Safety, activity and privacy Print

Desi​gn Checklist

  1. The street edge design provides safety for both sides of the boundary, privacy for the development’s occupants and activity towards the public realm


There is some degree of conflict between the goals of safety, activity and privacy when designing for the public/private interface at the street edge. The street is a safer, more interesting place for pedestrians when the building actively fronts the street, (for example, by having windows on the ground floor), but ultimately some types of activity require a level of privacy that precludes high levels of transparency or interaction between the building/site and the public realm.

Architectural elements can be incorporated into the facade so that a building 'reaches out' to the street. Views into a building provide interest to passers-by and make its function apparent, while views out contribute to safety by putting ‘eyes onto the street’. Windows imply the presence of others, which adds perceived and actual safety. Using public street-side space for informal activities (such as restaurants and cafe tables on the footpath) can add vitality to a place.

Ground floor residential units offer the potential for direct access from the street and the provision of private landscaped outdoor areas. Ground floor residential units improve choice and flexibility by offering easily accessible housing to the elderly, disabled, and families with small children, and by allowing activities such as gardening, outdoor play and pet ownership. They also allow the building and its landscaping to respond to the streetscape and public domain at a more human scale. Because it is often difficult to ensure privacy in ground floor apartments, it may be wise to select a non-residential use for ground floor spaces in buildings that front directly onto the street. ​

Better Design Practice

Contribute to the spatial and visual amenity of the street by providing individual street entries for ground floor units.

This articulates the street edge and animates the street with more pedestrian activity.​

Maintain occupant privacy while allowing for two way surveillance between the site and the street.

Pedestrians in the public domain should be able to see into a private garden or a terrace to a degree that is not intrusive. Views into residential interiors should be kept to an absolute minimum or able to be controlled by occupants. This can be achieved by:
  • using a fence, wall, hedge or planting that is sufficiently visually permeable to give passing pedestrians an awareness and fleeting appreciation of private gardens or terraces without providing a clear view into them.
  • minimising direct sight lines by utilising a change in level from the street to the private garden or terrace.
  • carefully designing the height of boundary walls to control views into a property.
  • providing a screening device (may be adjustable) around an outdoor area, or within windows, rather than at the boundary.

Ensure adequate privacy and safety of ground floor residential units in urban areas with no street setbacks by:
  • ​lifting the ground floor from the level of the footpath (but avoiding high walls against the footpath).
  • designing balustrades and window sill heights to minimise sight lines into apartments.
  • determining appropriateness of individual entries.
  • ensuring safety bars or screens (only where absolutely necessary) are integrated into the overall elevation design and detailing.
  • providing clear views from the street to the apartment entry and avoiding the creation of potential hiding places for assailants.
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