What is a Building Permit?

A Building Permit is written permission from a registered building surveyor certifying that your plans comply with the Building Regulations and Australian Standards. The building surveyor is required to inspect the building works at various Stages of Construction. You must have this Permit before work can begin. You must also have a demolition permit to demolish any building.

When Are Building Permits Required?

The Building Act 1993 requires a building permit to be issued before a person can carry out building work. It is probably easier to list the circumstances under which a building permit is not required. Listed below are some of the exemptions for obtaining a building permit.

These include but are not limited to –

  • Building used only temporarily for the duration of building work for-
    (i) construction purposes; or
    (ii) display purposes
  • Any retaining wall less than 1m in height which is not associated with other building work or with protection work of an adjoining allotment.
  • Building work to repair, reconstruct or renew any part of an existing building, if the work-
    (i) is done for maintenance purposes using similar materials to those being replaced; and
    (ii) is not underpinning or replacement of footings; and
    (iii) will not affect the structural soundness of the building; and
    (iv) Will not affect the safety of the public or occupiers of the building.
  • Alterations to a building (other than a swimming pool) if the building work-
    (i) has a cost of less than $5000 (including the value of all labour and materials); and
    (ii) will not adversely affect the structural soundness of any building; and
    (iii) will not adversely affect the safety of the public or occupiers of any building; and
    (iv) will not project beyond the street alignment; and
    (v) Is not demolition, removal or re-erection of a building; and
    (vi) is not work in relation to an item listed in Table 11.2 of the Building Regulations which was required by or under these Regulations or any corresponding previous regulations to be provided in the building and
    (vii) is not work carried out on, or in connection with, a building included on the Heritage Register established under the Heritage Act 1995 and
    (viii) will not involve construction over an easement vested in the council or the authority specified in Regulation 2.4 of the Building Regulations.

What is a Planning Permit?

A Planning Permit may be required for any building work by the local council. This requirement may vary depending on the properties zoning, overlays or vegetation or heritage protection.

If a building design can comply with the planning requirements it may not require a planning permit. Obtaining a planning permit is often a lengthy process, but sometimes unavoidable.

In many cases, once the application has been submitted to council the project will be advertised to neighbouring properties by a sign erected at the front of the property and/or letters sent.

What is the difference between a Building designer and an Architect?

An architect is a person who has studied architecture at university, has gained an architectural degree, passed a professional examination and is registered with the Architects Registration Board. At present, only a person registered with the Board can call themselves an architect.

A Building Designer or Draftsperson should be registered as a Draftsperson – Building Design (Architectural) and will carry Professional Indemnity Insurance as required under the Act. Builders generally regard Building Designers Construction Drawings as more user friendly. The Building Designer will have completed an Associate Diploma or Certificate of Technology in Architectural Drafting. A Building Designer can provide the same services as an Architect. In fact 80% of Building Approvals are prepared by Building Designers. Some Architects use Building Designers to produce their Town Planning or Construction drawings.

What is a Registered Building Practitioner?

A registered Building Practitioner includes the draftsman, Engineer, Building surveyor, Building Inspector, Builder, Demolition contractor, carpenters, bricklayers, concreters, etc..There are some contractors that are exempt from being registered. A registered building practitioner will have Professional Indemnity Insurance. It is an indication of their experience, expertise and qualifications.

To check out a practitioners registration visit www.buildingcommission.com.au

I have a sketch design from another Architect or Building Designer?

If you have engaged an Architect or Building Designer to provide you with a Sketch it does not preclude you from going to another company to complete drawings for Town Planning or Building Permit application.

To avoid any copyright infringement you will need to obtain the original architects / Building Designers written Authority to allow us to reproduce his design. This would also apply even if a planning permit has been issued or the original designer’s account has been paid in full.

What does it cost to have plans prepared?

This will vary depending upon extent of design work required, size and complexity of project, Other factors such as if a town planning permit is required, extent of plan documentation, changes made by client, extent of approvals required from council or other regulatory authorities eg. Land in Bush fire zones or in flood prone areas and Building dispensations will also affect the cost.

An initial meeting with one of our Building designers will enable us to prepare a written fee proposal indicating our fees and an estimate of additional costs that you may incur.

What is a feature level Survey?

Is a plan that shows the contours or levels of the land and includes all features including fences, trees, buildings, retaining walls and adjoining building locations.

This plan is generally required by the council and by our office before any design work takes place.

What is a re-establishment Survey?

Your fence may not necessarily be your actual boundary. Existing fences may or may not be located on the Boundaries indicated on your Certificate of Title.

A re-establishment survey is carried out by a licensed land surveyor to determine the exact location of your boundary based on your title. Pegs will be located at the corners of your property and the builder can use these to set out your building. This is particularly important if your building is on or close to a boundary, on a small block, or you are unsure of your boundary location. We can organize a quote and co-ordinate the land surveyor as part of our service.

What other costs might I incur?

