Whitehorse City Council

ESD Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions regarding environmentally sustainable design in the planning process: 

How Do I Measure the Sustainability of My Building?  

Small to Medium Developments

For those developments falling into the category of Small to Medium (please refer to the submission guidelines information above) a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA) should be submitted (voluntary for small developments). The SDA can generally be prepared by an applicant without the need to engage a sustainability consultant. 

Council recommends the use of the Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS). BESS is a new online sustainability assessment tool purpose-built for the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) framework. Use of this tool will allow applicants to easily demonstrate that their project meets minimum environmental compliance standards.

You can access BESS at www.bess.net.au


  • Is free for planning permit applicants to use
  • Assesses any size and type of building, including mixed use developments
  • Is easy to use
  • Can be used to benchmark against other developments
  • Streamlines the planning permit process
  • Reduces running costs of new buildings
  • Provides liveability and useability benefits for building owners and users

The information required to complete a BESS assessment is simple for small developments and increases in complexity for larger developments. 

Should I use BESS or STEPS / SDS?
BESS replaces the STEPS (residential) and SDS (non-residential) assessment tools. Information about these tools are available here:

BESS should be used for new applications, but during a transition period planning permit applicants have the option of using either BESS or STEPS / SDS. Once BESS is established, STEPS and SDS will be phased out.

After this time, STEPS will be locked to new applications, but remain online for a period of two years so that existing projects can be accessed. The SDS will be removed from the STEPS website and will no longer be accepted for new applications.

The BESS project is supported by Victorian Government funding.

Download the pdf icon  BESS Flyer (299.18kB).

Large Developments

For residential and non-residential developments in the Large category (please refer to the submission guidelines information above for further detail), a more comprehensive submission is required. The nature of larger developments provides the opportunity for increased environmental benefits and the opportunity for major resource savings. For these developments it may be necessary to engage a sustainability consultant to prepare the required ESD Management Plan and associated Green Travel Plan.

Council recommends the use of the Green Star suite of rating tools developed by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) as a reference for creating an ESD Management Plan. Rating tools are currently available in the following categories: Multi-Unit Residential, Industrial, Office, Retail Centre, Healthcare, and Education with others currently under development. The tools can be freely downloaded (in Microsoft Excel format) from the GBCA website.

Why is Environmentally Sustainable Design important?

Environmental sustainability in your development is important whether it is a residential extension, new dwelling or larger commercial or industrial building. Today, buildings emit 20% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, waste from the construction and demolition of buildings makes up 40% of landfill and in operation buildings, use large amounts of potable water for non–drinking purposes. Incorporating the basic principles of Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) will result in cleaner buildings that are safer and cheaper to operate.

Environmentally Sustainable Designed (ESD) buildings are more comfortable and healthy to inhabit, and while there may be marginally increased construction costs, there are also ongoing financial benefits through reduced running costs. Maximising the performance of energy and water efficiency measures is additionally expected to result in an increased market value when selling or leasing your property.

Integrating ESD elements in the built form has a number of benefits for the broader community - reduced greenhouse gas emissions; reduced water use; reduction in the impact of flooding events; protection of water quality; more sustainable resource use and reduced waste, and support of sustainable products and materials industries. 

What is Council's Role?

Whitehorse City Council is committed to a sustainable natural environment. One of the greatest impacts upon this is the built form and Council has several roles in improving the performance in this area:

  • Leading by example. Designing and building projects that have a minimal impact upon the environment through the application of the tools to our own projects.
  • Support and Education. Provision of information and technical support to individuals and organisations.
  • Advocacy. Continue to advocate to other levels of Government for a state wide and consistent approach to improving the performance of the built form or enabling Local Government to include higher standards within its controls.