Welcome to BESS, a sustainable design assessment tool for buildings at the planning permit stage.
BESS supports the ‘Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process’ framework and the Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) Local Planning Policies. BESS assesses projects against a benchmark in nine environmental categories.
In many Victorian councils, planning permit applicants are asked to submit information about how the proposed development addresses sustainability, either as:
- a Sustainable Design Assessment (SDA), for small scale developments, or
- a Sustainability Management Plan (SMP), for large scale developments
A BESS report can be used to support these submissions.
The triggers for an SDA or SMP, and the definition of small and large scale, is set by individual councils based on the local development context. Check your relevant council's website.
The BESS interface is dynamic – the questions you are asked and the information you must provide are tailored to the size and type of your development.
This means that your experience using BESS will be quite different if you are using it to assess a single home or renovation compared with a large mixed-use development (such as an apartment complex with retail and office space).
We recommend that BESS is used in Chrome or Firefox.
Creating your account
If you’re a first time user, the first step is to register your details and create an account. Your BESS account stores all historical projects for your access at any time.
Once you register an account, BESS emails you to confirm your registration. Once your registration is confirmed you can start using BESS. Check your spam / junk folder if you can’t find the confirmation email.
You can edit your account profile details, such as the name, email and password, by navigating to your account icon and selecting 'My profile'.
Things to keep in mind:
- Registration sits with the individual email address used to create the account
- Projects sit within individual accounts. Projects cannot be shared between accounts
- Only the people with access to the account can modify the projects within that account.
- Projects can be transferred to another account on request – contact the BESS team via the Contact form
- You cannot copy or delete an account. If you would like your account deleted, contact the BESS team via the Contact form
Some organisations have set up a common account with a generic email so that multiple people from the organisation can access a single account.
When you login and access your account, your project list will automatically appear.
The most recent projects are shown. If you click on ‘view all projects’ or the ‘projects’ tab in the header, all your projects will appear.
From this page, you can create a new project. When you do this, BESS will set up a project with a unique project number.
Once you have created a project you can:
- Edit it
- Publish it
- View an existing published version
- Copy it, or
- Delete it - if it hasn't been published.
When you are within a project, the left sidebar serves as a useful summary and can also be used to navigate around BESS. It shows:
- The Project Name
- The current BESS Score. This is determined by the category scores, factoring in the weighting of each category.
- The current score in each BESS environmental category
- Address of the property
- The unique BESS project number
- The current project status, e.g. Draft, Published
- Whether the project is accessible to council.
Accessibility to council lets you choose to make your draft BESS project visible to the nominated council. This defaults to ‘No’ when a new project is established. It can be changed at any time. If you have previously selected 'Yes' and then change this to 'No', the BESS project will no longer be visible to the council.
Making a project accessible to council is not the same as submitting a BESS assessment. Always follow the planning permit application process at your nominated council. Contact council for accepted approaches to submitting documents.
When your report is published, specific council officers in the nominated council can view (but not edit) the report.
Credits may be as simple as a Yes/No question, may require simple numerical input, or may be calculated based on a number of inputs (profiling questions).
Project Setup / Project Details
From the Project portfolio page, select 'New Project'.
Basic details are required to create the project, namely the address, the Council, the site area, and the site type. You are then asked to set up your dwellings and non-residential spaces, as applicable.
The details you enter here determine which questions and credits are applicable for your project.
The Project Name defaults to the project address. You may change this manually.
BESS uses Google Maps to locate a site. If Google cannot identify the site, select the nearest address then manually amend the street address, suburb, and postcode fields.
In the Council field, only BESS subscriber councils are listed. You cannot complete a BESS report for a non- BESS subscribing council.
To determine your site type, consider the following:
Site Type Definitions
Single dwelling extension
A renovation / alteration / addition to an existing house (Class 1)
Multi dwelling (dual occupancy, townhouse, villa unit etc)
A residential development with more than one new dwelling on the site, but no shared facilities (e.g. common gardens, pool, gym etc) (Class 1)
Multi-unit development (apartment building)
A residential development with more than one new dwelling and with shared access / common areas and facilities (Class 2)
Any commercial or industrial building (see below for further building classifications)
A combination of any of the above
You cannot progress from the New Project page until you complete all fields labelled with an asterisk. Once you have done this select 'Create Project'.
Creating Dwellings and Non-Residential Spaces
All dwellings and non-residential spaces must be created before the correct questions and credits appear on the BESS category pages. The dwellings and spaces determine which pathways, questions and credits apply to your project.
To complete the Dwellings table you will need the floor plans and elevations and other supporting documentation. You will also need to identify ‘similar dwellings’ in the project.
