What are the key requirements of the access to premises standards for a building permit?

Image courtesy of HREOC

The media release on the HREOc website notes that “some of the major changes from the current BCA requirements [in the new Access to Premises Standards] will include:

  • Increases in the number of accessible entrances and doorways to buildings.
  • Increases in circulation space requirements in most places such as in lifts, accessible toilets and at doorways.
  • Some improvements in signage in relation to accessible facilities.
  • The introduction of a requirement for passing and turning spaces on passageways in some situations.
  • Increases in the areas covered by hearing augmentation systems in rooms with a built in PA system.
  • Improvements in the types of lifts usable and access features within lifts.
  • Improvements in the number and distribution of accessible spaces in cinema and theatres.
  • The introduction of access requirements to certain common areas in new apartment blocks in which there is one or more short term rent units.
  • The introduction of requirements for accessible facilities in new or upgraded accommodation such as bed and breakfast or cabins in holiday parks.
  • Increased requirements for accessible units in hotels and motels.
  • The introduction of requirements for access into public swimming pools where the perimeter of the pool is greater than 40 metres.
  • Significant increases in the number and location of unisex accessible toilets and the introduction of ‘ambulant accessible cubicles’ in standard toilets.”

For more informationhave a look at the media release or the Access to Premises Standards themselves.

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3 Responses to “What are the key requirements of the access to premises standards for a building permit?”

  1. Nicole says:

    I undertand that the new Standards do not apply to Class 1a buildings. Can you clarify the following situation ?

    A Class 1a building (a residential dwelling) – has applied to have the garage converted to a hairdressing salon (home business – exempt under the SEPP – but due to minor construction, development consent is sought).
    There will be 2 additional car parking spaces provided for the business (and 2 retained for residential use behind the building line).

    Does this change the overriding classification of the building to a combined 1a/6 classification ? The council is stating that the premises now need to comply with the Access to Premises Standards and the applicant will now need to provide a designated accessible parking space.

    If this is correct – can the following clause be used ?
    Clause D3.5 Accessible carparking,
    (d) need not be designated where there is a total of not more than 5 carparking spaces, so as to restrict the use of the carparking space only for people with a disability.

    The new Standards are certainly much needed, but are they applicable in this situation ?

  2. admin says:

    Hi Nicole,

    That’s a very interesting question. We don’t provide specific project advice, but are happy to provide an answer to a general query. To get to the access to premises standards query we need to work through the planning and building control legislation issues first.

    Your request hilights the interdependency between planning and building control legislation. This varies on a state by state basis depending upon the relevant legislation and also whether each state has an integrated development framework or otherwise.

    Planning legislation

    Approval under planning is typically based on use of the land and or/nature of the work for an existing or proposed use. In some cases a range of concessions or exemptions may be applicable to encourage or allow certain types of use e.g. “home occupation”. Such use recognises how economic development can grow through microbusiness’s at home. It allows a use at a lower than normal intensity to be combined with what may otherwise be a mutually exclusive use under the planning legislation (and also under building legislation).

    Building Control

    Typically the state by state building legislation calls up the Building Code of Australia (BCA) to assist in classifying the use of a building. Its the classification, associated assumptions about risk, height and floor area that enables the requirement for life and fire safety, risk of spread of fire, health, amenity, energy efficiency and disabled access to be identified and applied.

    Even though the descriptions of use may be similar for both planning and building the specific definitions in each legislative framework mean there can be significant differences in the interpretation and application of the terms. Further compounding possible confusion, is that the need for building approval can trigger planning (or development) approval, but not necessarily vice versa.

    The structure and basis for application of the BCA is divided into a domestic code (Volume 2) and a non-domestic code (Volume 1). The two don’t mix. The Home Occupation example hilights the nature of the relationship between building control and planning legislation.

    Under building control legislation in a non-domestic building where an activity is carried out that is in addition to, or even, ancillary to the major use, this may result in a mixed classification in Volume 1 of the BCA. If the building control use changes, planning approval may be required for the “change of use” before that building approval can be issued. (It also triggers an upgrade to the latest building control requirements.)

    The mutual exclusivity of the domestic and non-domestic uses (or classifications) between the two BCA volumes means where a non-domestic use is identified the building control legislation can trigger the need for planning approval for what appears to be a change of use. In the case of a use like “Home Occupation” it’s only the concessions or exemptions in the planning legislation that stop planning approval being required for the additional non-domestic use.

    So what happens in a building control sense? Remember there is no planning issue – its a permitted use. For home occupation the underlying use (in a planning sense) is as a dwelling. So if the home occupation is ancillary to the domestic use, under building control, Volume 1 of the BCA must apply so the classification is Class 1a. If you were to classify the building as a non-domestic classification this would then trigger a requirement for a planning permit for the change to the use (and we are back to where we were above!).

    If you cannot have a domestic and non-domestic use together could it be a non-domestic type residential occupancy? Let’s have a look at the “residential” type occupancies in the non-domestic BCA they are:

    Class 2 – dwelling above another dwelling
    Class 3 – residential building which is a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons e.g. hotel, motel, hostel, guest house etc.
    Class 4 – where the dwelling is in the only dwelling in a building of another class e.g. think caretaker’s residence.

    Our home occupation example certainly does not fit into any of these!

    So, finally we get to the nub of the query – does the Access to Premises Standard apply to a domestic dwelling, that could have say “home occupation”?

    No, in part 2.1 Scope of the (Access to Premises) Standard it does not state that the standard applies to Class 1a domestic dwellings.

    For specific application of planning and building control legislation to your project in your state you need to seek professional advice. Thanks again for your query.

    David Swinson, Editor.
    The Building Regulations Blog.

  3. Nicole says:

    Thanks so much for that response, David. It has certainly given me enough information to determine that Council’s request doesn’t have a legal basis. We can take this to a private planner now, knowing that our proposal is reasonable & will have a better chance at getting the Council to interpret the Standard more accurately.

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