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Building Code - how-to guide

The Building Code

All new building work in New Zealand must comply with the Building Code, which is the first schedule to the Building Regulations 1992.

The Code sets out performance standards that building work must meet, and covers aspects such as structural stability, fire safety, access, moisture control, durability, services and facilities.

Building plans and specifications are assessed by building consent authorities to ensure they comply with the Building Code before a building consent is issued.

Not every structure requires a building consent but it is best to consult your local council BEFORE you begin any work.  You should take the basic plans, line drawings, measurements, materials to be used etc to the council for guidance on the best course of action.

The Building Code does not prescribe how work should be done (ie, no detailed requirements for design and construction), but states how completed building work, and its components, must perform.

An advantage of a performance-based code is its flexibility - there are no prescriptive requirements stipulating that certain products or designs must be used. New Zealand building controls can therefore accommodate innovation and developments in building technology and systems.

The Building Code consists of two preliminary clauses and 35 technical clauses.

Each technical clause contains:

An Objective - The social objective that completed building work must achieve
A Functional requirement - What the completed building work must do to satisfy the social objective

Performance criteria - Qualitative or quantitative criteria which nominates how far the completed building work must go in order to comply.

The performance criteria of the Building Code correspond to the purposes of the 1991 Building Act, which has been replaced by the Building Act 2004. The Building Code is currently being reviewed to align it with the 2004 Act.

Role of Compliance Documents
Compliance Documents (formerly known as Approved Documents) are produced by the Department of Building and Housing to help people meet the requirements of the Building Code. Although they are not part of the Building Code, Compliance Documents contain information on building materials and construction details that set out one means of complying with the Code and also give guidance on alternatives.

Role of alternative solutions
An alternative solution is a building design, of all or part of a building, that demonstrates compliance with the Building Code. It can include a material, component or construction method that differs completely or partially from those described in the Compliance Documents. It can be a minor variation from a Compliance Document, or a radically different design and construction approach.