News

Confused about Class 2 legislation in NSW?

Oct 9, 2023 | Business, Industry News

There has been much discussion in the industry about recent changes to the NSW legislation related to Class 2 renovations.

The KBDi Board is assessing these changes and the potential impact on members. We will be releasing more information about our position shortly. In the interim, we’ve prepared a summary of where the legislation lies right now and what this means for kitchen and bathroom designers working with clients in apartment dwellings.

When designing strata renovations in New South Wales, there are a few considerations that designers should be aware of.

Defining the Renovation: Cosmetic, Minor and Major

When meeting with your clients about potential apartment renovations, it’s essential to determine the scale of work required and the related approvals that may be necessary.

According to the New South Wales government, most strata renovations must go through an approval process. Owners can generally undertake Cosmetic Renovations (painting, interior decoration, etc.) without approval, but once you step into more significant renovations (including kitchens and bathrooms), you will – at the very least – need approval from the strata committee.

Minor kitchen renovations, the installation or replacement of flooring, changing non-structural internal walls, etc., fall under the Minor Renovations category. Your client will need approval from the strata committee for such work.

But when you’re looking at renovations that involve structural changes or waterproofing, or will cost more than $5,000, you’re moving into the realm of Major Renovations. And this is where both you and your client would need to be aware of the Design & Building Practitioner Act.

You can find general NSW Government information about the three types of renovations here:

www.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-construction/strata/living/renovations

What is the Design and Building Practitioners Act?

The Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 was designed to ‘improve the quality and compliance of construction work in NSW’. The Act requires the registration of practitioners involved in design and building work. These practitioners are obligated to declare the compliance of their work with the Building Code of Australia. The Act also introduces protections for property owners by clarifying that people who undertake construction work owe them a legal duty of care.

Class 2 building renovation work involving ‘building elements’ or ‘performance solutions’ requires regulated designs to be lodged on the NSW Planning Portal before the commencement of any building work. A certifier can’t issue a construction certificate or a complying development certificate without declared designs by a registered design practitioner, and a builder or licensed trade would be taking significant risks to proceed past this point.

What is a registered design practitioner?

A design practitioner is responsible for preparing regulated designs and declaring that the designs comply with the Building Code of Australia and other relevant standards.

Design practitioners must satisfy eligibility requirements to register for the Design and Building Practitioners scheme. There are various classes of design practitioners, each with varying requirements for qualifications and experience. The following sets out an elementary summary:

 

Design practitioner – architectural You must be a fully licensed architect and recorded as currently practising by the NSW Architects Registration Board.
Design practitioner – architectural (low-rise*) You must be a fully licensed architect and recorded as currently practising by the NSW Architects Registration Board.
Design practitioner – architectural (medium-rise**) You must be a fully licensed architect and recorded as currently practising by the NSW Architects Registration Board.
Design practitioner – building design You must hold a postgraduate masters degree from an Australian university in Building Design or a postgraduate masters degree from an Australian university in Architectural Design.
Design practitioner – building design (low-rise*) Diploma in Building Design or Diploma in Architectural Design.
Design practitioner – building design (medium-rise**) Associate degree (or higher) in building design or Associate degree  (or higher) in architectural design or Advanced diploma (or higher) in building design or Advanced diploma (or higher) in architectural design.

* Low-rise building means a class 2 building or a building containing a class 2 part with a maximum gross floor area of no more than 2,000m2 but does not include a Type A or Type B construction building. For further information on Type A and Type B construction, refer to Volume 1 Specification C1.1 of the Building Code of Australia.

**Medium-rise building means a class 2 building or a building containing a class 2 part, limited to:

  • a maximum of 3 storeys; or
  • a maximum of 4 storeys (where the ground level or first storey is classified as a class 7a building (carpark).

Medium-rise building does not include Type A construction (for class 4, 5, 6, 7b and 8).

A registered design practitioner needs to prepare regulated designs when there is building work on a class 2, 3 or 9c building, which involves a building element or a performance solution. This applies to new and existing class 2 buildings, whereas alteration or renovation work for existing class 3 and 9c buildings will come into effect on 1 July 2024. Some work is excluded as building work, meaning regulated designs are not required.

It should be noted that you don’t have to be registered to develop the designs. Only the supervising designer who will sign off on the design compliance declaration must be registered.

What work can I do if I can’t be registered?

At this stage, the NSW legislation is not in any way associated with Class 1 dwellings. If you’re working on a standalone dwelling, you will not be impacted by the registration requirements. Of course, as has been the case for some time, you must not be designing structural changes or project managing unless you’re suitably licenced to do so.

With respect to Class 2, e or 9c buildings, you’ll need to consider the registration requirements and work within them. Here’s an extract from the Fair Trading NSW website:

If you are a design practitioner who is ineligible for registration under the DBP Act, you can still gain experience on regulated buildings.

Examples of gaining experience include:

  • you could commission a registered practitioner to prepare and declare regulated designs in relation to that part of the work that you’re not registered to do. The registered design practitioner who has been commissioned is limited to declaring regulated designs within the scope of their registration.
  • you are an architect who is not registered under the DBP legislation. You are preparing designs for building work, which is excluded under the DBP Regulation, however, part of the work includes moving a load-bearing wall. This building element is covered by the DBP legislation and is required to have regulated designs. For this project, you could work with a registered design practitioner in the class of structural engineering who can prepare the regulated design and design compliance declaration for this building element part of the work. They can refer to the architect’s documentation on their design compliance declaration. 

This enables current practitioners to gain experience working on buildings covered by the DBP scheme and count toward their required experience for eligibility as a design practitioner.

In summary, designers who cannot meet the requirements for registration would be wise to develop collaborative relationships with those who can. As indicated above, you do not need to be registered to develop the designs, but a registered design practitioner is required to submit plans for approval. 

In most Australian states, you should not be engaging trades or project managing if you’re not a licensed builder or site supervisor. Accordingly, we’ve always encouraged our members to form alliances with trustworthy, suitably licensed trades and builders. 

Likewise, having a good relationship with structural engineers is a wise business move, too. When your designs involve removing or compromising a load-bearing wall, you’ll want to know you have a trustworthy ally on your contacts list who can prepare the appropriate documentation and seek any necessary approvals.

And if you’re working with clients residing in Class 2 dwellings, you’ll want to ensure you have a solid relationship with suitably registered design practitioners.

We understand that some serious campaigns are underway to allow interior designers to be licensed. Given the qualification requirements set out above, we anticipate that any such licensing of interior designers would be set at a similar bar. That is, a Diploma level qualification (or Advanced Diploma, more likely) would probably be the minimum requirement, and we encourage our members to consider this carefully. 

As an organisation committed to the niche areas of kitchen and bathroom design, our goal has always been – and will continue to be – to highlight the specialised skillset and knowledge required in these particular domestic spaces. Accordingly, we’ll support our members in whatever capacity we can to operate efficiently, effectively and within the legislative boundaries here and ahead.  

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