Dealing with building consent authorities

Building consent authorities need evidence that the proposed renovation will comply with the Building Code.

Building consent authorities assess building proposals to ensure that they will meet or exceed the relevant Building Code performance requirements. (Not all renovations or repairs require a building consent. Find out about exemptions here.)

When you apply for a consent, you’ll need to demonstrate how that performance is going to be achieved. The consent application will include project documentation such as working drawings. As part of the application, you’ll need to clearly identify which compliance path you have used for each aspect of building performance, and provide evidence to show how the required performance will be achieved.

The building consent authority will assess the plans and other information you provide and determine whether the Code’s performance requirements will be met if the building work is carried out as planned.

The BCA will issue a building consent when it is satisfied that the proposed building work meets all of the relevant Building Code performance requirements.

Applying for building consent

Before applying for a building consent, consult the BCA to determine the type and level of information required and how it should be presented. This will depend on the complexity of the design.

For all consent applications, it is necessary to provide enough information to allow the BCA to determine that the proposed building work will comply with all relevant Building Code performance requirements.

You will need to clearly explain:

  • what work is proposed
  • what the relevant Building Code clauses and performance requirements are
  • which compliance path or paths you intend to use for each performance requirement
  • why you believe the proposed solution meets or exceeds the requirements.

You will then need to provide evidence to support the proposed compliance path. The evidence you provide will depend on which compliance path you choose, but will need to  be sufficient to allow the BCA to assess the performance of the proposed solution and determine whether it complies.

The more specific the information provided, the easier the path through the application process. Conversely, failure to provide sufficient information will usually result in delays in and perhaps rejection of the building consent application. 

The compliance case studies provide examples of the types of information needed.

Using alternative methods

Renovations will often use Alternative Methods to demonstrate Building Code compliance, for example by showing that the methods used in the existing structure are Code-compliant. 
When you are proposing an Alternative Method, you will have to explain why it is required and where it applies, as well as demonstrating that it meets the relevant performance requirements.

Checklist for providing evidence for Alternative Methods

Use the following checklist when providing evidence for an Alternative Method.

Check You have
  Summarised the proposal – include an overview of the reasoning for selecting the Alternative Solution, the key factors and assumptions made and a conclusion.
  Presented the evidence in a logical way to demonstrate how compliance will be achieved.
  Ensured that evidence is specific to the particular building project.
  Avoided including generic information.
  Ensured that all information provided is relevant.
Clearly identified where there are differences in the referenced documentation and the proposed solution.
  Ensured that all information submitted supports the summation and facilitates the BCA’s assessment.


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BCA assessment procedures

All building consent authorities have procedures in place for assessing building consent applications and determining whether they comply with the relevant Building Code requirements.

The assessment process that they follow will generally include whether:

  • the evidence provided is sufficient
  • the evidence is robust
  • the design is correctly applied
  • the proposal is appropriate in the circumstances
  • decisions have been made by people with appropriate skills, experience, qualifications and professional registrations
  • the proposals apply directly to the situation
  • proposals are relevant to the situation
  • valid comparisons have been drawn
  • results have been interpreted correctly
  • possible contingencies have been accounted for and are reasonable.

If the BCA is satisfied on reasonable grounds that all areas of the proposed construction meet or exceed the relevant performance requirements, it will issue a building consent. It must accept proposals that comply with relevant Acceptable Solutions or Verification Methods. For Alternative Methods, it will assess the proposal against relevant criteria to determine compliance.

If the BCA is not satisfied that the proposed building work will comply with Code requirements, it may require more information. If this occurs, the application process will stop until further supporting information has been provided.

Assessment of fire design

Alternative Solutions that involve fire design will be sent to the Fire Engineering Unit (FEU) of Fire and Emergency New Zealand for assessment. The FEU will provide advice about provisions for means of escape in the event of a fire and the needs of Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel when entering the building to undertake fire fighting.

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Non-acceptance of an Alternative Method

If the BCA does not accept an Alternative Method, it should state why it does not and clearly identify the areas it considers to be non-compliant. It should not provide design advice.

If a BCA does not accept an Alternative Method, the designer can:

  • provide more support information to prove compliance 
  • use other compliance paths
  • redesign the Alternative Method so that it complies
  • seek a MBIE determination.