Building Approvals and Development Approvals Explained

If you’re starting out on your renovation, new build or development project, you will certainly have heard the term’s DA and BA. When explaining the approval process to my building design clients I can see their eyes begin to glaze over, as a film of confusion glides across their face. And with good reason. It can be blurry, so let’s break it down...

DA stands for Development Approval. This is a planning approval that is issued by your local council. The relevant council will vary depending on the location of your project but for the most part the principles and regulations are fairly consistent. A Development Application assesses the planning aspects of your project. For instance the "Zoning" meaning which types of buildings can go where. A kindergarten does not go next to a casino, no matter how much fun the caretakers will have during their lunch break ;)

Other aspects that a planning approval will also consider are boundary setbacks, overlooking, and the general impact on neighbourhood character and surrounding properties. Most of the rules and regulations that councils employ are derived from the Planning Act, and in Queensland this is distilled down again into the Queensland Development Code.This is available online for free and is only a short document so well worth a read if you are considering some building design or development work. You can read the QDC Here

Most residential work does not require a DA, unless there are specific design or character overlay's on the property. For example a Traditional Building Character.

In Queensland A “Siting Variation” or “Relaxation” is required if your project is outside of the QDC, and will need to be assessed by a private certifier as well as council. The regulations applicable from the QDC will vary for a Small Lot (Under 450m2) and a Standard Lot (Over 450m2), most notably the setbacks and site coverage allowed.

BA stands for Building Approval. This can also be called a Building Permit, and is issued by a Building Certifier. In some states a Certifier is referred to as a Surveyor (not to be confused with a Land Surveyor).

A Building Certifier is a private professional whose job it is to assess proposed building work and then issue a Building Permit. A certifier is concerned with the building aspects of the project. For example; waterproofing, structure, fire rating, access etc. In most cases your builder can not start until the permit is issued.

While Certifier’s do not assess the planning aspects above, they will be sure to refer you back to council for a DA if they believe it is needed on the project. There are some exceptions, but in general all building work in Queensland is what’s called Assessable Development, meaning it requires a building permit to commence. You do not want to avoid a building permit when it is required (although not uncommon) as you may find yourself with a sizable headache when it comes to things like insurances, selling your home or council just generally snooping around. But from a practical standpoint, you do want your project to be safe, insured and liveable. A building permit assures this.

So to sum it all up..When it comes to your project, the order of things would be a Development Approval first (when required) and then off to your local Certifier for a Building Permit. However do not feel the pressure to understand every aspect of this process as a good Building Designer will guide you through this. Ask as many questions as you like. While you may not need to understand all the details it is always good to understand why and how your project will come together along with the processes and permits involved for your own safety and piece of mind.

Good luck and Godspeed!