Nothing has changed Part 3

Have you ever had the feeling that all you are doing is going around in circles?  My last 2 dealings with both local councils prove that no matter how far they go, they quickly revert. Both dealings are for stairs and both prove that integrity or seeking knowledge when faced with something you do not know or possible may not know is in short supply.

A client wants to build a half stair height and landing to a new external door so that a private 1 bedroom area can enter without disturbing the rest of the household. A “20 year veteran” BO asked for the lateral resistance of the landing to be demonstrated. When asked where to go to find what is required and how to implement it, as stairways are not addressed in NZS3604, AS1170 or AS 1656.  He attempted to portray the designer as being dumb by looking at the stairs and not the landing. When it was pointed out to him that Stairways definition in the Building Code Handbook includes any landings and as such, it is a stairway under the code, he stated that it should be looked on as deck, not a stair and that the questions being asked put serious pressure on the standard fee for the consent. YES, he threatened extortion by charging extra fees instead of answering the question. This type of bullying is has no place in our Industry and shows that 20 years or piss poor performance adds no value.

The second deals with an extension to an old building.  Due to portal frame positions and a larger than expected stairway, the 1000mm  landing at the bottom of the stair with a door opening away from the landing has become only 450mm. The Building Inspector stated that the situation did not comply with the code.

Now Clause D1.3.1 only addresses the need for a landing if doors open from or onto a landing can cause an obstruction or for the prevention of fatigue. An elequant  assessment was made of the situation and shown that the code does not have any requirement for the landing and therefor it doesn’t not comply with ther code.

The BO wrote back and said the code requires a 900mm landing at the base of the stair and that the 450mm landing was a major non compliance of 50%.

The Acceptable Solution is not the only means of compliance and is not the minimum level of compliance for any code clause. The acceptable solutions are not the buildign code. Any alternative solution does not need to beat or better the acceptable solution.

The expert contends that the 450mm landing at the bottom of the outward opening doors is adequate for the purpose as they are not needed for fatigue prevention of obstruction aversion.  And reading the code, I have to agree with him

BUT the point that after 24 years of the building code, for bureacrats to still define the Acceptable Solution as the code requirement  is deplorable. How many times do we have to fight this battle? The first thing new recruits should be told is acceptable solutions are not the code and deviating from the acceptable solution does not mean it does not comply with the code.

The building owners are being gouged by bureaucratic bullies who threaten and force capitulation to their interpretations. And when we are forced to seek a determination from MBIE and win, some Councils send an invoice for the work to make a submission and withholds CCC until it is paid. I use the word extortion and it a true and fair definition.

