Boundary treatments Print

​​Design Checklist​

  1. The design of any street or public boundary​ contributes to a positive, attractive and safe public realm
  2. The boundary treatment balances appropriate views into any adjacent public realm whilst maintaining privacy for building occupants
  3. Offer a defined edge between public, communal and priva​te open space​

​​​​​​​​Boundary treatments are those elements which define the extent of the development site and differentiate between public, communal and private spaces within or immediately adjacent to the development.

Front boundary elements generally separate privately owned land from the public realm, often streets.

Common boundary treatments include tree and shrub planting, fences, screening devices and changes in level.  Lower fences or walls at the front of sites, with slightly higher fences along the sides and rear of sites, offer a good balance between privacy and street surveillance.​

Better Design Practice

The boundary treatment should add to the positive identity of the development. 
  • Consider the choice of materials (including the ratio of solid to transparent material) and the height and depth of the boundary (the distance from the building to the edge of the street). This will need a different design response depending on the situation. 
  • Avoid continuous and monotonous lengths of blank walls at street level. 
  • Limit the length and height of retaining walls along street frontages, and locate street-facing entries so that there is a clear view from the street. 
  • Carefully design fences or walls to provide privacy and security while maintaining views, outlook, light and air. 
  • Use soft landscaping or planted elements to provide views and privacy along the street edge. 
  • Consider the positioning, location and frequency (the vertical and horizontal rhythm) of street facing details such as entrances, mailboxes, boundary markers and fence posts. This can help the development to respond to the street and neighbourhood context.

Where private open space is located in front of the dwelling next to the street, privacy and street surveillance can be balanced by: 
  • using a fence, wall, hedge or planting that is sufficiently visually permeable to give passing pedestrians a sense of the private garden or terrace without a clear view into it
  • minimising direct sightlines by using a change in level from the street to the private garden or terrace, or to the ground floor when the frontage is to the street edge
  • carefully designing the height of boundary and retaining walls to control views into a property while allowing views out
  • providing a screening device (which may be adjustable) around an outdoor area rather than at the boundary
  • territorially marking the boundaries using hedging, surface changes or fencing to delineate public, semi-private and private open spaces. This should be designed to offer opportunities for visual contact across or through fencing or hedging. Visually-permeable fencing with hedging grown in behind is one solution which provides a balanced approach to security and outward safety
  • design fences and walls to add value to the amenity of private or communal open spaces e.g. by incorporating seats into their edge.

Use planting to reduce the scale of any street-facing raised terraces, e.g. those over sub-basement car parking, and to soften their edge. Select durable materials that are easily cleaned and graffiti-resistant.

Rules of Thumb

Limit the height of front and side fences within the first five metres of the street so that drivers can see pedestrians on the footpath. Typical driver eye level is approximately 1200mm from the ground.
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