Do I need a building permit to build a mezzanine in my office?
One question that comes up a lot about mezzanines floors is, when I install a mezzanine in my warehouse, office or showroom: do I need a building permit? Do I need a council permit? What do I need to do? The answer to the first part is absolutely! You do need a building permit, and you might need a town planning permit as well.
And yes, you will get in trouble. How will I get caught and what are the implications?
Will I get in trouble if I build a mezzanine without a building permit?
Firstly, quite often now, councils in Victoria Australia are being a lot more proactive, and they’re doing spot inspections & they’re really holding landlords to account in terms of compliance & what they need to do and therefore the tenants as well. They’re issuing all sorts of infringement notices and that’s not good – expensive to rectify if you haven’t answered some of the key things to make it compliant at the outset. If what’s been built is just wrong now it has to come out & there’s fines all round. So the council are doing spot inspections.
What are the compliance needs?
Secondly, there’s compliance needs in the mezzanine. Is it structurally sound? Photocopier paper is enormously heavy. If you’re storing archive boxes, there’s a lot of weight there and it adds up quickly. The question you need to ask is, what is the expected weight per square meter?
Do I need a town planning permit? And what is involved?
When the total square meters exceed 200 sqm, it shifts from a mezzanine to a floor. There are now a bunch of different considerations from a compliance point of view just for fire service. For example, when it goes to from 199 to 200 sqm you need additional fire controls & could most likely includes a fire hose reel. They’re only about $450 plus piping, not a big deal, but they look on the length of the pipe run, & how far it can spray depending on what the purpose of the mezzanine is, like distances between racking lengths of run, that sort of thing.
And then there’s maximum path of travel between where you are on the floor, or the most disadvantaged part on the floor. This means that if you are the furthest away from the exit and a fire breaks out, can I get to the next fire breaks zone or smoke sealed area within 22 metres?
What do I need for a planning permit?
It is important to nail all this compliance work in terms of structure – ensuring that it’s strong enough for the purpose and it has a fire escape so you can get out safely in an emergency- before you do your town planning set. Mostly in Victoria, you would need a town planning permit as well. The town planning permit is above the building permit, it happens first, but we suggest you involve the building surveyors and professionals at that stage.
What about carparks?
When the town planning permit is received, the planners look at carparking allowances. If it is going to be used as storage, every 100 square meters of additional floor space you create with this mezzanine or floor requires an extra 1.5 car spaces. If it’s going to be used for office, they will require an extra 3.5 car spaces. This can make quite an impact on whether you are able to construct your mezzanine.
What about a carpark waiver?
What if you don’t have any more car spaces? Then you have to look at things like having a car parking plan, things to justify the use. For example, we assisted a cleaning company with a six HiAce vans that turn up at 6 a.m. They load up with their new materials for the day and then leave, only reappearing back at 7 or 8 p.m. to debrief. During the day there’s been no car park demand. In the light of that, the council were able to look at the type of operation and what it was and grant an exemption.
Is there a fast track process?
We use a form called a VicSmart application. It’s designed to be a nine-day response time from the council. Nine days is extremely fast in terms of municipal shire councils’ response times. When correctly done with an informative detailed town planning application, you can often get the town plannning permit within nine days first try: this is the benefit of engaging professionals who know how to put all that information together.
What do I need for a building permit?
What’s key then is that town planning permit that comes back, it’s approved & is ready for a building permit. If the building surveyor says no, it’s done incorrectly, you then must go back a step and do the town planning permit again.
Once you have your town planning permit, secured by your professionals, you need a building permit. To do this, you need the town planning set: a structural engineering set of plans to show the post, the size of the feet, the size of the joists that are going to take all the purlins for the flooring to go on. This building permit set will include & demonstrate the paths of travel & how far it is to fire exits. It will nominate where the exit lights are, emergency light switch (the lights that turn on when the power goes out), the stair nosing, the height of the stairs, the maximum rise and the maximum go.
Will a mezzanine damage the concrete floor?
As part of the mezzanine design, clever engineers will use a larger foot plate, and more posts. This means that it can go on an existing concrete slab. That’s really important because otherwise you have a really expensive and slow process of cutting the concrete out, (which the landlord doesn’t want to happen), putting footings down into the into the soil below the slab, repairing the slab and put it all back together. Then you also have this big headache at the end when you exit the lease, and the landlord make-good says fix my concrete slab you’ve just ruined. Therefore, really clever design pays a really big part in how successful you are and making sure that you keep the landlord happy, and you free from compliance complications in the future.
What are the dangers of no permit?
One of the biggest threats with not complying is the possibility of wrongful death occurring. If you build this mezzanine without a permit, and all the distances of travel aren’t sorted, or even if they are, and there was no permit, should one of your staff or member of the public die due to a fall, a collapse or a fire, where they couldn’t escape, the insurance companies will come looking for you. The wrongful death criminal action followed by civil action for any of the descendants or relatives of the of the person who’s deceased, is a frightening consideration.
Always use professionals.
They make it easy. They’ll show you the clear path and you can get your beautiful mezzanine to improve productivity allow your team to do their best work, and most importantly get your return on investment that you need for your floor space.
It’s got to come down to numbers to make you successful in your business so you can thrive and grow.
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