‘Similar dwellings' can be grouped together to streamline data input. How dwellings are entered affects your input options in the Water and Energy categories.
‘Similar dwellings’ are dwellings that are both ‘thermally similar’ and share similar systems, such as heating and cooling, hot water, rainwater connections, and water fittings and fixtures.
If 'thermally similar' dwellings have different hot water, or heating and cooling systems, or different fittings and fixtures, these should be grouped separately.
Once you have determined the groupings, enter each group into BESS, with one column representing each dwelling group. If some of the details are the same, you can use the ‘Select All’ function to make bulk edits.
For a group of dwellings, enter the average dwelling area (not the combined area).
'Thermally similar' refers to the performance of the building envelope, the orientation of the dwelling and its living spaces. ‘Thermally similar’ dwellings have similar orientation, similar heating and cooling loads, are of a similar size and have a similar number of external exposed surfaces (walls, floor, and roof).
Examples of thermally similar groupings are provided in the images here.
Dual Occupancy (not thermally similar due to orientation) - enter as two dwellings
Townhouse Development - Rate the book end houses (3 exposed sides) and 1 internal
Medium Density (5-10 stories) - Rate Ground floor, middle floor and top floor
High Density (10+ stories) - Rate half the apartments across 5 floors including ground floor, middle floor, top floor and two others
If your project has a non-residential component, you must set up the non-residential spaces. What you input here determines which non-residential questions and credits apply to your project.
The non-residential space types are:
Non-Residential Space Types
Unconditioned Warehouse / factory
Class 7 or Class 8 (unconditioned)
Class 9 - hospitals, schools, aged care facilities
Unconditioned Showroom / machine shop
Class 6 or Class 8 (unconditioned)
For Class 3 spaces, please contact the relevant council planning department to discuss how it should be input into BESS. These are most commonly included as either apartments or Other building depending on the design.
Once you have determined the groupings, enter each group into BESS, with one column representing each non-residential group. If some of the details are the same, you can use the ‘Select All’ function to make bulk edits.
Default space names are provided. You may leave these as default or modify using your own naming conventions, e.g. Office1.1, Office1.2 etc.
The area input for grouped spaces is the gross floor area of one representative (averaged) space. Alternatively, enter the combined area and set quantity to one. Do not include car parks.
How the spaces are grouped and the inputs selected for each space type will affect inputs in Water and Energy.
If different spaces in the development have different hot water, or heating and cooling systems, or different water fittings and fixtures or rainwater connections, these will need to be separated out into different groupings.
The Energy section of BESS allows for a Deem to Satisfy (DTS) method or for entering JV3 modelling results. If you are using the Energy Deem to Satisfy (DTS) method then simply use similar water systems to group your spaces. If you are using JV3 modelling inputs, then group by modelling results and similar water systems – i.e. if all spaces are modelled together, then all have a similar energy approach; if some offices are modelled separate to others, then they are not similar.
BESS assesses projects against established benchmarks in nine environmental categories. These categories are consistent with the environmental objectives in the Environmentally Sustainable Development Local Planning Policies:
- Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ)
- Urban Ecology
Each category contains a number of credits relating to that environmental issue. Each credit contributes points toward the total score of that category. Category scores are weighted to calculate the overall BESS score.
Credits may be as simple as a Yes/No question, may require simple numerical input, or may be calculated based on a number of inputs (profiling questions).
For mixed use developments, credits may apply to the whole project, or to one or more building classes within the project.
Profiling questions are not credits – they are used for calculations that feed into credits. For example, the Energy category includes a number of profiling questions that are used to determine if the project has met a number of credits below (including GHG emissions, electricity use, hot water energy consumption etc).
You can 'scope out' questions or credits that do not apply to your development.
When you select "Scope Out", you must explain why the credit is not applicable to your project. Once a credit is scoped out, the points are removed from the available points for that category. Note that scoping out credits may reduce the options available for a development to demonstrate best practice and pass the tool overall.
- The credit Energy 3.3 - External Lighting could be scoped out where the development does not have any external lighting.
- The credit Waste 1.1 - Construction Waste - Building Re-use could be scoped out if there are no existing buildings on the site (e.g. for a greenfield development).
- It is acceptable to scope out a bath or washing machine in a retail development.
- It is acceptable to scope out a urinal in a residential project.
BESS provides the opportunity for you to add additional information about a specific credit using the annotate field.
This is an optional field that can be utilised for any credit. The notes added here will appear in the final report.
