas.

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.

Internal Space Configuration for Apartments:

Minimum internal space requirements for living/dining/kitchen rooms, bedrooms and storage areas are as per the 2015 Department Guidelines, noted below for ease of reference:

Storage: Storage areas should be provided for everyday household items. All apartments shall be provided with designated internal storage space separate to the area for kitchen presses, bedroom furniture or areas containing the cold and hot water tanks, and should be designed for ease of access and use. If storage is provided within kitchens, livingrooms and bedrooms then the space requirement is in addition to the minimum requirements for these rooms. Some apartment schemes may provide storage for bulky items outside individual units, provided such storage is secure and readily accessible from the unit (e.g. dedicated storage rooms on each floor, ground floor or at basement level). Where secure, allocated storage is provided outside the unit, it may be used to satisfy up to half of the minimum storage requirement for individual apartment units, but shall not serve to reduce the minimum floor area required for each unit. It is recommended that no individual storage room within the apartment should be bigger than 3.5 sq.m.

Minimum Storage Requirements:

  • Studio unit: 3 sq.m.
  • 1-bedroom unit: 3 sq.m
  • 2-bedroom unit: 6 sq.m
  • 3-bedroom unit: 9 sq.m

Facilities for Children:

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.

Layout Flexibility:

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. For larger dwellings, the provision of one main living room separate from a combined kitchen/dining area should be considered.

Private Open Space:

Private open space shall be provided in the form of gardens or patios/ terraces for ground floor apartments and balconies at upper levels. Where provided at ground floor level, private amenity space shall incorporate boundary treatments appropriate to ensure privacy and security. Where balconies or terraces are provided, they should be functional, screened with opaque material, have a sunny aspect, and allow all occupants to sit outside, including wheelchair users. They should also minimise overshadowing and overlooking. The primary balcony should be located adjacent to the main living areas to extend the apartments’ living space. The minimum depth of private amenity open space (balcony or patio) shall be 1.5 m and the minimum size shall be as follows:

Minimum area for Private Open Space:

  • Studio unit: 4 sq. m.
  • 1-bedroom unit: 5 sq.m
  • 2-bedroom unit: 7 sq.m.
  • 3-bedroom unit: 9 sq.m.

Balconies with access from multiple rooms may enhance the amenity of an apartment.

Secondary or wrap-around balconies should be considered for larger apartments to provide a choice of amenity and, potentially, a screened drying space. Balustrades and other sheltering screens should be designed with a proportion of solid, translucent and transparent materials to allow views and casual surveillance of the street and common areas while providing for security and privacy and safety for children. The floors of balconies should be solid and self-draining.

Communal Open Space:

In addition to providing private open space, apartment schemes must also provide for communal open space. Communal open space is a critical environmental resource as a ‘breathing space’ and for meeting the amenity needs of residents. It may be in the form of accessible sheltered roof gardens,

communal landscaped areas at ground level or at podium level where commercial or retail uses occupy the ground floor. Whilst private and communal amenity space may adjoin each other, there should generally be a clear distinction with an appropriate boundary treatment and/or ‘privacy strip’ between the two. Where appropriate, communal open space should include green spaces that support communal free play, sports and biodiversity. Development proposals shall demonstrate that the communal open space: ­

  • complies with the minimum standards set out below ­
  • 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. In schemes of 25 or more units small play spaces of 85-100 sq.m are considered suitable for toddlers and children up to the age of six, with suitable play equipment, seating for parents/ guardians, and within sight of the apartment building. For larger schemes of 100 or more apartments, play areas of 200-400 sq. m for older children and young teenagers should be provided. ­
  • is wheelchair accessible ­
  • achieves good sunlight penetration ­
  • has appropriate arrangements for maintenance and management such as a conveniently accessed garden maintenance and storage area with water and drainage connections.

Minimum area for communal amenity space:

  • Studio: 4 sq. m
  • One bedroom: 5 sq. m
  • Two bedroom: 7 sq. m
  • Three bedroom: 9 sq. m

Communal Facilities:

Communal facilities may be provided in apartment schemes, particularly in larger developments such as community or meeting rooms, laundry rooms etc. which are accessible to residents only. Other communal facilities such as childcare or gym use could be open to non-residents (see Appendix 13 regarding childcare facility requirements). The provision of such facilities may be influenced by the nature of the proposed apartment development, the size of the individual units and access to facilities off-site.

Cycle Parking:

In the past, there has been an underprovision of secure cycle parking in apartment complexes in Dublin. This has led to bicycles being stored in apartments and on balconies potentially detracting from visual amenity and increasing maintenance costs for communal areas. The quality and quantity of cycle parking provision in apartment developments should encourage residents to adopt cycling as a sustainable mode of transport. All new apartment developments shall provide provision for cyclists in keeping with the requirements set out in Table 16.2 of Section 16.39 Cycle Parking.

Design for Management and Maintenance:

Careful detailed design and material selection can reduce the maintenance requirements of apartment developments in the long term. 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. Applications for apartment developments should include an assessment of long term running and maintenance costs as well as demonstrating what measures have been specifically considered to reduce costs for the benefits of 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.

Provision shall be made for the storage and collection of waste materials in accordance with the requirements outlined in the Guidelines for Waste Storage Facilities contained in Appendix 10.

Development Management Process:

As per the DECLG Guidelines all applications for apartment schemes or mixed housing developments that include apartment buildings, shall submit a schedule that details the following:

(a) The number and type of apartments and associated individual unit floor areas as part of the planning application process. This shall identify the proposed apartments that are at least 10% greater than the minimum floor area standard in schemes with 100 or more apartments and all those apartments that exceed the minimum floor area standard in schemes with 10 – 99 apartments. Floor area shall be calculated from internal room dimensions;

(b) Details of apartment aspect (dual or single) and orientation;

(c) Principal dimensions of each room as well as the aggregate floor areas of each room;

(d) Details of internal and any external storage space associated with each apartment;

(e) Quantum of proposed private amenity space.

Where an applicant cannot fully meet all of the requirements set out above and in the 2015 Department Guidelines, this must be clearly identified and a rationale for any alternative, compensatory design solution set out. This may arise due to a design constraint associated with the site or location. In such cases the proposals will be considered having regard to the mitigating design features proposed, e.g. on a constrained inner urban site it may not be possible to provide communal amenity space, but it might be acceptable to provide

more private amenity space than would be required and/or more individual apartment living space.