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The Building Act 2004 and the Building Code

The Building Act provides the basic legal framework for building work. The Building Code, in Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 1992, provides most of the technical requirements for building in New Zealand. All building work must comply with the Building Code.

Building consents

As a general rule, all new building work requires a building consent. Section 41 of the Building Act describes when a building consent is not required. This includes the exemptions listed in Schedule 1 of the Building Act. Building owners are responsible for determining whether or not their proposed work requires a building consent. This guide is only applicable if the owner (or someone on behalf of the owner) is applying for a building consent.

Check if you need consents has more about whether the proposed building work will require a building consent.

Alterations to existing buildings and means of escape from fire

Under section 112 of the Building Act, a BCA must not grant a building consent to alter all or part of an existing building unless it is satisfied that, after the alteration, the building will (among other things) comply as nearly as is reasonably practicable (ANARP) with the Building Code provisions relating to means of escape from fire. Section 112 of the Building Act also gives TAs some powers to allow alterations to existing buildings.

The definition of ‘means of escape from fire’ in the Building Act covers:

  • continuous unobstructed routes of travel from any part of the floor area of that building to a place of safety; and
  • includes all active and passive protection features required to warn people of fire and to assist in protecting people from the effects of fire in the course of their escape from the fire.

Note: To alter, in relation to a building, is defined in the Building Act as including to rebuild, re-erect, repair, enlarge, and extend the building.

Examples include:

  • fire-rated walls, doors, floors and ceilings anywhere on the escape route
  • the internal surface finishes of walls, ceilings and floors
  • escape route lengths and their capacity
  • fire detection and alarm systems that warn people of a fire and initiate their escape
  • suppression systems that control fire and stop it spreading from its source
  • visibility in escape routes
  • wayfinding systems including signs.

The relevant Building Code requirements for means of escape from fire are contained in:

  • C3.4 Fire affecting areas beyond the fire source
  • C4 Movement to place of safety
  • D1 Access
  • F6 Visibility in escape routes
  • F7 Warning systems
  • F8 Signs.

To determine whether an existing building will comply ANARP with Building Code requirements for means of escape from fire after the proposed building work has been carried out, BCAs and TAs will need information on the building’s current level of compliance.

As nearly as is reasonably practicable (ANARP) explained

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: