Category Archives: Building Solutions

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.