Policy last updated
26 January 2023
- School councils
This policy explains how the Building Quality Standards Handbook (BQSH) ensures high-quality and inclusive designs for school facilities across Victoria. The BQSH is a key design document that sets the minimum standards for construction and design for all of the department’s building projects. It is provided for information to schools. All school funded and/or school delivered capital projects must comply with the BQSH.
- The Building Quality Standards Handbook sets the minimum quality criteria for all building projects, including new construction, refurbishment and maintenance works.
- All school construction and capital works projects must comply with the BQSH, the National Construction Code (NCC), Victorian and Australian building standards, the Whole of Victorian Government Universal Design Policy, and all relevant departmental infrastructure related policies.
- The BQSH will, on occasion, set construction requirements and standards that are higher than the NCC and standards, to respond to student and staff safety issues and align with departmental infrastructure and OHS obligations and policies.
- The primary audience for the BQSH are architects and designers. Schools and DET corporate may use the handbook for asset management and planning purposes.
- The BQSH is reviewed at the beginning of every calendar year following consultation with a range of BQSH users.
The BQSH sets the minimum mandatory and recommended quality criteria for all government school building projects, including new construction, refurbishment and maintenance works.
The BQSH reflects the considerable experience of the VSBA, developed from years of delivering and evaluating school building projects. The BQSH allows those involved in school design to benefit from this experience and knowledge, and incorporate demonstrated best practice into building projects.
To promote effective educational delivery, school infrastructure must:
- be fit-for-purpose
- promote health, engagement and wellbeing
- be safe and inclusive
- be designed to universal design principles (as outlined in the BQSH and the Whole of Victorian Government Universal Design Policy)
- empower students and build school pride
- encourage intellectual engagement and self-awareness.
In construction and infrastructure, universal design is a design philosophy that ensures buildings and built environments are innately accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their age, level of ability, cultural background or any other differentiating factors. Universal design distinguishes itself from accessible design by focusing on user-centred design from the earliest stages of a project.
The Whole of Victorian Government Universal Design Policy was developed to support Victorian Government departments, agencies and delivery partners to incorporate universal design principles consistently across infrastructure projects. The BQSH has been developed with regard to the Universal Design Policy, and architects and designers are required to apply Universal Design principles in all school capital works.
Schools can refer to the Universal Design Policy by visiting the universal design on the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing website.
Child Safety Standards
The Child Safe Standards (the Standards) are compulsory minimum standards for all Victorian schools, to ensure schools are child-safe organisations that protect children from all forms of abuse.
In response to the Standards, the VSBA seeks to implement a building design element promoting line of sight. Examples of this element have been identified below and the VSBA will seek to incorporate this element into the design of new schools and, where possible, in relation to upgrades to existing buildings:
- visibility – glass walls where possible and glass panels in doors for line-of-sight purposes
- clear visibility of school gates and entrances
- toilet building entrances in line of sight from classrooms, and sightlines between reception areas and sick bays
- for further information, refer to the department’s policy on Child Safe Standards.
Victorian School Curriculum
Those managing school capital works projects must consider the Victorian curriculum and how it can shape the required learning environment in question.
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority sets out the Victorian school curriculum, including learning opportunities and progressions for all students.
BQSH Qualifier: 'must'
A ‘must’ requirement is critical for effective building operation, and/or required under other department policy (for instance, concerning safety, pedagogy or environmentally sustainable design).
BQSH Qualifier: 'should'
A ‘should’ requirement is the recommended method for achieving effective building operation, and/or compliance with other department policy (i.e. concerning safety, pedagogy or environmentally sustainable design).
The latest version of the Building Quality Standards Handbook is available on the Resources tab.
Reviewed 20 December 2020