Building Act Potpourri

Rice Speir regularly fields questions from local government clients about the day to day application of the Building Act and Building Code. Here are a few issues that we have dealt with recently that may be of interest.

Pre-fabricated buildings

We have recently dealt with the issue of pre-fabricated buildings constructed overseas, then placed on site in New Zealand. Technically, the pre-fabricated buildings do not require a building consent. The simple reason is that building work undertaken overseas is not subject to the Building Act. There is no authority for a council to compel an application for a building consent in this situation, which would then allow a council to satisfy itself that the prefabricated structure is code compliant.

The use of pre-fabricated structures is becoming increasingly common, which we understand may not be particularly satisfactory to councils as there is no certainty around the compliance of the pre-fabricated structures with the Code. We are currently looking to clarify exactly what a council can do to ensure a building pre-fabricated overseas complies with the Code, absent an application for building consent. Please contact us if you would like more information.

Residential Driveways

We have recently examined the issue of whether residential driveways need to comply with clause D1 of the Code. The confusion about whether clause D1 applies may arise from the similarity of the terms “access route” and “accessible route” referred to in the clause.

In our view, clause D1 applies to residential driveways, but a lack of clarity in the Building Code suggests that this issue is a good one to be determined by MBIE. Based on the advice of an expert traffic engineer, we have formed the view that driveways fall within the natural meaning of “construction edge” referred to in clause D1 and “structure” in the Building Act. Our view is that driveways do form part of an “access route”. We have not seen any references that indicate domestic driveways are exempt from this, and the Code appears to cover residential vehicle area developments. If you have any thoughts on this issue, please let us know.

Second “kitchens”

Our local government clients are increasingly seeing construction jobs where one room is set up to accommodate a second kitchen, but that second kitchen is not fully plumbed and operable. That room may, for example, have cabinetry, benchtops and spaces that will fit a fridge, oven or microwave. This would allow the future owner to easily convert the room into a second kitchen. A second kitchen would need a different building consent (and often, a resource consent and separate development contribution), but there is commonly uncertainty about whether or not the space constitutes a “kitchen” before it is fully completed. This in turns raises the issue of what the appropriate response should be when an application for Code Compliance Certificate is received.

By way of example, we recently advised on a situation where the homeowners had installed cabinetry and a bench, without a sink, as part of otherwise consented renovations. The space did not (yet) have any plumbed connections. It was clear that the intention was to use the space as a second operational kitchen at some point, and the property was marketed as having the potential to accommodate separate families in future.

The right call for a council in this type of situation will be fact specific. In each case, it will be important to consider exactly what fixtures are currently in place (for example sinks, drainage, plumbing and appliances), what the space is intended to be used for, and whether what is built complies with the consented plans. It will often be a finely balanced issue, which we would be happy to work through with you.

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