VIC – HENDRY building surveyors provide this article for clients who require a background knowledge for the subdivision of a building or land under the building regulation. A building subdivision is based on three main pieces of legislation, the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the Subdivision Act 1988 and Subdivision (Procedures) Regulations 2000. A building subdivision will involve additional requirements together under the Building Regulations 2006. In certain instances building work may be required so that a building subdivision can occur under the building regulations.

A building subdivision is controlled through the Planning Scheme. A Planning Permit is thus required before a building or land is able to be subdivided (unless specific exemptions apply).

The planning process requires the Planning Authority (Council) to refer an application for a building subdivision to various relevant authorities. These authorities will include:

  • VicRoads
  • Telstra
  • Electrical Authorities
  • Minister administering the Land Act 1958,
  • Water and sewerage authorities
  • Fire Brigades
  • EPA
  • In-house departments
  • Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2006

In house, the Town Planning department will have referred the building subdivision application to other sections of Council such as City Engineer, Building Surveyor and Health Surveyor. The responsible authority will subsequently issue a Planning Permit for the building subdivision. The permit must spell out all conditions to permit the building subdivision and will include conditions requested by the above authorities and Council departments.

It is through this process that suitability of the building subdivision of proposed or existing buildings on land are assessed. If an existing building for example is being subdivided the planning approval may require building standards to be updated to a prescribed standard via a building regulations permit conditions or the property could be subjected to enforcement actions by the building surveyor if such conditions could not be met. It can also specify management arrangements or maintenance agreements which may be exercised through a Section 173 Agreement with the Council.

Where the building subdivision is of an existing building, Regulation 503 of the Building Regulations 2006 may require all buildings resulting from the building subdivision to be brought into conformity with the Regulations (ie: compliance with Building Code of Australia (BCA) unless certain factors are exempted.

Considerations for a building subdivision in this regard will relate to issues such as structural adequacy, amenity of the building, safety and health of people using the building and the avoidance of spread of fire to or from any adjoining building.

Considerations will hinge upon the opinion that the safety, health and amenity of persons accommodated in any building on the allotments and the risk of the spread of fire to adjacent buildings will not be substantially adversely affected in a building subdivision under the building regulations.

It can be concluded, amongst other things, that a building subdivision sharing common services as required under the building regulations such as sprinklers, mechanical systems that are not being maintained by the owner’s corporation will not be supported (essential safety measures). In addition, subdivisions of land which adversely affects opens space, exit paths and building set backs will also not be supported.

Therefore, existing buildings in most cases will require some building upgrade to be carried out under the building regulations, the extent of which cannot be defined since it is dependent on each particular circumstance. New buildings must be designed and constructed to comply as far as possible as individual buildings in order to facilitate the building subdivision under the building regulations. The building subdivision process does allow implied easements S12(2) to be adopted, however this does not mean services such as a fire main can be shared.

The Subdivisions Act requires an owner’s corporation to be established if there is common property associated with the building subdivision. A Title is issued for the common property in the name of the owner’s corporation. The owner’s corporation is therefore able to deal with the common property. The advantage of this is that services located in the common property are maintained by the owner’s corporation.

A new building should be designed to take advantage of this with the foresight to allow for a future building subdivision. The following guidelines can apply to a building subdivision under the building regulations.

Guidelines for Building Subdivision: Building Regulations

  1. Individual tenancies must be air disconnected and separately ventilated (mechanical and natural ventilation). The dividing common wall needs not have a fire rating unless it acts as a fire wall. It should however be of solid construction (eg: masonry). An FRL of 60 minutes minimum is recommended in unsprinklered buildings for a building subdivision under the building regulations
  2. Ensure that any building subdivision or land subdivision are part of the initial planning application/permit. This will ensure that the building surveyors comments regarding such a building subdivision proposal building are incorporated into the design early, although additional comments/items may still be forthcoming; these should not be of a major consequence.
  3. If the building requires sprinkler system protection, each “compartment” which can be or is to be subdivided in the building subdivision should be an independent system serviced from a common supply which is located in common property along with the sprinkler valve room, booster pumps and monitoring devices, etc. This enables the servicing of such equipment to be the responsibility of the owner’s corporation.
  4. Each part of a building which can be subdivided (under going the building subdivision) should have its own fire main as required by the building regulations which is connected to a common fire main located in common property. The fire main should be suitably valved so that other tenancies (allotment) cannot be affected by the closure of a valve for another tenancy (allotment).
  5. Mechanical plant which is servicing more than one tenancy allotment must, other than the duct reticulation within the tenancy/allotment, be located in common property upon completion of the building subdivision.
  6. The building subdivision must not affect major building regulation items such as exits, paths of travel to exits and open space leading to a street (i.e: must be common property).
  7. Setbacks (siting) of the building for a building subdivision must not be altered except in the situation where the building is otherwise constructed to comply with the revised siting (i.e: type of construction, fire ratings, egress, openings, town planning permit, etc).
  8. Ensure under the building regulations sanitary facilities are correct for each use within each subdivided tenancy or toilets exits in common property relevant to the whole building. If sanitary or other facilities serve a number of tenancies on separate allotments, they must be located in common property under a building subdivision.
  9. Reticulate other services such as gas, water, electrical, sewer and storm water drainage through common property and provide individual branches into each allotment. (The final building subdivision design should however be checked with the various authorities).
  10. The building must otherwise comply with the building regulations for a building subdivision to be approved.
  11. The building surveyor will require a building regulation building permit to be issued prior to any alteration or building work occurring to facilitate the building subdivision.

Finally it must be remembered that the criteria mentioned in Building Regulations 502 and 608 is very broad and will be subject to wide and differing interpretations by municipal building surveyors for a building subdivision.

Putting to use the above guidelines in close consultation with the building surveyor will ensure an easy passage for the building subdivision application from a building regulations point of view.

Building Legislation Table

Refer to our Building Legislation table for further information on the building regulations process including the Certificate of Occupancy.

Fire Safety Compliance: Essential Safety Measures

Refer to our Essential Safety Measures Identification Table for further information on individual essential safety measures including and the AESMR.

Further Advice

For building surveying consultancy advice, please contact your closest HENDRY office by clicking here.