Recent updates to the R-codes in Western Australia

NHBB stays up to date with all the building requirements and legislation in Western Australia. The R-codes have been recently updated, and we would like to share with you what these updates are.

But first, what are the R-codes?

Here is the definition from the Western Australian Planning Commission.

“The R-Codes control the design of most residential development throughout Western Australia. The R-Codes aim to address emerging design trends, promote sustainability, improve clarity and highlight assessment pathways to facilitate better outcomes for residents.”

Why are the R-Codes important to you?

The Residential Design codes, commonly known as the R-codes, are the guidelines you need to follow when designing a new home in WA. These requirements have been created by the Western Australian Planning Commission.

Your new home design will need to comply with these requirements so that you can get Planning Approval for your new home.

Changes to the R-Codes July 2021

Here are the most recent updates to the R-codes that you should know about. This update includes information about setbacks, landscaping, ancillary dwellings, building heights, and the definition of primary living space.

A lot of the changes in the R-Codes are to change wording and to clarify the interpretation of the requirements.

These are the substantive ones.

1.     5.1.2 Street Setback

a.     The clause that allowed for reduced setback to 2.5m was clarified to include grouped dwellings that front a secondary street, a single house that is being built on a recently subdivided corner block where the new primary street was the secondary street of the original block and a single or grouped house that main frontage is to a ROW.

2.     5.1.3 Lot Boundary Setbacks

a.     Setback for patios can be reduced to nil up to 10.0m in length and a height of 2.7m in lieu of 2.4m

b.     R20-25 . Boundary walls can be up to 3.5m (no average), still 9m or 1/3rd of the boundary but can now be on 2 site boundaries.

c.     R30 – higher Boundary walls can be up to 3.5m (no average), still 9m or 2/3rd of the boundary but can now be on 2 site boundaries.

d.     Clarification: piers no greater than 450mm and retaining walls are NOT considered boundary walls.

e.     Boundary walls are defined as a wall on or within 600mm of any site boundary.

3.     5.2.1 Setback of garages and carports

a.     Carports setbacks can be reduced by 50% if:

i.     Width of carport does exceed 60% of the frontage

ii.     Construction allows for un0obstructed view of dwelling (in other words no garage doors)

iii.     Carport construction matched main dwelling

4.     5.3.2 Landscaping

a.     New on site tree in a deep root zone of 2.0m x 2.0m to be provided as follows: This area has to be free of roof cover and impervious material

i.     Single house – 1 tree

ii.     Grouped house – 1 tree per dwelling

iii.     Multiple dwellings (refer table in R-Codes)

b.     Maximum of 50% of the front setback area can be impervious surfaces. (this becomes are issue for narrow lots with double garages). Examples of permeable (acceptable alternatives are):


5.     5.3.7 Siteworks

a.     New setbacks for retaining walls based on height. Table 4 in R-Codes

b.     Visual privacy still applies

6.     5.5.1 Ancillary Dwellings

a.     Dwelling must be behind the street setback

b.     Dwelling must be compatible design with main dwelling

c.     Dwelling plus main house must comply with open space requirements

7.     Table 2a Boundary wall setbacks

a.     Where walls with no major openings can be 1.0m off the boundary. This used to be for a maximum of 9.0m it is now 14.0m

8.     Table 3 Maximum building heights

a.     Table reworked

 i.     Category A – maximum heights changed (rarely used category)

 ii.     Category B –  (most commonly used)

1.     External wall height increased from 6.0m to 7.0m

2.     Gable, skillion. Concealed wall increased from 7.0m to 8.0m

3.     Pitched roof ridge increased from 9.0m to 10.0m

iii.     Category C– maximum heights changed (rarely used category)

9.     Definitions:

a.     Primary Living Space – The main living space of a dwelling, usually the largest room. This is relevant because a lot of the codes that referenced habitable space now have been changed to reference primary living space. Example: 5.3.1 Outdoor Living Areas

 The R-codes area a substantial document to read and understand.The R-codes can be found here.

 If you would like to know more how the R-codes could affect your new home design, please book a discovery meeting with us today!

About the Author