For the last 20 years DDB Design has had a very close working relationship with one of the Melbourne’s most experienced and well-respected building surveyors, Michael Shaw who runs Red Textas Consulting Building Surveyors in Brighton. So, Michael Shaw has kindly written the answer to this F.A.Q.
The role of the building surveyor has changed considerably in the last two decades. Traditionally, the building surveyor’s role involved working within local government to administer the provisions of the Building Act and the Building Regulations.
Nowadays, the building surveyor plays a vital role within a building project, that will commence at the design stage and carry through until the final inspection (usually Occupancy permit).
Building surveying companies such as Red Textas in Brighton will issue the building permit and carry out the mandatory building inspections (i.e footings, frame, final) for a commercial fee. These types of BS companies have their own experienced inspection teams and will act in a responsible way, that can give confidence to the builder and the project owners.
At the building permit application stage, the building surveyor will review a design and provide a checklist report; often flagging issues that may require more consideration. In which case, the building surveyor may allow the issue of a “staged” building permit to accommodate the construction program.
Most building surveying companies offer an electronic building permit service which has been found to be very effective and a proven “change for the better” by the building inspectors coming “loaded” to site with the approved building permit documentation and a history of the job on their iPad.
Since deregulation in Victoria (1994), many building surveyors have expanded their traditional roles. The private building surveyor will provide expert advice to architects, builders and other clients on issues which relate to the issue of a building permit.
The building surveyor’s role often involves issuing “alternate solutions” or “dispensations” to the Building Regulations. Building surveyors will often rely on expert reports from the energy consultant or the engineer to determine an alternate solution.
The RBS is responsible for signing of the building permits that are issued and are expected to carry out enforcement work (i.e. direction to fix, building order) for work that is carried out on site that is not in accordance with the Building Regulations and / or the approved building permit documentation.
Today in Victoria, there are two types of building surveyors. The private building surveyor and the one working in local Government. Both have similar academic qualifications, but Council building surveyors are generally not involved in the building permit process. Instead, the Council building surveyor’s role often involves working in compliance and enforcement areas (i.e. illegal building works).
Building inspections are carried out either by qualified building surveyors, or building inspectors acting on behalf of building surveyors. Building inspectors are experts on both the Building Code of Australia – which covers the technical side of building a house – and the different interpretations and building regulations in your state or territory.
Building surveyors and inspectors don’t work directly for builders. Instead, building surveyors are employed as consultants and must be engaged directly by the property owner. They are required to be independent to ensure that they can carry out their work without any conflict of interest.
There’s a lot of responsibility placed on the shoulders of building surveyors to do their jobs well – they’re ultimately liable for the work they sign off on, so most will be very thorough and methodical. Building surveyors and inspectors acting on their behalf are required to carry professional indemnity insurance.
Which building inspections are mandatory?
The mandatory building inspection that will be required for your home are listed on your building permits and in Victoria are as follows:
Footings inspection – an inspection of the excavation work in preparation for your house’s footings.
Slab inspection / base stage inspection – an inspection of your home’s concrete slab
Framing inspection – inspection of all the framing work for your home.
Final inspection – a thorough top-to-bottom inspection of the completed house for compliance with regulatory issues prior to the issuing of an “occupancy permit” or “certificate of final inspection”. At each mandatory inspection stage, a building surveyor must approve the work that has been done by the builder and issue an approval letter before work can continue. If any of the inspected works does not comply, it will need to be rectified to the satisfaction of the building surveyor or inspector before approval is issued.
The VBA (Victorian Building Authority) play the role of administering the entire system including granting the licenses (and issuing penalties) to Building Surveyors and other building practitioners. The VBA have a very informative website with a series of Practice Notes which address a variety of issues that relate to the role of the building surveyor.
Other reading or resources:
Red Textas website = www.redtextas.com.au
VBA website = www.vba.vic.gov.au
DDB FAQ No. 14 “What is a building permit and when do I need one?”
DDB FAQ No. 26 “What is a six-star energy rating?”
DDB FAQ No. 29 “What Council permits are required to build a new house?”
DDB FAQ No. 33 “What is a protection works agreement?”
DDB FAQ No. 49 “What is building warranty insurance?”