Alterations and Change of Use

Buildings can be used in a number of different ways and a building’s use determines the safety features required under the New Zealand Building Code (NZBC).

Different provisions exist, for example, for buildings that people live in compared to buildings that are used for storage only - such as garages. Also, buildings that admit the general public require features that private homes do not always need.

Under the Building Act 2004, safety features and facilities within existing buildings may need upgrading if you are planning on changing the use of a building.

When making alterations section 112 of the Building Act applies. When there is a change in the use of the building, e.g. change of use from a private dwelling to a café/bar, sections 114 and 115 apply.

Alterations to existing buildings (Section 112)

Most alterations to existing buildings (except housing) will require a building consent. 

Under section 112 we can only grant and issue a building consent if the building, after the alteration, will comply with the provisions of the New Zealand Building Code for:

  • Means of escape from fire; and
  • Access and facilities for people with disabilities.

Find out more about altering an existing building. 

Uses and change of use (Sections 114 and 115)

Under section 114 and section 115 the building owner is required to notify the Council in writing if they propose to change the use of the building. As part of this, we will consider if facilities within the building need to be updated to meet the standards of the Building Act 2004.

Examples of change of use include:

  • Conversion of building into one or more household units.
  • Private dwelling converted to a restaurant or office.
  • Dairy factory converted to a shop and café.
  • Industrial building converted to a church.
  • Operating a business from home.
  • Garage converted to a sleepout.
  • Extending the stated intended life of a building.

When changing the use of a building the issues are:

  • Access and facilities for the disabled.
  • Escape from fire.
  • Sanitary facilities.
  • Structural behaviour.
  • Fire ratings.

If upgrade works are required then you will need to apply for a building consent. Found more out about change of use, alterations and extensions of life

Seismic strengthening

The compliance with requirements in sections 114 and 115 may also mean that substantial structural upgrades may be needed if the building is an earthquake-prone building. Consultation with a structural engineer is recommended at an early stage. Read more about managing earthquake-prone buildings here. 

Access and facilities for people with disabilities

Most buildings (except housing) are required to provide access and facilities for people with disabilities. This includes wheelchair access ramps or lifts, parking and toilet facilities. We do not have the power to waive or modify this requirement. The types of buildings to provide accessible facilities are outlined in Schedule 2 of the Building Act 2004. 

What if I don’t agree with the upgrade requirements?

An application can be made to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for final determination. Contact them on 0800 242 243.