State Design Review Panel

The State Design Review Panel is an independent, expert design review panel chaired by the Government Architect Geoff Warn.

The Panel is a committee of the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) and was formally established on 3 April 2019 in accordance with the Planning and Development Act 2005 (clause 1, schedule 2). It is administered by the Office of the Government Architect.

About the State Design Review Panel 

The State Design Review Panel is a multi-disciplinary panel of highly-experienced built environment professionals from industry and government that provides independent advice on the design quality of major development proposals.

Chaired by Government Architect Geoff Warn, the newly-appointed design review panel provides advice to government agencies, decision-makers and proponents, including the WA Planning Commission.

Projects eligible for review by the State Design Review Panel include significant or strategic public works, infrastructure projects and other major development proposals. Statutory decision-makers may also refer significant private sector projects for consideration by the Panel.

The establishment of the Panel supports the implementation of the State Government’s Design WA policies and guidelines – placing good design at the heart of all development. Design principles outlined in State Planning Policy 7 Design of the Built Environment form the basis of the Panel’s advice

The State Design Review Panel offers a ‘best practice’ model for design review in Western Australia and a benchmark for local government design review panels.

Meet the Panel members

Chaired by the Government Architect, the State Design Review Panel comprises a pool of 50 members with a range of built environment expertise.  There are 37 experts from the four core disciplines of planning, architecture, urban design and landscape architecture, as well as a further group of 13 specialists with expertise in heritage, sustainability, engineering, public health, ecology, law, assessment frameworks and public art.  The pool was selected through a national Expression of Interest process. 

The inaugural term of appointment runs from 24 May 2019 to 28 February 2021.

Architecture

Mr David Barr
Mr Philip Gresley
Ms Elisabetta Guj
Mr Paul Jones
Mr David Karotkin
Mr Patrick Kosky
Mr Will Lakin
Ms Morag Lee
Mr Peter Lee
Prof Geoffrey London
Mr Chris Maher
Ms Carolyn Marshall
Ms Jennifer Officer
Ms Shelley Penn
Mr Alf Seeling
Mr Dominic Snellgrove
Ms Emma Williamson

Planning

Mr Peter Ciemitis    
Ms Robina Crook    
Mr Timothy Dawkins    
Ms Karen Hyde    
Ms Denise Morgan    
Ms Rachel Pleasant
 

Landscape Architecture

Mr Tony Blackwell
Ms Natalie Busch
Dr Kate Cullity
Mr Tom Griffiths
Ms Shea Hatch
Mr Damien Pericles
 

Urban Design

Dr Anthony Duckworth-Smith
Ms Marion Fredriksson
Ms Helen Lochhead
Ms Munira Mackay
Mr Ken Maher AO
Mr Chris Melsom
Mr Hans Oerlemans
Ms Annabelle Pegrum AM

Specialists

Mr Graham Agar
Ms Janine Betz
Dr Josh Byrne
Dr Ryan Falconer
Dr Sarah Foster
Ms Pamela Gaunt
Mr Philip Griffiths
Dr Samantha Hall
Mr Alasdair Mackerron
Dr Kathy Meney
Ms Nerida Moredoundt
Ms Shelley Shepherd
Ms Margaret Tannock

Project eligibility 

Projects eligible for review by the State Design Review Panel include significant or strategic public works, infrastructure projects and other major development proposals. Statutory decision-makers may also refer significant private sector projects for consideration by the Panel.
 
The Government Architect will determine which projects are accepted for review. Consideration will be given to the following factors when determining whether a referral to the State Design Review Panel is approved:

  • Location: the project is located in an area that has particular importance and/or sensitivity, whether this be historic, environmental, or relating to a particular character or use
  • Prominence: the project is situated on a prominent site, with high levels of public visibility and/or political sensitivity
  • Complexity: there are complex challenges to overcome that require a sophisticated design response
  • Precedence: the project establishes a precedent for a type of development within an area.

The Panel may consider requests from Joint Development Assessment Panels and will also review projects referred from Ministers, the WAPC, the Heritage Council of WA and other government works agencies.

A request for State Design Review Panel review can be made by completing the State Design Review Panel project review request form.  The request will be assessed against the eligibility criteria. The Government Architect will have discretion in respect of approving which projects are accepted for review. 

Project review request form

 

About design review

Design review is the process of independently evaluating the design quality of a built environment proposal.

Design review is undertaken by a multi-disciplinary group of built environment professionals with experience in offering objective and constructive design advice. 

Design review provides independent expert analysis and informed assessment of proposals, guided by a set of performance-based design principles. It offers feedback and observations that will lead to the improvement of proposals, but does not seek to directly redesign them.

Engaging in design review improves the design quality of projects and can expedite the planning process, leading to the quicker delivery of high-quality buildings and places that provide a wide range of benefits to occupants, neighbours and the broader community. A performance-based approach provides the flexibility required for complex proposals. Run collaboratively, and with projects in the hands of skilled designers, design review often results in a more efficient approvals process.

