See below for a list of frequently asked quesitons.
If you have one not covered below feel free to contact us.

I am doing alterations to an existing building. Do we need to upgrade the whole building due to earthquake prone issues?
These days, due to Christchurch’s earthquake issues, Council tightened up the seismic requirement of the buildings. This affected many multi-storey buildings in Auckland and many are required to review and upgrade their seismic performance, often driven by the insurance company’s requirement.

There is a provision under the Building Act especially for Change of Use, that sets the requirement for increasing the standards of seismic performance of the building.

If you are proposing ‘Change of Use’ alteration to the building, the issues of seismic upgrade of the base building must be dealt with more carefully as it may involve works outside your tenancies.

The extent of upgrade works if any are required would need early discussion with Council and your consultant.

If the proposed works are ‘Alteration to Existing’ building, there is no Building Act requirement to increase the seismic performance of the building. However sometimes Council would still require some upgrades of the base building if they consider the building is ‘dangerous’, being earthquake prone or by other local council’s policy.

Commercial racking installation and building compliance implication

So far, we have been worked with a few commercial racking companies completing numerous racking installation projects. The number of projects we completed has been significantly increasing, especially for the last 2-3 years. The DESIGNFIRE® often provided complete architectural + fire engineering package or standalone fire engineering service.

It often comes as a little surprise for laypeople that a building consent would be required for high stud commercial storage racking installation in the existing warehouse building, or brand-new building for that matter.

This is because of the following issues.

The high stud racking can exert a lot of weight on the floor, especially with the stored contents. This is especially to be carefully checked if the floor is a suspended floor (or upper floors). The positioning of supports and concrete thickness is to be carefully checked by a structural engineer. It is noted that not all structural engineer can tackle the designing of the racking system as they would require specialist software to calculate the loadings. The DESIGNFIRE® has good contact with a few structural engineers specialising the racking design.

Depending on the racking layout design, it may affect original fire engineering design criteria, especially with egress distance.

Sometimes the original building was not designed as a high fire load warehouse, which was acceptable before 2010. The term ‘capable storage height’ was introduced after 2010. The application may then be considered as Change of Use and may require more extensive assessment.

How the building code is written is that, even when the works are relating to only part of the building area, the whole building will need to be reviewed for compliance on the ANARP basis.

When it is relating to racking installation, The DESIGNFIRE® plays a unique consulting role few other consultants can match due to our combined expertise in building compliance, fire engineering as well as architectural designing. Our consulting ability especially shines in case of assessing older buildings and warehouse testing to comply ‘reasonably as practicable’ (ANARP). It is tricky to assess the ‘right quantity of improvement’ on ANARP basis as it requires a full depth of understanding on how building compliance works in terms of the actual requirement and how it applies in real-world, i.e. how the council would apply.

Residential conversion in existing multi-storey apartments – what are the building compliance implications?

We have completed a few apartment conversions projects successfully. We now have a good idea of compliance implication of such works.

We have observed our clients choosing to convert their office spaces (or other commercial spaces) into apartments units by two main reasons.

Personal reasons – Our clients often liked to live in city environments (for retirement or other reasons) in the office units they already own. Often buying another apartment does not financially make sense for some.

Business reasons – apartment unit often provides better financial returns and generally have a lower occupancy rate.

Section 115 of the Building Act states. (Bold text used for highlighting issue)

115 Code compliance requirements: change of use

An owner of a building must not change the use of the building,

(1) In a case where the change involves the incorporation in the building of 1 or more household units where household units did not exist before unless the territorial authority gives the owner written notice that the territorial authority is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the building, in its new use, will complyas nearly as reasonably practicable…

Usually, Change of Use requires attention only to structural, fire and Accessibility compliance only. However, in creating a new dwelling, they require to comply with ‘All’ the respect of Building Code requirement on ‘as reasonably as practicable’ basis.

The main compliance requirement for such conversion comes down to the below.

  1. Acoustic compliance – the apartment unit would require better acoustic insulation both for residing comfort but also as specified by the Building Code. The acoustic performance is measured by ‘STC’ rating. Generally, apartments must achieve an STC rating of no less than 55.

As part of the conversion works, an acoustic engineer is to be engaged and they are to provide acoustic solutions.

  1. Fire compliance

Many of high-rise buildings in Auckland CBD are builtin The 80s. This poses some concern in developing the residential unit. In the 80s high rise buildings, sprinkler system was not mandatory which is now a requirement for high rise building.

Where the sprinklers are installed in a newer high-rise building, the compliance implication and justification are made simpler.

In both cases, a competent fire consultant will need to review the overall building fire system and make a case (or justify) for any shortfall of compliance for the conversion. A fire consultant needs to determine the level of upgrade strategy based on cost, sacrifice and compliance benefit and occupant’s safety.

  1. Acoustic and Fire.

Often one construction system needs to meet both compliance criteria and the system will need to be carefully studied and selected to ensure compliance for both requirements.

  1. Other requirements

Another building code requirement that requires consideration is

Energy efficiency – insulation performance of the unit. Residential unit requirement is more stringent.

Accessibility – whether the unit is for long term or short-term accommodation. Often the main stairs are not Accessible stairs that may require justification for example.

For residential housing - does it require fire rating against 'Right of way'? (meaning of 'road')

The question is whether that right of way is either road or public open space.  It comes to the definition of ‘relevant boundary’.

relevant boundary means the boundary of an allotment that is other property in relation to the building in question and from which is measured the separation between the building and that other property; and for the external wall of any building, the relevant boundary is the nearest of—

(a)a boundary of a freehold allotment, except that if the other property is a road, railway line, or public open space, the relevant boundary is the boundary on the far side of that other property; or…”

The rule states if space is ‘Road’, ‘Railway line’ or ‘Public open space’. Then boundary line to take fire rating against can be on ‘far’ side. It usually means no fire rating, then would be required in such cases.

The common confusion is on the meaning of ‘Road’.

It is noted that the term ‘Road’ is not defined under the Building Act. Given this, we think NZTA definition of ‘Road’ can be useful.


In short,

Common law definition of ‘road’ – Essentially, there had to be a ‘right of way’ or ‘right of passage’ granted to the public by the landowner. It didn’t matter whether the land was publicly or privately owned – it was the permission for public use that counted.

Statutory definition (for the enforcement purpose of NZTA, therefore, has a wider definition than the traditional meaning of ‘Road’) is that covers places to which the public have access – A place to which the public have access, whether as of right or not’. ‘public’ means the public in general and not just a section of the public. It is not enough that the place is physically open to the public – they must be shown to be actually using it.

Given this, for the purpose of clarification on this matter, whether applying common law term or NZTA definition, some small private carriageway as ‘Right of way’ where it is security gated and where it only serves a specific group of people who own lots served by, in which case, fire rating requirement can apply to the inside boundary line. For bigger subdivision/development projects where the driveway is vested to the council where anyone including general pubic is free to use, then ‘far’ side of the boundary can be taken to determine the fire rating.


then you can take far side of the easement – that 1m is not required.

looking at this, it is probably safe to keep 1m apart from the boundary.

option 2 in that case.

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