The Building Act

So our office has been abuzz lately as we try and get our heads around what the new Building Act, to be implemented Jan 1st 2012, is all about. Mostly we’ve been focussing on where to find all these building surveyors who are going to ‘sign off’ on buildings for us.

This is the kind of thing I wish the Institute or the Board would advise all architects (not just members) about, so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming when we’re told to just ‘comply with the new Act’. So after the first few weeks of ‘huh, what Act?’ I’ve read through some of the 117 page Act and various weblinks, and these are my comments:

One of the goals of the new regulations is to cut approval times for Building Licences, and ‘regulate the industry’. It seems if you are doing a Class 1 or 10 building (residential) or ‘minor work’ then it’s business as usual and you submit drawings and speci to the local council for Building Licence Approval. They then have 35 days to approve it.

But, if you are doing any other type of building, the drawings and speci are submitted to an Independent Building Surveyor who basically does what the council currently does: checks through your documentation, clarifies things, queries others, and eventually ‘signs off’ on the building by returning to you a Certificate of Design Compliance. , stating the design conplies with all current, known building standards. (Like the BCA, …sorry NCC) You then submit this Certificate to the Council who issues the builder a Building Licence within 14 days (I wonder how long a Building Surveyor check for design compliance will take?)

(I haven’t heard anything about fees on this yet. I assume since the Council is no longer checking the Documentation, then their fees for submitting the Certificate must be much less. Will be interesting to see if the cost of Building Surveyor plus Council submission will be different to current Building Licence Application fees, which can sometimes be out of control. And what do councils think about not getting these fees anymore? Although they won’t need as many staff – I suppose that’s who will be the first lot of Independent Building Surveyors – ex council workers.)

The new regulations also overhaul the Council’s Certificate of Occupation procedure. (Only applicable to multi-residential, commercial and public buildings) This is one element I’m really not sure on. Now, once the building is finished, the Independent Building Surveyor ‘signs off’ that the building has been ‘constructed in accordance with the relevant building permit’ ie in accordance with all building standards. This would be a very tricky one to sign off on, and I’m really not sure how the liability will work there. Can the IBS certify the insulation in the ceiling is properly lapped, that the concrete was correctly cured, that the waterproofing was finished as required, that every nut and bolt is properly located and fixed? I’m not saying the builder would have done things incorrectly, more that it is a hard call for someone unrelated to ‘certify’ the construction process without being on site everyday. We have been asked to certify construction previously (during the BER) and all we said was ‘to the best of our knowledge’ but not sure if that will wash with council.

Another interesting point is that the new regulations now cover ALL buildings, including those on Crown land, which previously did not have to submit for Building Licence, so may not have completely complied with the BCA. Will be interesting to see what happens there.

Thoughts? Comments? Things I’ve missed / stuffed up?


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