How does the approval process for commercial sheds work?
SteelTalk webinar series: Episode 3
When you’re looking to invest in a commercial shed, the approval process can be quite daunting.
There are legal aspects to consider, council approvals, architects to consult, builders to organise, and so many things to do and keep track of that you can easily miss something important.
Our SteelTalk webinar series aims to break down this process into manageable steps so that you can plan and build your shed with confidence.
This article covers part 3 of our webinar series, focussing on the approval process.
The 4 steps to managing the approval process
If we look at the overall approval process, there are 4 key factors that will help things run as smoothly as possible. These are:
1. Understanding the different levels of approvals
2. Knowing what information you need to provide at each level
3. Understanding the benefits of having a professional team behind you
4. Staying proactive while you’re waiting for approvals to be finalised
Step 1: The different approvals and what they involve
Firstly, there are two different levels of approvals:
Level 1 is your Planning Approval(in Victoria) or Development Approval (in NSW)
Level 2 is your Building Permit(for Victoria) or Construction Certificate (for NSW)
Let’s take a look at these in more detail:
Level 1 Planning or Development Approvals are your early stage, high level approvals, focused primarily on whether your structure complies with various Council schemes, zoning requirements and overlays.
Getting this approval is a requirement for all Victorian commercial structures, whereas in NSW a DA is typically only required if overlay or zoning issues are triggered. Overlays can include things like Aboriginal cultural heritage areas where any building on the property is subject to certain criteria. Often, it is much easier to design around these overlays instead of having to engage a geologist to be on site throughout your project, as would be the case with a cultural heritage overlay.
Your local Council will also have certain requirements to ensure that your building fits in with the overall look and feel of the area, and certain aspects of the design could potentially be queried or knocked back by Council.
The exterior appearance of the building can be under scrutiny, so finishes like highly reflective zinc cladding are tough to get approval for. Additionally, the Council might not particularly like the look of the building as it sits in the landscape. During one project our team worked on, the client’s design was not approved until he could plant a row of trees that would effectively ‘hide’ the shed from the roadway, so as not to disturb the visual aspect of the area.
In general, as long as your structure doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb, the process should be fairly straightforward.
The next stage is your Level 2 Building Permit or Construction Certificate (CC). These are mandatory for all projects and feature much more detail, as these documents ensure that your project complies with the National Construction Code and Australian Standards.
In a nutshell, the Level 1 approval tells you what conditions you need to comply with, and the Level 2 approval is your proof that these conditions have actually been addressed.
Every project is different, but in our experience Level 1 approval typically takes around 2-3 months, and Level 2 takes around 4-6 weeks, giving an overall approval time of 3-4 months assuming no changes need to be made.
Step 2: What you need for each approval
For Level 1 approvals, you will need some fairly standard documentation, including:
- Site plan
- Title documents
- Covenants (if any)
- Application form
For Level 2 approvals, you will need engineering reports including civil, structural and hydraulic drawings, as well as properly drawn, fully compliant plans (it’s best to engage an architect to do this for you).
When submitting your documents for Level 2 approval, you’ll need:
- Engineering information
- Septic permit
- Energy rating report (also known as a Section J)
- Soil report
- Title documents
- Covenants (if any)
- Application form
- Compliant plans, preferably prepared by an architect
Step 3: Get a team of professionals to guide you through
There’s no substitute for getting the advice and assistance of professionals who know the process inside and out.
We recommend our clients engage an architect not only for the drawings, but also for assistance with things like soil reports and Section J (energy) reports.
Additionally, a builder can take a lot of load off your shoulders, looking after the project from start to finish. And a certifier can assist with different reports including environmental impact reports.
It might seem cheaper at the outset to look after everything yourself, but often it will work out much easier (and often cheaper!) to engage the professionals when you need them. Plus, some councils respond much better to this arrangement, which can speed up your approval process.
Step 4: Be proactive! What you can do while you’re waiting for approvals
The approval process can take anywhere from 3 months up to 12 months in extreme cases, but there are a few things you can do to keep your project moving while you’re waiting on official approval.
It’s a good idea not to lock anything in until you get that final approval, but you can certainly engage your electrician and other contractors, spend time refining your budget to ensure you’ve taken everything into account, and even begin some site works.
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to start getting too serious by pouring footings and the like, but if there’s some basic clearing or levelling work to do, you could start to think about getting your site ready.
Being proactive with these tasks can save you months of time: as an example, one of our clients was able to do some prep work in the background after getting a verbal approval in May. By July he had placed the order with us, and his formal approval came through in November. This approach saved around 3 or 4 months in getting his shed started.
Ready to make a start on your commercial shed?
Approvals can seem overwhelming at first, but hopefully this information has clarified what is required and given you a better understanding of the paperwork and timelines involved.
Of course, we’re always here to help guide you through the process. Give our friendly and experienced team a call to find out more about embarking on a commercial shed project.
This is a summary of Episode 3 of our SteelTalk webinar series. You can learn more about episode 2 where we share the 5 Things to consider when designing a commercial structure.
Keen to see all episodes in the series? Visit our SteelTalk page to access all episodes.