Construction blunder

BCA’s have a responsibility under the Building Act 2004 to check that “an application for building consent complies with the code.” They must not issue a building consent unless they are satisfied on reasonable grounds that if the Plans and specifications are followed, the building will be code compliant. It’s fairly simple description of the responsibilities and the duty of the BCA.
The type of buildings are categorised into Residential 1: 2: 3 and Commercial 1: 2: and 3. The people performing the duties are supposed to be allotted a certain competency level depending on their level of knowledge. This means that is a certain area of a building is an alternative solution for, and the person is only assessed acceptable solution competent, the checker needs to have the consent looked at by a more qualified person. Simple in theory but in practise, BCOs working above their competency or BCO actually competent for what they are assigned is not investigated.
Tauranga City Council recently had a consent which showed a roof coming out of the upper wall. At the lowest point, the intersection with the gutter is shown in FIG 8B of E2/AS1. The parallel apron flashing is shown in FIG 48. The upper end of the roof penetration is still within the wall, and the flashing requirements of the upper termination is not an acceptable solution detail. This does not mean it is overly risky, just the policy people in the former BIA and DBH did not recognise the particular detail would become popular among the risk taking designers.
To close off the cavity to prevent any wind driven moisture from the entering the cavity the apron flashing must have a stopend at the high point and sealed to the cladding on the outside, This stops moisture flowing down the wall or from wind driven sources from entering the cavity. This detail has been approved by mot BCAs presented to it because the moisture is prevented from entering the cavity in quantities which would cause mould, nuisance or rot.
The BCO rejected the detail and the explanation which showed the moisture being prevented. He made the designer flashing 200mm either side of the junction from the uppermost roof point (600mm above the junction) to the floor slab. The barge flashing along the high part extends into the cladding penetration, introducing a capillary action moisture point so the detail the BCO accepted needs to be flashed more strongly because of the introduced capillary moisture ingress.
Clearly the BCO does not understand the movement of moisture, the simplest method to prevent ingress nor the building code and as such should not be making decisions which are far above his head. He is what I would describe a monkey checker. As long as what is shown him is the same as the picture in the acceptable solutions, he ticks the box. If a detail is different he does not have the knowledge t0 assess it and make a decision. Because he cannot make a decision, he needs to ask a question, but he does not know what to ask for. He does not discuss it with anyone else, but asks a secret squirrel type question (The wall to roof flashing detail does not clearly show compliance with E2. The relationship between the wall internal corner flashing (below the soffit) and the roof wall flashing is not clear. Please revise?) The question is accompanied by a screen dump of the gutter end of the junction, which is addressed in Fig 8B.
The designer is left scratching his head, and the expert he asks for assistance also has no idea. He addressed the entire roof wall intersection from the accepted alternative solution detail at the high point to the E2/AS1 details. He finishes by pointing out the wall junction is below and isolated from the roof wall and there is no relationship between the two. But this was rejected (obviously the BCO thinks he is more knowledgeable than the expert) and the designer was “guided” to produce the completely over the top detail.
Will the designer complain about the process? No. he has already done it and is now being punished by bullying checking. The level of detail he is required to produce is 10 times the detail Jennian or GJ Gardner are asked for comparable homes.
Does the home owner? No. He wants the consent as quickly as possible.
Does Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment have a procedure for assessing complaints about BCAs? Yes and no. The Ministry will only assess a complaint after you have exhausted the Councils complaint procedure , searched the determinations to see if there are any comparable decisions already made, found the complaint form on the Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment website and filled it in in its entirety and been accepted by the Determinations department. It is too convoluted to be effective.
This is one of the ways the role of Councils increase the costs of construction and it is common place in the New Zealand. The Council produced rebuttal against the claim Councils increase costs did not look at anything other than fee and charges. Delays, fees, unnecessary construction all were ignored.
The Council need to have the BCA removed from them. If they wish to provide the service then it will be in competition with other providers. This will see the 150 per hour charge for unqualified and inexperienced BCO lowered drastically. CPEngs are able to be engaged for less. The actual building consent process and inspection need to be opened up to competition for the sector to realise the level of efficiency that will bring benefits.

a Bouquet goes to

It is extremely heart warming that I have found a Council who are doing something positive for the Building Industry in their area.
Hamilton City Council have implemented a partnership program which delivers tangible benefits for the industry partners.
Builders and designers who demonstrate a superior level of experience and knowledge as well as I hope a quality assurance system which allows repeatable delivery of the high standard will have less intrusion by Hamilton Council in the Process.
This is Hamilton City Council saying, shows us you are as good as you say you are, and we will take a more back seat position. The Good companies therefore should be able to offer a cheaper outcome for their clients by the lower level of input from Council and therefore a significant lower charge by them.
I have been involved in similar schemes in Nelson and Tasman, but the Council paid only lip service to the program. the onus was on the building official to prove the industry participants did not warrant the easier road and subsequently the schemes fell away and the group home companies, builders and designers all felt aggrieved.
I truly Hope the heart is in the right place for Hamilton and it is not doing what others have done before. If Councils do not want to be a part of the Construction Industry and perform their functions as outlined in the Building Act, they should get out.
Thanks for reading and i will always print good news when I come across it.

