Change of Building Use

Change of Building Use

The Building Act 2004 (Sections 114 and 115) requires that if a building owner intends to change the use of a building, the Council must be notified in writing before any changes take place. The Council needs to check that the building in its new use complies with the Building Code as near as reasonably practical in the areas where the use is being changed. A change in use may require the upgrading of safety features, accessibility and disability facilities within the existing buildings, as different provisions exist for different types of building use. As a consequence, a building consent may be required.

If you are uncertain as to whether or not the proposed alterations to the building or part of the building constitute a change of use, check with your council. For the purposes of sections 114 and 115 of the Act, change the use, in relation to a building, means to change the use of all or a part of the building from one use (the old use) to another (the new use) and with the result that the requirements for compliance with the building code in relation to the new use are additional to, or more onerous than, the requirements for compliance with the building code in relation to the old use.
In other words:

  • If the old use and the new use are in the same “Use” Category, there is no Change of Use. Refer to Schedule 2 of the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005.
  • If they are in different use categories AND the building code compliance requirements for the new use are higher, then there is a Change of Use and the council must be notified.

If the safety requirements are greater, it is a change of use. Use categories are based fire hazard or the risk to life in respect to crowd levels (occupancy); frequency of use; occupant vulnerability/need of care/supervision/detention; risk to workers; and combustibility of materials used or stored. Refer to Schedule 2 of the Regulations:

  • Changing a residential dwelling (SA – Sleeping Accommodation) into offices (WL- Working Low)
  • Changing a church (CS – Crowd Small) into a restaurant (CL – Crowd Large)
  • Changing a community hall (CS – Crowd Small) into a community market (CL – Crowd large)
  • A warehouse changing from storing low combustible materials (WL- Working Low) to high combustible materials (WH -Working High, or WF – Working Fast).
  • Changing a detached residential dwelling (SH – Sleeping Single Home) into a boarding house (SA – Sleeping Accommodation) as fire safety requirements are higher.
  • Changing from a higher risk commercial occupancy to a lower risk one (no increase in fire safety systems required) is not a change of use
  • Converting a retail outlet to a warehouse for low combustible materials (where there is no increase of fire safety systems required).
  • Changing a business office to a hairdressing shop. This is not a Change of Use as they are both in the same “use” category of WL (Working Low). But in order to create the salon, alterations will need to be carried out and a building consent may be required.
  • Conversion of a garage or basement that is joined to a detached house, into a habitable space such as a bedroom is not a change of use as it is already part of the house.
  • Conversion of a garage that is not joined to a detached house, to a habitable space such as a sleep-out is not a change of use as they are both SH (Sleeping Single Home).
  • However, even though it is not a change of use, it would be wise for the owner to consider if any work is needed to bring the garage up to meeting the Building Code requirements for a habitable space, as this may make the building healthier to occupy, especially in the following areas:
    • A damp proof membrane under the slab or a suitable waterproof topping on the slab.
    • Finished floor level in relation to ground (requires 225mm to natural ground or 150mm to a paved surface), or adequate waterproofing membrane to walls. Insulation of walls (including joinery) and roof space.
    • Appropriate underlay to both roof and wall cladding.
    • Structural considerations:
      • Bracing to walls (calculated as if there is no existing bracing)
      • Trusses at max 1200mm centres.
    • Windows and door openings (air seals/flashings etc.)

Note: Please be aware that if you do decide to do any alterations to the existing building, the alterations may require a building consent.  

Before approving a Change of Use

  • The Council will need to be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the building, in its new use, will comply as nearly as is reasonably practicable, with Building Code requirements for the new use.
  • If alterations are needed in order to achieve compliance, the Council must consider if a building consent is required or whether the work is exempt from a building consent under Schedule 1 of the Building Act.

In all cases, whether building consent is needed or not, the entire building must continue to comply with the Building Code to the extent that it did before the alteration or change of use.

If you are thinking about alterations/building works that will change the use of an existing building you should talk to your local Council to see if a Building Consent (and/or Resource Consent) is required, or what is needed to comply with building provisions. This should be done at an early stage to avoid any delays.

  • Change of Use meeting the requirements under section 115 of the Building Act 2004 – A guide for Christchurch City Council temporary business and housing relocations.
  • MBIE Determinations on Change of Use.
  • MBIE guidance.
  • Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005, Schedule 2 Uses of all or parts of buildings