Building Permit Process


Many people still do not know that the building permit process has been privatised in Victoria since 1994. There is now the choice to engage a private building surveyor to issue a building permit, or you may choose to use the local council; the outcome is the same. Some councils are not interested in issuing building permits and others actively issue them all over the state.

The person responsible for issuing a building permit is the “relevant building surveyor”. This could be either a council building surveyor or a private building surveyor. Lighthouse Building Permits falls into the latter category.

Building surveying as a profession has grown from initially providing for fire protection and separation to encompass many facets, but can now be broadly defined as being to protect the health, safety and amenity of people in buildings.

The hierarchy of documents that govern the way we build in Victoria is; the Building Act, Building Regulations, Building Code and referenced Australian Standards, in that order. Energy efficiency in buildings is becoming an increasing greater component of Building Code. It is the relevant building surveyor's job to make sure that the proposed works will comply with the Building Act and Building Regulations.

Once the building surveyor has issued the building permit, there will generally be four stages when the building works need to be inspected by a building inspector, being the foundations, steel reinforcing in a slab or footings, framework, and a final inspection. The actual number of inspections required could vary from one for a verandah or the like, to dozens on a large commercial project.

There is also much confusion as to the difference between building permits and planning permits. The following is an extract from the Victorian Planning Provisions objectives:

  • To provide for the fair, orderly, economic and sustainable use and development of land.
  • To provide for the protection of natural and man-made resources and the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity.
  • To secure a pleasant, efficient and safe working, living and recreational environment for all Victorians and visitors to Victoria.
  • To conserve and enhance those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value.
  • To protect public utilities and other assets and enable the orderly provision and coordination of public utilities and other facilities for the benefit of the community.
  • To facilitate development in accordance with the objectives set out in the points above.
  • To balance the present and future interests of all Victorians.

It is important to keep in mind that if a planning permit is required, a building permit cannot be issued until the planning permit has been issued. More information about the planning permit process can be found here, and about the building permit process here.