Nothing has changed Part 2

What is more frustrating than a business in a position of power who make the same mistake twice.
This blog started off with a Council rejecting an Application for Schedule 1 K because it is a Commercial Building. The decision Council have to make are
a) Will the building be built in accordance with the Building Code.
b) Will the building if not constructed in accordance with the Building Code harm property or people.
A determination was sought because Council rejected the application for reasons outside the two given in the Act. They said it was a commercial buildign and needed a consent. Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment ruled that the decision given was incorrect.
In the space of 18 months the Councils Building Unit has had an 80% turnover of technical staff. They appoint a Residential 2 Consent Checker with a neighbouring Council as the New coordinator and a career bureaucrat as Consents Leader.
A dairy farmer applied to demolish a 350m2 cow shed and erect a 400m2 automatic cowshed in its place under Exemption 2 (b). The building was designed by a CPEng, built by a fabricating company well respected in the South island and well as a SIPS construction form experienced in up to 6000m2 SIPS building. The building is in the middle of a paddock with over 800m to the nearest boundary and 300m to the farmers own house. The application was rejected because, and I quote
“Our reasons are that we consider that this is a commercial building containing work outside the insurance scope of a structural engineer, such as the sanitary and storm water drainage. It is beyond the simple scope of a farm shed or garage.”
Why a Chartered Professional Engineer should be responsible for the existing effluent and surface water system is beyond me. How an automatic cowshed can be commercial is a complete joke and how the government does not force Councils to adhere to their guidance is an injustice.
Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment guidance document does not limit TA exemptions to “simple Farm shed or garage” They state that if the TA cannot offer value by being inspecting, then they should exempt it. The construction is being inspected by the CPEng, the contractors are bound under a site specific quality assurance program well spelled out in the documents.
There has to be an ombudsman who can field complaints against the bureaucracy that is council and in particular they need to be held responsible when they fail to perform their functions, WITHOUT IT COSTING THE BUILDING OWNER . Council were told that if it were a commercial building, that is not reason to reject the application, But they either do not understand or do not care.
If you complain about the police, you do not have to pay for the complaint to be heard. It has to be the same for the Council when they decide they are above the Building Act 2004.
Council took 3 months to grant the building consent asking for among other things, a certain style of Section Marker to be used,  a Section they thought was wrong to be redrawn, they wanted the standard Concrete specification removed because a CPEng specification was included. (The CPEng was not covering all the foundations) The Council certainly did not add any value to the process of granting a farm shed consent, and cost the owner dearly by not having a cow shed at the start of the milking season. Serious financial hardship of a dropping milk price was added to by the Council treating the shed differently to any other intermittently occupied farm shed.
This is another reason the BCA functions needs ot be penned up to private competition, not just the token competition we have now, but the only mandatory function the Council has is Record keeper. if they want to compete against the private sector, they are welcome, but form my dealings with a number of Council throughout NZ, they all suffer from a mindset of not wanting to be in the construction industry.
Let me know you experiences with Council. Leave a comment and I will get back to you. Confidence will never be divulged.


Nothing has changed

Prior to 1992, the rules which governed building was more than 70 different Council by laws system. What was allowed in one council was not allowed in another and architects and builders were continually frustrated with the of laws.  Someone had the idea to implement 1 single building code so that there was only 1 set of rules. Unfortunately 1 set of rules has 7 different interpretations by Councils, which is exactly the same situation as the by law system. Councils  have not innovated or improved their performance to offer a single improvement in value or attempt to integrate themselves positively into the greater construction industry.

Nothing has changed because no one is holding the Councils to account. Designers give in to get the consent and builders follow the Plans only to be told by Inspectors it is wrong and have to change it.  Council officials contact the owners to circumvent the designer who actually stands up to the unlawful requests from the bullies. Delays are common at every step of the process whether you in to them or not..

I have heard of Councils stopping the consent and asking for a particular Section Marker  to be used, or windows which were installed in 1995 to be they are designed to an extra high wind zone for a current consent, or they say a Section is wrong and needs to change. (3D software means it is not possible to draw a wrong Section. and it would be if they could accept BIM files and the intelligence to open it and use them. But everything is  pdf and delays.

There is an innate attitude among Building Officers that builders and designers are incompetent and everyone need the Council Builders Officers to keep them honest. New cadets into the industry are told this early on in their training and the myth gets perpetrated forward.  Councils have scared Governments to delay real change would bring efficiency gains in the Building Act to justify their importance. So any chances of the building owners getting real service is non existent.

There is absolutely no chance of things changing. Councils are not part of the building industry, they protecting the ratepayers first and look at the building industry second. They do not offer advice or offer design solution because they do not want the liability. The tell everyone that they know everything to do with the Building Code but have a very warped view heir role in under the Building Act. This attitude means that the is second in their thinking.

Australia has the right thinking. The Councils  issue consents, but private industry does the checking and inspections. Council  is purely a record keeping service. This is where the New Zealand Industry needs to go before it suffers from the cancer that Council thinking is. I have said the industry needs to unite.

Building Inspectors used to have a reputation in the top ten % of careers. Now thefall slgihtly above pedophiles and arsonists. Nick Smith has to open the industry up to private BCAs and get Council out of the picture all together. They do not want the liability that goes with the job and are causing needless delays and costly overruns. Give it to the private enterprise who wants to be there, doing the job and offering real value. And innovation.

Designers can send their Plans to engineers or cladding specialists and who can into it and do directly in the file do their designs. With 2 clicks of the mouse a BIM File is made and is transportable to anyone anywhere who needs view it.

But the vast majority of Councils do not have the expertise or to accept it.  Too much of a cost for the rate payers maybe, the training costs to have someone who can use it may be the reason, but the effect is that they have put themselves outside the industry, outside the governments expectations and are holding the whole industry to ransom.


