How Do You Get House Plans Approved?

Q&A with Michael from Building Approvals & Advice

Building a brand-new home can be a daunting process, especially when you factor in all the bureaucracy that goes into getting building plans approved. There’s a manifold of forms, codes and council regulations, which can be hard to get your head around if you’re not familiar with building jargon.

For a special edition of King TV, we sat down with Michael Tyrell from Building Approvals and Advice, who we’ve worked alongside for over six years, to take us through his role as a building certifier and the process of getting house plans approved.

What does a building certifier actually do?

A building certifier look after the compliance of the building process. We make sure that the plans and the builder actually comply with the local, state and national regulations. 

What’s the process of getting a building approval?

The building approval process is quite linear. It starts off with a proposal. From there, we’ll be able to gain a scope of the project and understand what’s actually involved in the build. For instance, is it a raise and build under, or is it a new house? The certifier will then be able to provide a fee proposal.

From there, if the builders are happy, and the client agrees to pay the fees, builders can then carry out searches so that the certifier understands what are the overlays (An overlay is a map which showcases the location of special features, for instance where land may be subject to flooding) that will affect that particular site.

In Queensland we have lots of regulations around what we can and can’t do. That’s why we suggest checking out the site right at the beginning to understand what we have to comply with.

Once builders have carried out the searches, it then comes to the certifier who undertakes the assessment. This is where we do most of our work.

We look at the architectural /building design plans to ensure that there is compliance with the regulation. We’ll carry out checks and we’ll actually go through a lot of checklists related to the National Construction Code, as well as the BCA Classes of Building (QBCC). Once we work that out, then we issue the client or the applicant an RFI.

In the construction industry, there’s lots of jargon, but a RFI refers to a request for information. It’s basically just a list of what’s required to be able to get these plans approved. Some of the things might be complicated, and some of them are really straightforward. We will issue an RFI, which would be things like QBCC insurance, Form 15, energy requirements…  but it could also be your referrals.

How long does this usually take?

It’s difficult for us to understand how long the process is going to take.  For some sites, it’s really straightforward. It might take a week, because everything that’s required has been issued right at the beginning. Other times when we issue our RFI, there might be a trigger for a referral (for things like a build over sewer or a town planner). Those extra approvals can take anywhere between six weeks to six months.

The process itself, although straightforward, can sometimes be frustrating and take time. It’s always good to talk to industry professionals from the beginning to understand the process. And if there’s any questions around jargon, talk it through with building designers or the builders because they’ve done this before.

What happens next? How do you get council approval?

Once we’ve been able to assess that everything is compliant, we issue a copy to the council (the council always gets a copy before the applicant). Once we’ve approved it and once we’ve lodged it with the council, then the applicant will get a copy – which is the actual building approval.

That’s what the builder will use when starting on construction, and will include conditions, the mandatory requirements and also the approval. Once that’s happened then the builder can begin working onsite!

Terms like DA and BA get thrown around a lot in the building industry. Can you give us an outline of what those terms mean?

A DA in Queensland is a development application which traditionally refers to town planning. It’s the item that the council has to approve. Once the DA has been approved, that’s when certifiers like me can issue the BA which is the building approval.

At King Builders we encourage clients to engage a builder early on in the design process, so designers, architects, certifiers and engineers can work collaboratively. What do you see as the benefit to this approach?

It’s really important. It means that your building process will have a streamlined approach. When builders or engineers are brought onto a project last minute, we often see an increase in design flaws that cause issues down the track.

We think that communication is absolutely key. It’s essential for creating a complete and compliant home!

To chat with us about building your dream home, get in touch with our team.