July 19, 2023

Do I need to get a building permit for an office fitout or office refurbishment?

Article by Kleber

In nearly every case the answer is yes.

In Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and all other Australian States and Territories, a building permit is required for commercial office fit-outs, warehouse conversions and office refurbishments to ensure that each project is built to the Australian Building Code, Australian Standards and relevant regulations.

A building permit is required for works that comprise:

  • A change in the workplace design or layout
  • Demolition of existing walls or partitions
  • Building new walls, ceilings or partitions
  • Upgrading toilets and amenities
  • If your landlord or building management requires a building permit

How does a building permit change my fitout?

To ensure that your commercial office fitout, office refurbishment or warehouse conversion complies with regulations, the below changes are usually required:

  • Relocation and addition of existing fire services including smoke detectors, sprinklers and EWIS speakers
  • Relocation and addition of Mechanical HVAC to adequately supply fresh air to each space
  • Relocation and addition of lighting
  • All services such as Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Services & Mechanical are carried out by registered & licensed practitioners that can provide a certificate for their completed works. At Zircon, we only use registered & licensed trades on our projects.
  • Additional toilets may be required if the headcount increases in the tenancy.

Who applies for a building permit & what is the process for obtaining a building permit?

Zircon can apply for the building permit on your behalf by gathering the necessary information and submitting it to a surveyor for approval.

This information typically includes a letter of consent from the landlord or building owner/corporate that the fitout works are approved, and a detailed set of ‘for construction’ plans marked and stamped with our registered builder’s license number.

The building surveyor will review the application and will either grant the permit, ask for further information or ask for changes to be made. Once they is happy, the permit will be granted.

Lastly, the surveyor will conduct an onsite inspection at the end of the project to certify that the project was built in accordance with the permit.

Zircon’s project management team will compile all the necessary certificates from each trade to submit with the final inspection to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy.

If a builder asks you to apply for a building permit this is a big red flag that they are not a registered building practitioner, that they don’t understand the process or they don’t want to be responsible for the project.

How much does a building permit cost? (Melbourne, Brisbane & Sydney)

A Building Permit is usually a very insignificant cost in relation to the overall project value as it varies on the size of your project.

The Building Permit application can cost anywhere between $3,000 to $8,000 in Melbourne (Victoria) depending on the size of the project, between $3,000 to $10,000 in Sydney (NSW) and $4,500 to $10,000 + QLeave in Brisbane (Queensland). Queensland projects incur a QLeave cost on each project which is calculated at 0.575% of the total project value.

Other services may be required which is in addition such as an Access Consultant, Services Engineer or Town Planner however the team at Zircon will guide you on what you will need and why they are required.

How long does it take to get a building permit?

A standard Building Permit in Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland has a typical turnaround time of 2-3 weeks before work can start on site. Subject to processing times, to be confirmed with the relevant authority.

Consequences for not obtaining a building permit

Engaging in the construction or modifications of a building or structure without a permit is against the law. Failure to obtain a permit beforehand will result in being deemed in violation of the National Construction Code 2022. These regulations strictly forbid individuals from conducting any construction work without a valid building permit.

There are significant consequences for not obtaining a building permit in Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane such as penalty fines of more than $75,000, or more depending on various factors of the structure and location itself, and/or legal action.

There are cases where you may have to remove, demolish or rectify the works that you have undertaken at your own expense in addition to a fine.

Furthermore, by increasing the lettable area without a permit, you cannot advertise the extra space when selling the property, or charge rent for this space. In some cases, you may be required to remove the structure or work before putting the building on the market.

What triggers Town Planning in an office fitout?

Town Planning is required for your space if you are increasing the amount of lettable space in your building including building a mezzanine, changing the façade of the building or attaching signage to your building.

Town Planning is a separate process from the Building Permit and is usually conducted through your local council. This process can add delays to a project of up to 6 months and a building permit cannot be issued until this has been approved by the local council.

There are now new programs in some councils that enable a fast-tracked program for Town planning. The Town Planning process can add further additional requirements to your space like the need for additional toilets and car parks.

Can I occupy the space without a certificate of occupation?

No. You must have an occupancy permit before occupying a space. It is an offence under the Building Act 1993 to occupy space before you have received the permit.

Do I need a Building Permit if the building has just been built?

Yes, you will need a Building Permit even if the building has just been built, is brand new and has not been previously occupied. The reason for this is that the building will be built to a set occupancy headcount & design and this will change once you undertake your fitout.

Before your office fitout can be certified the building must have a Certificate of Occupancy issued from when it was built, however, the Project Management team at Zircon can help and guide you through this process.

How Disabled Access affects your office fitout

A Building Permit will ensure that your office fitout in Australia complies with the AS1428.1 2009 Design for Access and Mobility law and the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). This requires certain aspects of your office fitout design to be in line with this code such as ensuring all your doorways and corridors are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, there is adequate access to the building and the amenities are to code. If you don’t already have one, you may also be required to add a disabled toilet.

In some cases, an Access Consultant may be required to assess the current space to identify potential accessibility issues and advise the legal obligations to rectify the issues.

Why Choose Zircon Interiors?

When you engage Zircon, your challenges are our source of inspiration. We make it our quest to seek and create real-world solutions geared to energise your people, ignite ideas, drive greater productivity in your business and cultivate better work environments.

Applying the latest design trends and industry standards, Zircon Interiors sets the benchmark for cutting-edge interior design and creative interior architecture of commercial offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

By partnering with Zircon Interiors, you gain peace of mind that your project will be executed seamlessly. With a proven track record of 200+ commercial office fit-outs for medium and large-sized companies complete across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

From designing tailored commercial office layouts to choosing the right office furniture, and all the details in between, we can make your vision a reality.

Need Help?

If you aren’t sure whether your intended works require a permit or not, it’s always best that you contact our team to guide you on your project.As there is so much uncertainty around the need to obtain permits for office fit-outs, office refurbishments and warehouse conversions, it is highly recommended that you employ the services of a professional design & construction company.

Not only does Zircon Interiors help you navigate all the ins and outs, we actually be able to obtain permits on your behalf.

The team at Zircon Interiors is more than happy to help and answer your questions.

Contact Zircon Interiors today to discuss streamlining the building permit process for your commercial office fitout!

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