SDA DESIGN STANDARDS – “At the centre of the NDIS is the need to maximise the choice and control of the participant, and to promote opportunities for social and economic participation. Accordingly, SDA should enhance self-determination and create conditions required for participants to lead vibrant, safe, and independent lives.”

Providing a platform for the vulnerable, less fortunate, or those who have not had a voice in the past is important for their integration, and in many cases, it is as simple as offering choices and opportunity that most of us take for granted. CBG is proud to play a small role in providing those within the NDIS a greater choice of lifestyle and accommodation, an enhanced and more integrated approach to their daily lives, and a better acceptance within our community.

It became evident early on at CBG as we developed our knowledge and expertise within this growing and dynamic sector, that whilst regulations set the parameters for the functional needs of residents, these regulations often fall short of how residents want and choose to live.

At the heart of the NDIS, SDA participants are encouraged to make their own decisions and have independence within the broader community. SDA dwellings should provide the same level of choice that they have been sadly lacking for too long.

SDA participants for new builds are approved within one of 4 categories. When discussing new build SDA residences, it is important to recognise there can be overlap between the different categories, and it is not unusual for participants to transition between categories.

  • ROBUST - is largely for those with intellectual disabilities. Requirements for Robust accommodation is significantly different compared to the other categories with respect to design and construction, and as such, this article focuses more on the other three (3) categories.
  • IMPROVED LIVEABILITY - participants generally have a level of physical movement, and may also include those with a mild intellectual disability, or other sensory disability (eg visual).
  • FULLY ACCESSIBLE - participants are generally those with a level of independence but are in wheelchairs majority of the time.
  • HIGH PHYSICAL SUPPORT - designs cater for those with significant physical impairment that typically require a high level of support.

Understanding the categories and their requirements, who you are planning for, and who will be accommodated in your SDA residence is vital when developing a design. A large degree of flexibility for the differing participant needs within and between each category is preferred.


Compliance is defined as being in accordance with established requirements or specifications of the SDA Design Standards. Best Practice is a recommended set of guidelines, ethics, or ideas that should be followed and implemented in practice. Best Practice is not necessarily the best or Gold Standard, but represent the recommendations known to produce desired outcomes.

The SDA design standards set out the minimum compliant requirements to allow someone to dwell in a residence, and Best Practice recommendations are what creates a home for someone to live in.


The Design Standards mandate a kitchen, bathroom, living and dining area, entrance, and 1 bedroom per participant. They do not mandate carpark, outdoor areas, separate bathrooms, OOA, or study areas, but all of these areas should be considered. The Design Standards include several ‘Best Practice’ recommendations for SDA dwellings that include carparking, outdoor areas, emergency power and fire safety.

Best Practice is therefore recommended for greater appeal to participants, ability to age-in-place, provide greater flexibility, future proof designs, and to create a residence that someone would choose and desire to live in.

Future articles will look at Best Practice Recommendations, and how to achieve them through design.
Contact CBG for further details or come along to one of the SDA Conferences and say hi to Bill in person.
Details about future SDA conferences can be found here.