For design review to be effective, it should be:

  • Independent
  • Expert 
  • Multi-disciplinary 
  • Accountable 
  • Transparent 
  • Proportionate 
  • Timely 
  • Advisory 
  • Objective 
  • Accessible. 

More information about design review is available in the Design Review Guide and in a video outlining the benefits.

For more information on the State Design Review Panel, email Barbara Gdowski, Manager, State Design Review Panel or call 6551 9748.

At what stage of a project should design review occur?

Design review should begin well before a development application is submitted. It is strongly recommended the initial design review occurs as early in the design process as possible (i.e. during the concept design stage) to ensure the proponent can apply the advice offered at a stage where the design is flexible enough to incorporate change without impacting on time and cost constraints.

Early design review offers the opportunity to increase the value and quality of a design proposal before the cost of changes outweighs the benefits gained. A well-run design review process that promotes early design review can improve the design quality of built outcomes and reduce project costs. It also helps identify risks early; provide support for design concepts prior to investment in detailed design; and expedite development application approvals following panel endorsement.

Benefits of design review

For the wider community

Design review offers independent expert advice and is undertaken in the public interest. Benefits to the community include assurance that new developments will make a positive contribution to the public realm, adjacent development and the surrounding context.  It can also assist in developing community confidence in urban infill development that will support the development and viability of neighbourhood centres.

For design teams

A design review can confirm the validity of design approaches early, before detailed design occurs. The team can receive constructive, independent advice including recommendations for change early on in the project, when it is most likely to be useful and more easily implemented – that is, before too many project variables are set. The project team can also receive support for good design and innovative proposals.

For developers

Developers receive expert independent advice on the design quality of their project, providing the flexibility needed to pursue improved outcomes. Design review can reduce risks and the cost of delays in the planning process that can result from inadequate design quality in a project. Review can identify the weaknesses within the design at the earliest opportunity, when changes are less costly. Design review increases the confidence of clients and designers to pursue innovative solutions.
 

For local governments

Design review enables local government to ensure that developers and design teams prioritise design quality, and are encouraged to produce high-quality buildings and public spaces that meet local objectives and are of benefit to their communities. Design review helps local government recognise outstanding and innovative design, supports them in resisting poor design, and gives them a practical means of understanding where improvements need to be made.

For State government decision makers

Decision makers (within State government agencies, Development Assessment Panels and others) can benefit from design review by gaining expert, independent advice on the design quality of a proposal. Design review will also enable the recognition of good design outcomes and, when advising on the exercising of discretion, the appropriate weight that might be applied to outstanding or innovative solutions that benefit the area. It will also provide confidence in resisting poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions. 
 

Training and support

The State Design Review Panel support team will provide twice-yearly information and training sessions for local government design review panel members and planning staff. These sessions will likely be held in March and September each year. The team will also provide information to assist local government authorities establish their own design review panels and conduct panel inductions in line with the Design WA Design Review Guide.

The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) will provide information for local government elected members.

For more information on the State Design Review Panel, email Barbara Gdowski, Manager, State Design Review Panel or call 6551 9748.

Frequently asked questions

What is the role of the State Design Review Panel?

The State Design Review Panel draws on a pool of expert built environment professionals from industry and government to provide independent advice on the design quality of major and strategic development proposals. The panel supports the implementation of the State Government’s Design WA initiative – the suite of policies and guidelines that place good design at the heart of all new development. Design principals outlined in State Planning Policy 7 Design of the Built Environment form the basis of the panel’s advice.

Who sits on the State Design Review Panel?

The State Design Review Panel is chaired by the Government Architect Geoff Warn and comprises a pool of 50 panel members from the disciplines of planning, architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, heritage, sustainability, engineering and public health. The pool was established following a national Expression of Interest process. 

What types of projects will be reviewed by the State Design Review Panel?

The State Review Design Panel was established to enhance the quality of major, significant or strategically important development proposals.

Projects eligible for review by the State Design Review Panel include significant or strategic public works, infrastructure projects and other major development proposals. Statutory decision-makers may also refer significant private sector projects for consideration by the panel.

The Government Architect will determine which projects are accepted for design review. Consideration will be given to the following when determining if a project’s referral to the State Design Review Panel is appropriate:

  • Location: is the project located in an area that has particular importance and/or sensitivity, whether this be historic, environmental, or relating to a particular character or use?
  • Prominence: is the project situated on a prominent site, with high levels of public visibility and/or political sensitivity?
  • Complexity: are there complex challenges to overcome that require a sophisticated design response?
  • Precedence: does the project establish a precedent for a type of development within an area?

The Panel will also review private sector projects when referred from a local government authority or statutory decision-maker; and may consider a request from a Joint Development Assessment Panel to assist its decision making.

