AUST – HENDRY building surveyors advise that building design amendments relating to new buildings or alterations to existing buildings need not be compelled to comply with new regulations or amendments to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) that are enacted during the design phase. (One exception to this are the regulations relating to the Access provisions of the Premises Standard, incorporated in BCA 2011, depending on the building surveyor’s interpretation).

Building control legislation around Australia permits a building to be designed to the standards applicable at the time that a substantial amount of the design has already been undertaken. An owner or applicant can seek a determination from the Approving Authority (Building Surveyor/Certifier/Council) for a specific building design amendment to not apply to their project. Each State and Territory has its own Act or Regulations controlling building construction including administrative control mechanism and safety measures.

Controlling Legislation for building design amendments generally override base BCA provisions and can impact on the design where the amendment dictates an additional requirement in building that is not otherwise reflected in the BCA. Consequently, an owner should always be aware of new building regulations and standards even though they legally need not apply to their design. Examples of current regulatory impacts relate to class 1a, 3 and 9c buildings which affect BCA provisions, as the BCA is only updated on a twelve monthly cycle on May of each year, resulting in a new Building Code of Australia 2008, 2009, etc.

Subtle changes in BCA clauses from year to year should always be understood for designs that have a long lead time to approval stage.

Owners should always enquire of their consultants whether any new BCA or regulatory provision can affect their project or whether such new provisions should otherwise be complied with. New Australian Standards published from time to time can have a similar impact on a design as the referenced Australian Standards are actually set out in the Building Code of Australia but industry may be legally compelled to use the current edition.

Examples are:

AS 2118.1 2006 – The BCA references the 1999 Code, however industry may be using the 2006 Code which could be more onerous.

AS 1668.2 – The BCA calls up the 1999 version of the Code whilst industry generally uses the 2002 version.

AS/NZS 3000 – NSW calls up the 2000 version whilst a 2007 edition is now being used.

AS/NZS 1596 – NSW calls up the 2002 edition whilst a 2008 edition is now available.

Building and Property Managers should always be careful with portfolios that stretch over State borders due to varying criteria issued by each State authority.

State and Territory variations will prevail for some time before consensus is reached regarding the addoption of a common set of standards, including the BCA itself, without containing State or Territory amendments.

Section I of the Building Code of Australia in particular will require most States and Territories to adopt it through their individual controlling legislation in order to achieve a consistent outcome.

Building Legislation Table

Refer to our Building Legislation table for further information on the building control process.