If you are planning on building in New Zealand, it is important to understand the building consent process. Obtaining a building consent is a legal requirement for many types of construction, including structural building, plumbing and drainage, relocating a building, installing a wood burner or air-conditioning system, retaining walls higher than 1.5 metres, fences or walls higher than 2.5 metres, swimming pools and their associated fences, decks, platforms or bridges more than 1.5 metres above ground level, sheds greater than 30 square metres in floor area, and some earthworks.
Before starting any construction work, it is crucial to determine whether a building consent is required. Low-risk building work may not require a building consent under the Building Act. For more information on building work that does not require a building consent, refer to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website.
What is a Building Consent?
A building consent is an official written approval from the local council, allowing specific building work to be carried out on a particular site, which must comply with the current regulations and safety standards. It ensures that the proposed work is safe, durable, and meets the required standards to protect the health and safety of anyone using the building.
The process of obtaining a building consent can be complicated, so it is highly recommended to seek professional help from qualified individuals such as architectural designers or registered building practitioners. These professionals are experienced in the requirements for obtaining building consent and can provide guidance on the necessary documentation and compliance items that must be addressed.
Building Consent Process?
The building consent process typically involves the following steps:
- Pre-application meeting: This is a voluntary meeting with council staff to discuss the project and to understand the requirements for building consent.
- Building consent application: The building consent application includes a set of documents that provide information on the proposed work. This documentation must be prepared by a registered professional who is responsible for ensuring that the proposed work meets the performance criteria of the New Zealand Building Code. The documentation should include plans, specifications, calculations, and other relevant information. The application is submitted to the local council for review.
- Council review: The council will review the application to ensure that the proposed work meets the requirements of the New Zealand Building Code, as well as any other relevant legislation or regulations. The council may ask for further information in some areas to fully understand the work before approving the submitted documents.
- Building consent issued: If the council is satisfied that the proposed work meets the requirements, it will issue a building consent.
- Building work: Once the building consent is issued, the construction phase of the project can begin. It is important to understand any conditions of the building consent before engaging with a builder to undertake the construction phase of the design.
Building Consent Requirements
The building consent process is designed to ensure that the proposed work meets the requirements of the New Zealand Building Code, as well as any other relevant legislation or regulations. The Building Code contains a set of minimum standards for the design and construction of new buildings, as well as alterations and additions to existing buildings. Some of the key requirements of the Building Code include:
- Structural integrity: The building must be structurally sound and able to withstand the expected loads.
- Fire safety: The building must be designed to reduce the risk of fire and to protect the occupants in the event of a fire.
- Sanitary plumbing and drainage: The building must have an adequate system for the disposal of wastewater and must prevent the contamination of potable water supplies.
- Access and facilities for people with disabilities: The building must be designed to be accessible for people with disabilities.
- Energy efficiency: The building must be designed to be energy efficient and to minimize the impact on the environment.
If there has been a change in use of a building or space, such as converting a garage into a habitable space, it may require building consent. Additionally, certain types of buildings or structures, such as commercial or industrial buildings, may have additional requirements and regulations.
It is important to note that even if building consent is not required, the work still needs to comply with the New Zealand Building Code and any other relevant legislation. This includes requirements for fire safety, ventilation, and moisture control, among others.
If building consent is required, the process typically involves submitting an application to the local council, along with detailed plans and specifications of the proposed work. The council will review the application and may request additional information or modifications before granting consent. Once consent is granted, the work must be completed in accordance with the approved plans and any conditions specified in the consent.
It is important to work with a qualified and experienced architectural designer or other building professional to ensure that the plans and specifications meet the requirements of the New Zealand Building Code and any other relevant legislation. They can also assist with the building consent process and ensure that all necessary documentation is submitted to the local council.
In addition to building consent, there may be other permits or approvals required for certain types of work or projects. For example, resource consent may be required for projects that impact the environment, such as building in a coastal or heritage area. It is important to research and understand any additional requirements that may apply to your project.
Navigating the world of building consents in New Zealand can be complex and daunting, but it is important to ensure that any construction work complies with the New Zealand Building Code and other relevant legislation. Working with an experienced architectural designer or other building professional can help ensure that the building consent process is as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Want to hear more? Modal Architecture is a local architectural design firm specialising in high-performance, sustainable, and lifestyle homes around New Zealand. If you want to find out more - get in touch below to discuss this article or your upcoming project.