Building codes and regulations: what every construction professional should know

Rules and regulations are an important part of society. They offer structure and order, along with offering a framework by which each individual can stick to. They are also common in industries, in which they act as the flooring of which industries can hold themselves accountable to. 


In the construction industry, the rules and regulations that exist are very important to how the industry operates. You could say that without them, it would cause endless problems that would be difficult to rectify. What allows these rules and regulations to be recognised as pillars is the fact that each professional in building and construction must follow them. This helps to facilitate a better performing industry.


Here are the building codes and regulations which every construction professional should be aware of  –  in understanding them, you can ensure compliance and instil trust in not only stakeholders to you, but stakeholders to the industry as well.


The different categories of Builder’s Licences


To be a construction professional, it goes without saying that you need qualifications. On one hand, your educational qualifications come in the form of certificates of completion on the level you have reached within the Australian Qualifications Framework. On the other hand, you need to have some type of legal qualification or permit which denotes you as a construction professional. This is more commonly known as a builders licence.


A builder’s licence isn’t universal –  in reality there are distinct categories of building licences, and whichever you fall under will determine what you can apply for. Such categories include: 


  • Domestic Builder (Limited)
  • Domestic Builder (Unlimited)
  • Commercial Builder (Limited to low-rise work)
  • Commercial Builder (Limited to medium-rise work)


These categories differ in terms of their limitations, which means there are certain types of construction work that you will and won’t be able to do. For example, someone with a Commercial Builder (Limited to low-rise work) licence would not be able to undertake work of a domestic nature. This could only be done by someone with a Domestic Builder licence. 

More information can be found on the VBA’s website which details each category in more depth.



Acts of building established in parliament law


The construction industry is also bound by laws made in parliament, which are typically known as acts. Acts will have very specific regulations that must be followed by all in the construction industry. It is incumbent on each and every construction professional to understand these laws so as to prevent engaging in unlawful activities.


For example, the Building Act 1993 is the most commonly referred to act in Victoria. The Act sets out the framework for the regulation of building construction, building standards and the maintenance of specific building safety features. The objectives of the Act are to protect the safety and health of people who use buildings and places of public entertainment and improve the amenity of buildings.


Another law is the Building Regulations (2018). The Regulations are a legislation apart of the Building Act and relate to:


  • building permits
  • building inspections
  • occupancy permits
  • enforcement
  • maintenance of buildings.


The building regulations of Victoria usually are applicable for 10 years before undergoing an extensive review to ensure they remain relevant and meet requirements. Building processes, materials etc are always evolving based on the times. The VBA is an important body in the review process and implementation of the Regulations.



Building codes and regulations



The National Construction Code (NCC) 


As a construction professional, depending on your area of expertise there may be some laws or codes which are more applicable to what you do. Hence, you should pay more attention to them than the average construction worker.

The National Construction Code (more commonly shortened to NCC) is a legislative code with significant stature in the building and construction industry –  even more to the point, it is part of the primary make up of rules and regulations in building and construction in Australia. The National Construction Code outlines the prerequisites for the design and construction of buildings in Australia, which comprises plumbing and drainage work. It also details the minimum necessary level for the health, safety, accessibility and quality of buildings. 


In terms of volumes of the NCC, there are 3. These all offer descriptive detail with regards to the types of buildings and the requirements for each type. They are as follows:


  • Volume 1: concerned with Class 2 to 9 buildings.
  • Volume 2: concerned with Class 1 and 10 buildings.
  • Volume 3: concerned with plumbing and drainage work associated with all classes of buildings.


By abiding by the NCC, construction professionals can make sure they maintain strict compliance with the laws of the building and construction industry in any engagement, helping to keep reputations intact. 


The Building Code of Australia (BCA)


Another law to be wary of if you are a construction professional is the Building Code of Australia (BCA). This isn’t its own specific law – in fact, it’s actually volumes 1 and 2 of the NCC, therefore it’s the same as the NCC. To expand on this point, what you need to make sure you are doing as a construction professional is that you can easily recognise and identify the further legal technical specifications surrounding not just the BCA but also the NCC to avoid potential issues in performing engagements or simply working in your role.




This is one of the most important sections of construction law that you would need to know as a construction professional. Permits are the centrepiece of ensuring work is legally completed in Victoria and Australia. Without a permit, you cannot legally perform construction on any plot of land, even in your backyard!


There isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of permit. This would not be efficient or useful. Each permit that exists is tailored to a specific purpose. An example of this is a planning permit. According to the Victorian Building Authority, planning permits give permission to develop or use land in a specific manner. This could be for any type of project such as a home or renovation. To obtain a planning permit, you must liaise with your local council, who issue permits. You must get a planning permit before you get a building permit. 


Planning permit applications submitted to council may potentially require inclusion of the proposed design, planning report, shadow diagrams and other relevant documentation.


Another type of permit with large-scale implications is a building permit. Building permits are documents validating that a proposed building complies with the relevant building regulations. A building permit becomes official when it is written and signed by a private or municipal building surveyor. Once you have a building permit, you can perform works according to the approved plans, specifications and other relevant documentation you have constructed. Some of the benefits of having building permits as stated by the VBA include:


  • The builders working on your project are registered
  • Satisfactory documentation is prepared so the construction can be carried out the right way and by the book
  • Inspection is conducted on the most important parts of the project
  • Your building is deemed fit for use


Timelines of projects: when you need to complete them


Some people blissfully assume that as a construction professional, you have the liberty to work on and complete engagements at your discretion – if you want to take it easy, or feel like you want to pause working for a lengthy period of time, why shouldn’t you be able to?


The reality of this is quite different. There are actually very specific timeframes in which you must complete construction. This depends on the type of construction you are engaging in. For example, house and outbuildings, as well as swimming pools and associated barriers or fences must be commenced within 12 months of the date of issue of the building permit. 


For houses and buildings, they must be completed within 24 months of the date of issue of the building permit, whereas for swimming pools and associated barriers or fences this date is 6 months, except if carried out in conjunction with other work. 


A common question that is asked is whether extensions exist. According to the VBA’s website, If you can’t commence or complete the building work in time, you can ask your building surveyor for an extension. You must do this before the relevant date passes. The building surveyor may grant an extension if the extent of the building work warrants it.


In the event they refuse, you may appeal the decision through the Building Appeals Board.


It is evident that building codes and regulations are tethered to the success of the building and construction industry. Without them, we can safely say the industry would be floundering at best and non-existent at worst. But if the people most important to the industry – construction professionals, do their part and develop the legal knowledge needed, the opposite is true whereby the industry performs for the better. 

If you are interested in knowing more, please talk to one of our experts today.