General Conservation Policy 1 - External Solar, Water, Air conditioning and other Services in Heritage Places

The ACT Heritage Council provides the following conservation objective and policy elements for the installation of services in heritage places.

There are heritage guidelines for many registered heritage places including heritage precincts in the ACT. This policy does not override those guidelines.

Although this policy is not mandatory, it represents the best practice for heritage conservation, endorsed by the ACT Heritage Council, and it will be used by the Council when providing advice on developments in heritage places. The following policy elements are applicable to various types of service installation. Specific policies are provided under separate headings.

Advice on the installation of services may be obtained from the ACT Heritage Unit or the ACT Heritage Advisory Service. Please contact the ACT Heritage Unit on 13 22 81.

Compliance with this policy does not remove any statutory obligation to obtain development consent for new work. Contact ACTPLA on 6207 1923 for advice on whether development consent is needed for proposed work.

For the purposes of this policy, the public domain includes a public roadway, pathway, bridge or parkland within 100 metres of the site of the proposed service installation.

Conservation Objective

To minimise the impact of services on the heritage values of significant buildings, including those within precincts, and on the heritage values of the streetscapes of those precincts.

The ACT Heritage Council is aware that in some instances the specific orientation of services is determined by the orientation of the building on its block, and recognises that in some situations these installations may therefore be visible from the public domain.

Policy Elements

General Policies

The impacts of all service installations should be considered in the light of the following general policies:

  1. All services should avoid or have minimal visual impacts on the heritage place particularly when viewed from the public domain.
  2. The installation of all services should be fully reversible. Any anchorage/mount points should use existing locations if possible. If new anchorage/mounting points are required, they should cause minimal irreversible damage to the built fabric.
  3. Wall penetrations should be kept to a minimum.
  4. The finish and/or colour for all services should where possible match the adjacent roofing and/or walling as appropriate to minimise the visual intrusion.

Solar Panels/Photovoltaic Cells (Including solar panels for solar hot water systems)

  1. Solar panels should be sited away from the public domain unless this is the only practical orientation.
  2. The following locations for the placement of solar panels should be considered to avoid or to minimise visual impacts:
    1. on rear or side roof slopes,
    2. on a garage, carport and other outbuildings rather than the house; or
    3. free standing installations at the back of a house.
  3. Where installed on an original pitched roof, solar panels should have minimal angles to the roof and be as flush as possible with the roof plane.
  4. Solar panels should be of a neutral or dark colour.
  5. Use of solar panels should not require removal of any trees protected by the heritage guidelines for the place.
  6. The arrangement and maximum coverage of roof space by the solar panels should be agreed to by the Heritage Council.
  7. Refer to "Hot Water Systems" for the location of tanks associated with solar hot water systems.

Hot Water Systems

  1. Hot water systems should not be visible from the public domain.
  2. Where possible, storage units should be within roof spaces or in locations not visible from the public domain and must comply with AS3500 and local regulations. Where this is not possible, they should be screened to avoid any adverse visual impacts.
  3. Refer to "Solar Panels/Photovoltaic Cells" for the location and design of solar panels and photovoltaic cells in relation to solar hot water systems.

Water Tanks

  1. Free standing water tanks should be located behind the building line as far as possible to the rear.
  2. The colour of water tanks should be unobtrusive from the public domain. This will often be achieved by selecting a colour as close as possible to the adjacent wall colour
  3. Piping to water tanks should be located to be as discreet as possible. Where located against a wall surface, it should be coloured to be as close as possible to the adjacent wall colour.
  4. Underground water tanks are permissible anywhere on the block provided that minimal impacts on trees and other features protected by relevant heritage guidelines result from their installation, and that the landscape is reinstated as part of the proposal.

Air Conditioner Units / Heat Pumps

  1. Air conditioner units should not be visible from the public domain, and apart from evaporative units, should be located at ground level with screening to reduce visual impacts;
  2. The air conditioner units should not be located at roof level if they can be seen from the street or other public domain;
  3. The walls behind the condenser unit may need to be shielded to prevent damage to the built fabric from heat and exhaust of the unit.

Satellite Dishes / Antenna

  1. Visual impacts should be minimised by placing satellite dishes and antennas at the rear of the building, away from the street frontage, and so that the entire satellite dish/antenna is below any ridgeline between the satellite dish/antenna and the street frontage, and it is otherwise not visible from the public domain;
  2. Cabling or conduit should not run along the surface of external walls;
  3. Cabling should be concealed as much as possible.

This general conservation policy was approved by the ACT Heritage Council 18 October 2012


Tasmania Heritage Council’s Practice Note 16 has been referred to while preparing this publication. Please see