How does the State design Review Panel process work?

The Government Architect will determine which referred projects are accepted for review; and will convene a panel of relevant members to conduct a design review for the project and make recommendations as required.

The design review process will assess how well the proposal meets the good design principles outlined in SPP7.0 – Design of the Built Environment. Design review is an interactive process where designers respond to recommendations from the Panel to progressively improve a project. In making recommendations to enhance project design quality, the Panel does not seek to directly redesign a proposal.

The Panel’s advice will be provided to the relevant planning authority or decision-maker and the proponents, for their consideration. Decision-makers are to have ‘due regard’ for the State Design Review Panel’s advice in their deliberations.

How are State Design Review Panel reviews structured?

Panel meetings will occur fortnightly and will aim to review several projects in one session. Reviewer expertise will be tailored to the attributes of the project and an agreed quorum for the Panel will be required for the session to proceed. Project information and drawing material will be circulated two weeks prior to the review session. The design review session involves a presentation from the design team followed by Panel questions and clarifications. Design review advice and recommendations are summarised in a report, which is issued within 10 working days of the review.

What are the 10 design principles used to guide the design review process?

State Planning Policy 7.0 Design of the Built Environment (SPP7.0) outlines a set of performance-based design principles that, when used together, create a broad definition of ‘good design’. These have been developed from well-recognised national and international precedents and adjusted to suit the Western Australian context. These principles form the basis for design review assessment and are outlined below:

1.0 Context and character

2.0 Landscape quality

3.0 Built form and scale

4.0 Functionality and build quality

5.0 Sustainability

6.0 Amenity

7.0 Legibility

8.0 Safety

9.0 Community

10.0 Aesthetics

Can a proponent refer their own project to the State Design Review Panel?

No.  A referral from the relevant statutory authority will be considered by the Office of the Government Architect in relation to the eligibility criteria and acceptance for review will be at the discretion of the Government Architect.

What is the status of State Design Review Panel advice?

The State Design Review Panel provides advice and does not have a decision-making function. The Panel advises on the design quality of proposals with reference to the Design Principles of SPP7.0, supporting State Planning Policies, and any relevant local planning schemes and policies.  Decision-makers are to give ‘due regard’ to the advice of the State Design Review Panel in their deliberations.

How is the State Design Review Panel funded?

The WAPC has funded a two-year pilot program for the State Design Review Panel, which commenced June 2019.

Is there a cost associated with using the State Design Review Panel?

There is currently no cost to applicants or decision-makers associated with accessing the review service provided by the State Design Review Panel.

How often does the State Design Review Panel meet?

The State Design Review Panel meetings will occur fortnightly, as required by project referrals. The panel may review several projects in one session.

What is the difference between the State Design Review Panel and design review panels coordinated by local government?

Around two thirds of metropolitan local governments already have, or are establishing design review panels and are increasingly using design review to assess and improve proposals prior to them being lodged for development approval. The State Design Review Panel and the majority of local government panels use the same process for review – utilising the 10 design principles from State Planning Policy 7 – Design of the Built Environment as the basis for advice. 

Can local government use State Design Review Panel members to undertake reviews?

In the absence of its own design review panel, a local government can request a full design review from the State Design Review Panel (subject to the eligibility of the project); a desk-top review by the Office of the Government Architect (subject to Office of the Government Architect capacity); and may also request recommendations for appropriately experienced State Design Review Panel members to provide review services.

Local government representatives are welcome to contact the Office of the Government Architect to discuss their specific requirements. Engagement of any State Design Review Panel member remains subject to local government procurement obligations.

Why do we need a design review process?

Engaging in design review improves the overall quality of development proposals. Complex projects benefit from the review process as it can help identify potential issues or concerns earlier in the project timeline, ultimately paving the way for a smoother journey through the planning system. It also encourages innovation as proponents have the benefit of expert advice.

What is the role of design review in the planning system?

Integrating design review into the planning system is a key component in the implementation of Design WA’s State Planning Policy 7 – Design of the Built Environment. The early engagement of design advice can help to shorten planning and development approval processes by helping to address issues at an earlier stage of a project’s development. 
 

Is design review part of Design WA?

The inclusion of an expert design review process is a key feature of Design WA, which seeks to elevate the role of good design to ensure it is at the centre of all new development projects. Design WA recognises that critical and creative thinking is needed to improve outcomes as our urban areas grow and intensify.
 

How does design review assist with the SPP7.0 performance-based approach?

The State Planning Policy 7 – Design of the Built Environment principles help to identify design objectives to be met within a project without prescribing how to achieve them. A performance-based approach allows the flexibility for developers and designers to produce innovative solutions to design challenges and to better reconcile brief requirements to the complexities of site and context. Design review is an essential component of this approach, in providing the expert qualitative judgement required to determine whether performance outcomes have been achieved in a given proposal.

Page last reviewed 10 June 2019
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