Other costs incurred in your project may be through involvement of other consultants. Listed below are a few:

  • Land Surveyor
  • Geo-technical Engineer (soil report)
  • Structural Engineer
  • Civil or Drainage Engineer
  • Bush-fire Assessment Consultant
  • Energy Rating Consultant
  • Landscape designer
  • Town Planning Consultant
  • Building Surveyor

Additional Costs incurred could be for applications to various Council or Regulatory Authorities such as:

  • Town Planning fees to local councils
  • Council Building Dispensation Fees
  • Application to build in a flood prone area
  • Application to Build over an Easement
  • Septic Tank Permit
  • Fee for searching for existing Plans from council
  • Registering as an Owner Builder
  • Building and Demolition Permits

How many design changes can be made to avoid copyright infringement?

The Copyright law prevents the reproduction or copying of someone else’s building or plans without the consent of the original designer.

Copying any part of another plan is not permitted. There is no percentage or number of changes you can make that will avoid copyright infringement. The best description I’ve heard is that if you start a round object and turn it into a square object, and it can be proved in court that you started with the round object, you can be prosecuted for copyright infringement.

The best solution is to have a house designed specifically for your site. We can take into account land topography, prevailing winds, sun position, adjoining buildings, views, and local planning laws to achieve a custom house design that suits your lifestyle and budget.

What is property information?

This includes information that relates to your property obtained from a government authority. This information enables the building designer and client to make decisions about the location, construction and design of the proposed building.

The water authority will have information that relates to location of the sewer main and its depth and size. Special permits are required to build within one metre of a sewer drain. The local council will provide details of the location of any stormwater drains on the site and their depth and size. Permits are also required to build within one meter of a stormwater drain.

The council may also have information about whether a property is in a flood prone area, Termite area, Bush fire area or an area subject to snow loads.

A copy of any existing plans held by the council should also be sought for renovations and additions to existing homes or buildings.

A current copy of the title les than 90 days old with the current owner’s name and Plan of Subdivision is required before lodging for a Planning or Building permit.

Each of these authorities charge a fee to obtain this information. Mount Martha Drafting can obtain this information on your behalf, at your cost.

How much is construction going to cost?

It is difficult to use a “per square rate” to price the construction of a custom designed home. There can be many variations from one home to another, including Land slope, type of construction, variation in quality of fixtures and cabinetry and complexity of the design. Some of our clients may wish to Owner-Build their home to save costs. This adds another degree of uncertainty to estimating cost.

At Mount Martha Drafting & Design we would ask you to provide us with the maximum size of house you wish us to design. We then encourage our clients to involve a registered builder after a sketch has been prepared to provide a construction cost estimate. This estimate is only a ball park figure but it will help the client to decide whether to proceed with the design or simplify the design brief. With some projects it may be advisable to engage the services of a Building estimator.

What is adverse possession?

This is an old law that says, basically, that where a trespasser (or neighbour) remains in continous occupation of land for a period of time (generally 15 years) then that person acquires ownership of the land.

The law prevents someone who has used land for a long period of time (believing it to be their land) from losing the use of that land by someone who discovers where the property boundary is.

A typical example is where a fence is incorrectly placed inside the proper boundary of a property. The properties on either side of the boundary may have been sold numerous times before someone discovers the mistake. The owner of the land that has “lost” because of the mistake, cannot now force the owner of the land that has “gained” to move the fence back to the original boundary. A land surveyor should be engaged to determine accurate location of your boundaries prior to construction and preferably prior to building design.

How do I select or source a Builder?

Once we have completed the design and prepared plans the next step is to select a registered builder. You have probably heard it before but you should never select a builder because of the cheapest price. Your selection process should be based upon a number of criteria.

  • Workmanship – Have a look at recent projects they have built.
  • Level of experience – Is this builder suited to renovations or new homes? How long has he been in business?
  • Is he/she registered? Check with the Building Control Commission.
  • How busy are they? If the builder is flat out completing other projects, you may wish to choose another builder or delay the project until the builder is freed up.
  • Communication – If you feel uncomfortable in the builder’s presence or find you cannot chat freely then do not engage that person to build your home

As you might expect we are in contact with various Builders in the course of our business. Mount Martha Drafting & Design do not endorse any particular company but we can put you in contact with local builders. It is up to the client to do their evaluation based on the criteria above. Ensure you have completed drawings and written specification before requesting a final quote.

What do I need to do to be an owner – builder?

You will be required to become registered as an Owner-Builder please refer the Building Control Commission “Owner Builder application forms”

Please call to discuss any of the questions below or any others you may have.

  • I have received a “Show Cause” notice from the council. What should I do?
  • What is a Covenant in relation to my Title?
  • Can I build a unit/s on my property?
  • What is a Geo-technical or soil test report?
  • What is a protection Notice?
  • Can I build over my easement?
  • What is an estimator / Quantity Surveyor?
  • What if my property is located in a bush fire area?
  • What if my property is in a Flood prone area?
  • What is a Septic Tank Permit?
  • What is a Home Energy Rating Report?
  • What is a Structural Engineer?
  • What is a Civil Engineer?
  • What is a specification?
  • What happens if I have objections from neighbours against my project?
  • When should I involve a builder in my project?