Building Consents

A key part of our service is preparing ‘consent documentation’, that is plans, specifications and other such information that can be used to obtain a building consent for your project. The benefit of investing in quality documentation is that it makes everything easier – the building consent can be processed without delay if all the information is provided upfront, and your contractor will find it easier to price and build your project using clear and detailed drawings.

Building activity in New Zealand is governed by the Building Act which establishes the rules and framework under which building work is regulated, and the Building Code which sets performance requirements for buildings. Documentation prepared for a building consent application must clearly demonstrate how the proposed building work complies with all applicable performance requirements under the building code.

The same building code applies in all parts of New Zealand, though the performance requirements may vary depending on factors such as climatic conditions, wind speed and earthquake zones. It is also important to note that the building code only establishes minimum acceptable performance levels, and it is often advisable to aim for higher performance levels in areas such as energy efficiency and insulation.

Most residential projects will include some ‘restricted building work’ – work relating to weathertightness, structure or protection from fire that must only be designed by appropriately-qualified designers and built by licenced building practitioners (LBPs) who are licenced to undertake specific work such as roofing, plastering or foundations. It is important that your designer is licenced to carry out the type of work your project involves, as you need to provide evidence of this when applying for building consent. As Registered Architects we are able to design in all three categories of restricted building work, including all types of single and multi-unit residential work.

Applying for building consent is quite a procedure in itself, and a typical application for a new home or alteration will include most or all of the following documentation:

  • Architectural drawings including floor plans, elevations, cross sections, plumbing and electrical plans, and construction details showing how the building is put together and how it complies with the building code.
  • Structural drawings and calculations including information relating to foundations, beams, bracing and connections.
  • A Specification, which is a written document containing information about each trade that is too detailed to show on the drawings.
  • Geotechnical information, e.g. soil tests and reports on the ground conditions.
  • Producer statements and design certificates from consultants involved in the project.
  • Energy efficiency calculations demonstrating heat loss from the building.
  • Information relating to specific products or materials to be used in the building.
  • And last but not least an application form and checklist.

A building consent will typically take 4-6 weeks to be approved by council, and ensuring that the documentation is detailed and complete will minimise delays due to ‘requests for information’. Once the building consent is approved council will issue the approved consent documents, a copy of which must be kept on site at all times during construction. This will also include a list of all the inspections that council needs to undertake at various stages, and it is important that these are all carried out or you may run into trouble when it comes time to apply for a code compliance certificate at the completion of the job.

For smaller projects it is often possible to save the time and cost of applying for building consent by undertaking work that does not require building consent. Under Schedule 1 of the Building Act certain work is deemed to be exempt from building consent, including many types of repairs and maintenance work, minor alterations and carports. There can be worthwhile savings in documentation and compliance cost achieved by avoiding the formal building consent process, but the onus is on the homeowner to ensure all work complies with the building code and the district plan. As such it is important that architectural and structural work is designed by suitably-qualified professionals, particularly as there will be no council inspections as the building work progresses.

Read our ‘Architectural Services’ page to find out more about the design and documentation work that forms the basis of a detailed and accurate set of construction documents.