Each category also has a notes field that you can use to add information not specific to a credit
Overall BESS Score
The overall BESS score is shown as a percentage, representing a percentage improvement over a benchmark project. The benchmark project is created from the project information that you input into BESS, and is based on minimum National Construction Code and Minimum Energy Performance Standards.
The BESS overall score is determined by the category scores, factoring in the weighting of each category.
- ‘Best practice’ is defined within BESS as an overall score of 50% or higher.
- ‘Excellence’ is defined within BESS as an overall score of 70% or higher.
Mandatory Category Scores
In addition to the overall scoring, four BESS categories have mandatory pass scores:
- Water - 50%
- Energy - 50%
- Stormwater - 100%
- Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) - 50%
The mandatory category scores were developed with consideration to existing industry based standards. They are intended to demonstrate best practice and complement the current ESD Local Policies and the SDAPP Fact Sheets. The rationale behind this is to maintain flexibility within the tool while also driving users toward an improved outcome in these traditionally ‘core’ sustainability categories. Also, the other categories (Transport, Waste, Urban Ecology & Management) within the tool have a limited number of credits available, and are more likely to contain credits that are not universally applicable.
For mixed-use developments, BESS applies an area weighting to determine the relative contribution of each building class to the credit or category score.
In the current version of BESS, the category weightings are as follows:
These weightings are based on a review of other built environment assessment tools, consideration of potential environmental impact (including longevity), opportunities for improving performance and the overall ESD performance standard.
Once you have completed the category pages and are ready to finalise your report, use the 'View report' button to preview your results. The report contains a complete set of all data entered, so that it can be printed and endorsed as part of a planning permit.
How did this development perform in each Environmental Category?
This graph shows the score achieved in each category relative to the total points available. It also shows the relative weightings of each category. This graph can help you understand which categories to target in order to improve your score.
How does each component of the building perform?
This section contains a summary of all data entered within the tool. Expand each section to view the detail.
Items to be marked on plans
This section provides a summary of items that must be marked on the floorplans, based on the information you have entered in BESS. You must provide a drawing reference for each item to verify this. Floorplans SHOULD NOT be uploaded to BESS.
Documents and evidence
This section provides a summary of other evidence (attachments) you must provide, based on the information you have entered in BESS. You can either upload a digital version, or nominate that you will submit a printed version. Once a document is uploaded to BESS, you can use this as evidence for multiple credits. Please provide a page reference if relevant (i.e. for longer reports).
Publishing your BESS Report
Once you are satisfied and ready to publish your report, select 'Publish for submission'. Published reports are locked to editing. Publishing a report does not mean you cannot edit your report in the future. When you click ‘Publish for submission’ a read only version of the report is created. This can be submitted to council.
Printing your BESS report
Print your report to pdf for submission to Council with your other planning permit documentation.
Use the "Print Report" button on the report page. From here, use your browser print command (either control-P, right mouse click and select 'Print', or other command for your browse). In the Print dialog box select 'Print to PDF'. If you don't have this option you will need to install a pdf printer.
Changes after submission
You may need to make changes after publishing your report. If this is the case, you can edit your draft report, and then re-publish it for submission to council. Do this under the Projects tab.
Data entered in BESS is stored in the cloud. To protect your privacy, BESS asks for the minimum personal information needed.
BESS projects are not visible to Council staff while in draft form, unless explicitly made accessible to Council by the user. You can allow a draft project to be viewable by council, by selecting Accessible to Council = 'Yes' in the left side bar.
This may be useful if you need to discuss the project with council before it is submitted, or you need some help to improve the BESS score.
You can make a project accessible for a period of time by selecting 'Yes', and also change this back to 'No' at any time.
Once a project is published, it is able to be viewed (read only) by the council in which it is located. This action cannot be undone.
Occupancy rates for different building types are built into the tool. These are used for the Energy and Water calculations, and in the Urban Ecology section for the communal spaces and food production credits.
Occupant density for residential building types is derived from ABS data.
The occupancy formula is derived from the floor area. For dwellings less than 38.6 sqm, occupancy is assumed to be 1 person. Over 587.5 sqm, occupancy is assumed to be 5 people. In between these values, the following logarithmic formula is used, Occupancy = 1.471271*LN(Area)-4.375381.
Occupant density for non-residential building types is informed by the National Construction Code and AS1668.2 (Mechanical Ventilation of Buildings).
Occupancy rates for non-residential space types
Assumed occupancy (sqm per occupant)
Other non-residential building
Subscriber Councils can search and view all published BESS assessments within their municipal boundary. This feature is not available to general users. If you are a Council subscriber and need help with this feature please Contact Us.