Do external landscape stairs have to comply with the BCA? Do you need a building permit?

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David Swinson, BDC’s Director, was recently doing a presentation to some architects from Thomson Adsett Architects with Joe Zita from Approval Systems. David was talking about the changes in the BCA 2011 to stairs (Late breaking  news they may not be introduced until 2012 now!?!) and the question was raised about external stairs and compliance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

The starting point for this discussion is that the Building Act 1993 (the Act)  in Victoria does not cover works that are not building works. So practically works outside the building are not building works and therefore not covered by the Act. This means that steps in the landscape works are not covered by the Building Regulations or the BCA!

One of the questions during the presentation was a classic “what if scenario”! The hypothetical was – steps to the front of a building which were outside the building i.e. not under any roof  line, canopy or the like. Our Answer -

If they were the only way to get into the building and were part of the discharge from an exit to the path of travel to a public road would you not design them to the BCA? I don’t think so? If they were considered to be part of the path of travel from an exit to a public road the Occupancy Permit for the building could well list the installation standard as Part D2 of the BCA! This would mean they would have to comply with the BCA.

What about Occupational Health and Safety?

Ok, lets look at some landscaped steps which are part of the hard landscaping to a building. OH&S would require the person with effective control of that building to provide safe access and egress from the building and also the designers of those steps would need to meet their designer’s duties under S28 of the OH&S Act 2004 in Victoria. If you don’t design them to the BCA what do you design them to? As a published technical standard use of the BCA gives you as the designer some real legal protection.

The practical reality must be that the going would more than likely be much longer and the riser shorter for ergonomics?!? And especially now that the BCA2011 (maybe now the BCA 2012) has got rid of the 2R + G formula in Clause D2.13 BCA compliance might just be the basis that Architects specify compliance in the hard landscaping specification?

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