Determination Draft out.

The Draft determination decision has been released and TDC have been found to have incorrectly used their power under the Building Act.
The determination stated that the Ministry agreed with the CPEng’s statement that the building posed no risk of harm to People or property, but goes on to say the Council made the right decision to reject the application. So if the building poses no harm if it failed, then the decision to reject the Schedule 1 application has to be wrong surely.
But I never asked for the decision to be reviewed. I wanted to know if the reasons given by TDC were within the parameters of the exemptions. And the decision is NO, they failed in their duty. By adding a totally irrelevant piece of information which is outside the parameters of the determination they have minimised the very reason for taking the determination.
And this has indeed been latched onto by the overstuffed blow hard that is the regulatory manager. He has taunted the MBIE to make the decision that the building poses no harm and take the liability. He is trained by the Britich military, and history is dotted with examples of absolute incompetence shown by military observers. He continues this tradition of passing the buck and dodging responsibility.
Once the decision has been officially released, I will post a link.

Councils bad habits

It has been a long time since my last post. 2014 has been a battle, from prostate surgery, a troubled recovery a sick child and a very pregnant wife, it has been a struggle. And the Councils throughout New Zealand have added to the frustration.

I have run into a very disturbing situation which is endemic across many Councils. The Building Act 2004 and the building code allows for innovation and unique ways of building, and as long as the designer and consultants are able prove that the Performance, Objectives and the requirements of the building code  are met, any alternative solution should be approved.

But what I am finding is that Councils do not have the knowledge or common sense to judge alternative solutions and are rejecting consents asking for specific things to confirm compliance with the acceptable solution. I mean

A current three bedroom house has a family of five in it. The proposal is to alter the building and provide for a bedroom each to the children. Figures from the census show that 92% of 4 bedrooms homes have 5 or less people in them, so it is very unlikely that the four bedroom house will have 6 or more. We provide the Council with the figures from the last 2 censuses plus a full explanation what we are proposing. We contend that we are designing the residential building for the most likely use and occupation the building will likely see in the course of its new life. This is important as the acceptable solution for waste water design states we need to use 6 people minimum as our occupants.

Why design something which the building will more than likely not encounter. We do not design commercial buildings to handle a plane crashing into it? The wastewater has been in place for over one hundred years, and has not failed. The history of the building has shown 5 occupants for many decades. And the septic system has handled it all.

The Council has rejected the consent and asked for a waste water report before they will accept the consent into their system. They are not interested in looking at the consent as a unique case by case nature. They are stuck in the “we have always asked for this and you will provide it”. The Building Act does not give them this power.

We contend that the disposal of sewerage will continue to comply to the same extent as before without any improvement. This is what section 112 requires of the applicant.  But the Council are not interested in looking at it until we do what every other applicant has been forced to do. The Building Act does not allow this sort of bully tactics.

It has also been brought to my attention from Waimakarriri another you must supply this. Pegasus has soak pit at the front of all their sections. WDC require all buildings to be outside the 1 vertical 2 horizontal zone of influence or engineered pile systems below. On one particular section the applicants have proposed a building 3.5m away from the 850mm deep soakpit. The contract processor has accepted this, as anyone with common sense would and has even recorded that at 3.5m, the dwelling is outside the 2h:1v.

WDC have returned the consent to the contractor and has told him the designer needs to provide a drawn cross section. This is the height of bureaucratic bullshit where a project has been stifled simply to satisfy the “this is the way we have always done it” attitude.

Councils do not care that they do not perform their duty as set out in the Building Act. They have the attitude that they are the only ones who know what they are doing and that they will not let anyone get away with anything. But they are regularly in breech of the Act.

Section 112 of the Building Act states that A building consent authority must not grant a building consent for the alteration of an existing building, or part of an existing building, unless the building consent authority is satisfied that,

after the alteration, the building will—

(a) comply, as nearly as is reasonably practicable, with the provisions of the building code that relate to—

(i) means of escape from fire; and

(ii) access and facilities for persons with disabilities (if this is a requirement in terms of section 118);


(b) continue to comply with the other provisions of the building code to at least the same extent as before the alteration.

Once the consent has been issued, they have made a decision that the consent complies as near as is reasonably practicable. So why do so many inspectors demand more work be done to satisfy section 112. They do not get a say in it as they do not issue the consent. But the builder, owner and designer/architect allows them to do it.

I have defended Councils in the past, but it is getting harder toi accept the bullying tactics they perform. They need to take a look at what they do and make an unbiased assessment as to whether they add any value to the process.

2014 is the year to keep the bastards honest.

The Building Act 2014 outlines in Schedule 1 building work which is able to be carried out without the need for a building consent. Exemption (k) requires a Territorial Authority to grant an exemption if the building is unlikely to be carried out otherwise than in accordance with the building code or if carried out otherwise than in accordance with the building code, is unlikely to endanger people or any building, whether on the same land or on other property.
On a 12 hectare rural property in the jurisdiction of Tasman District Council a resident applied to erect a second hand greenhouse consisting of steel posts and hoops supporting a clear film. An engineer’s analysis of the structure states that under serviceability limit state wind loading the structure is adequate. At ultimate limit state loading there is a significant possibility of localised failure (Hoops buckling, post failure or greenhouse film ripping or pulling away) If any of these failures occur the repairs are easy and straightforward. The Engineer closes by saying “Given the structure is lightweight, easily repaired and unlikely to be occupied during extreme wind events, it is our opinion that the structure may be considered low risk and presents little danger to people or property if re constructed as proposed. ”
Cherie Newman the Senior Building Consent Officer rejected the application for Schedule 1 (k) stating The building is commercial and requires a consent (Compliance with the New Zealand Building Code (NZBC) clause C ‘Protection form Fire’ will be addressed with the building consent) and the engineer states there is a significant possibility of localised failure in some structural members. ”
The Building Act 2004 does not categorically state that all commercial buildings need to be consented. Schedule 1 allows some commercial building work without a consent and exemption (k) does not exclude commercial buildings from it decision. So the fact that the Council has a policy of requiring ALL commercial buildings to be consented is over and above the requirements of the Building Act. And to pull 1 part sentence out of a supporting report and ignoring the rest shows a complete lock of willingness to do their jobs as required by the Building Act. They are placing themselves above the Act and above the law.
They have not addressed or made either decision they need to have made. The possibility of localised failure does not in and of itself mean the building does not comply with the structural requirements of the code. the code requires building with only general repair and maintenance to last either 5, 15 or 50 years. The steel structure needs only last 5 years under the code. If under extreme events a few hoops buckle, the building will be still stand as the failure of all hoops is extremely unlikely. And if the film tears away, it alleviates all strain on the structure.
If a person was under the buckling hoop, the film collapsing on top of them will not injure them If it blows away and hits the nearest building, a house 320m, the house will not suffer any damage. It is inconceivable that any honest person with even a modicum of common sense could state the building poses a threat to persons or property.
But Tasman District Council are so hungry for their fingers in the pie, that they abrogate their responsibility for the allmighty dollar.
So how do we keep the bastards honest? A s the Schedule 1 decision is a Territorial Authority function, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Building and Housing division do not accept complaint. We will have to lodge an official complaint with the Local Government ombudsman to have the illegal predetermined decision that all commercial buildings need a consent to be reversed as well as TDC censured for failure to perform their duties.
To have any chance of the decision being reversed, a determination could be lodged. But the cost is $287.50 and my question is why should the industry pay to keep the Councils honest? If a determination goes against a Council, there should be an avenue for the Council to penalised and the fee returned to the applicant. The public do not pay the police to investigate a crime against them so if the Council are to be guided to change their practises, a punishment system needs to be introduced.
What makes the above application completely unacceptable is that this is the second time it has been rejected. the first time it was rejected without explanation, and when pressed for the decision to be explained, Ms Newman was not able to do so. Her supervisor conceded they had not met their responsibilities and the application could be re made. he also concede that it was difficult to see how failure of the building could endanger people or property. This was off the record apparently.
But for Ms Newman to fail twice for the same applications leads one to question her competence.
We will keep you informed as to the outcome of the complaint. And we ask that if you know of situations where the Councils do not perform their duties as outlined by the Act, flick us an email.


Good Morning. The New Zealand Construction Industry faces a lot of pressures. It returns the same as the Agriculture Industry but has twice as many participants. It is 30% more expensive to build a house in New Zealand than Australia for no greater quality. The process is disjointed and time delayed simply because no one wants to take responsibility for their work. It is an industry which is rife with bum covering , which does nothing nut delays and adds expense.
I have worked on both the Bureaucratic and private enterprise side of the counter and will provide an no holds barred expose into the industry and how it can be improved. Hopefully this will help you navigate the mine field that is building you house, the largest item most of you will buy.
And hopefully industry participants will take up the cudgels of the information provided in this blog and lead the industry into the change that is needed. Because if the people working int he industry do not make the changes for a better industry, the shiny bums policy people in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will. And they have no practical experience at all.