Building Act Renovations

9 June 2005

The building sector is crucial to New Zealand's prosperity - more than $10 billion worth of building work was done in 2004.  90% of New Zealander's wealth is in their homes.  Initiatives like the Year of the Built Environment and the Urban Design Protocol seek to emphasise that the buildings around us shape our lives; that what we live in makes a huge difference to how we live...and no one wants a leaky life.

The New Zealand building sector is undergoing renovations. With the Building Act 2004 now in place, and a new Department of Building and Housing formed to enforce it, clear guidance is needed more than ever.

Building controls are the set of regulations and guidelines that oversee the building process – everything from designing a structure to building and then inspecting it. Many people play a part in this – architects, designers, builders, owners, building officials. The idea of having building controls in the first place is to ensure the quality and safety of things that are built – but as the leaky homes crisis made clear, this wasn’t always happening.

The new Building Act, which was passed in August 2004, won’t be fully in force until 2009. While it doesn’t completely overturn the old regime, the Act does tighten and alter the building controls regime considerably.

Standards NZ is working with the Department of Building and Housing and other key building sector stakeholder groups to develop a programme of work around the building sector standards framework. This includes working closely with the Department to identify the impact of the new Building Act and the development of a new Building Code.

The Code Review will run through to 2007, and SNZ will work with the Department to identify the Standards-related requirements of the new Code. SNZ will also co-ordinate the development of new Standards and revision of the existing framework to meet these needs within the constraints of sector resources.


The Act redefines the relationships between parties to a building project, establishing implied warranties and setting out responsibilities at each stage of the process. Under the new regime there is more need than ever for clear understanding of contract conditions, particularly in smaller building projects.

NZS 3910 (Conditions of contract for building and civil engineering construction) is a standard industry contract for large construction projects. Its counterpart, NZS 3915 (Conditions of contract for building and civil engineering construction (Where no person is appointed to act as Engineer to the contract)) is intended for projects commissioned without an appointed principal engineer or designer.

As well as these large-scale templates, Standards NZ has just published a new Standard contract for small building works.

Housing, alterations and small buildings contract (NZS3902:2004) is intended to cover new houses and significant alterations to existing buildings, with or without the provision of land. It is fully up-to-date with the implications and requirements of the Construction Contracts Act and new Building Act, and also accounts for the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act, along with changed insurance requirements.

“3902 is a straightforward, plain English contract that goes to special lengths to outline all the responsibilities involved in a small building contract” comments Mark Batt, Business Relationships Manager at SNZ. “It’s ideal for prospective homeowners and other people who aren’t necessarily building skyscrapers, but want a solid document that lets them know where they stand.”


SNZ’s initial investigation into property inspections began some time ago to provide guidance to property inspectors assurance to home owners, vendors, and financiers that the property’s condition can be assessed fairly and agreed to by all parties.

Therefore, SNZ decided to develop Residential property inspection (NZS 4306), a Standard to introduce consistency and reliability into the inspection of residential properties. The Standard covers a range of issues concerning pre-purchase property inspections and reporting including:

  • Construction defects identification (structural, weather tightness, durability, workmanship)
  • Gradual deterioration identification
  • Competency required to carry out inspections
  • Reporting outline, what the various reports should include
  • Reference Standards and other documents which would be useful references.

Timber Design Standards

The ins and outs of timber standards have been a central issue in the building industry since the early 1990s. NZS 3603 (Timber Structures Standard) sets out the requirements for the design of timber building and building elements. The intention is to give the same design solutions for most cases. The ideal is to achieve consistent levels of performance between differing load types and building types – in other words, to assure across-the-board quality standards. In support, NZS 3622 (Verification of timber properties) provides guidelines for verifying the qualities of sawn timber.

Standards NZ is currently planning a workshop series on Timber Standards; for more on this see the next issue of Standards magazine.

The current building sector work programme includes:

  • NZS 3101 Concrete structures - was due for completion in June but this has recently been revised to September 05
  • An amendment to NZS 3604 Timber framed buildings to cover the effects of the recently completed amendment to NZS 3603 Timber Structures Standard
  • NZS 5270 Cable cars
  • NZS 4214 Methods of determining the total thermal resistance of parts of buildings
  • NZS 4541 Automatic fire sprinkler systems