Tools to help you with sustainable design in planning

If you are applying for a planning permit for a medium-to-large scale development, you must include an assessment of your development using an environmentally sustainable design tool.

A number of online tools are available to help you with this, including:

More detailed information on environmentally sustainable design tools can be found on our fact sheet.

Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS)

The BESS is an online sustainability assessment tool purpose-built for the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process framework and:

  • is free to use for planning permit applications
  • will help you meet the requirements of clause 22.71 of the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme
  • can assess any size and type of building, including mixed-use developments
  • can be used to benchmark against other developments
  • streamlines the planning permit process
  • reduces running costs of new buildings.

The information required to complete the assessment is simple for small developments, increasing in complexity for larger developments.

The difference between FirstRate, BESS and Green Star


FirstRate is the software most commonly used to demonstrate compliance with the National Construction Code of Australia and uses the NatHERS protocol. Note that meeting energy efficiency standards through a 6-Star FirstRate rating does not reflect best practice standard.


The BESS planning tool specifies best practice benchmarks in different environmental categories. Meeting these benchmarks confirms best practice standard for medium-to-large scale buildings.

This tool replaces STEPS and SDS as one integrated tool for residential and non-residential, or mixed-use projects.

Green star rating

Large-scale buildings can also demonstrate best practice standard by obtaining a Green star rating (4, 5 or 6 Stars) through the Green Building Council Australia.

If you’re using this tool, make sure that all sustainable design commitments can be clearly demonstrated at planning stage. An operational commitment to gain a Green Star benchmarked rating is not sufficient to pass the planning stage.

Page last updated: Monday, 4 January 2021