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RE: South Australia practices

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Traditionally I believe a building surveyor was simply the person who worked
for the local government authority and checked development applications for
compliance with codes. Traditionally that person would have been an
architect or engineer. But with a complex hierarchy of building inspectors
and assistant building surveyors, and the possibility of non-engineers and
non-architects being promoted to building surveyor, the role has been more
formally defined and a national framework setup within the Australian
Qualification Framework (AQF).

The minimum education is now a 3 year degree in building surveying, and most
are members of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors, which existed
before the new framework. The courses basically cover the legislation which
controls development, mostly relating to the buildings rather than planning.
Whilst mostly focused on regulations and standards the courses also cover
the principles behind the legislation such as elementary structural
mechanics. But they are more conversant with the Building Code of Australia
(BCA) than say the steel structures code. So they know the BCA requires
compliance with the steel structures code, but not expected to use it

They may use prescriptive solutions like structural steel design capacity
tables, and the residential light timber framing code, and assess simple
structures. But for more complex structural systems a structural engineer or
civil engineer (4 year) would be required for the assessment and
certification. Engineering Associates (2 year) and Engineering Technologists
(3 year) would be permitted to conduct the design, but not certify for
regulatory approval.

The main role of the building surveyor is checking access/egress, fire
construction requirements, lighting, ventilation, energy efficiency
requirements, and other wise collecting together all the
evidence-of-suitability required by the building code of Australia. They may
also be involved with inspections of existing buildings.

Different states have different legislation as to when an engineer is
required: Northern Territory has Northern Territory Certified, Queensland
registered practicing engineers (RPEQ), and Victoria has registered building
practitioners (engineer), South Australia (SA) legislation just has the more
general term of independent technical expert. Whilst the building code of
Australia (BCA), only indicates requirements for suitably qualified. The
more general terms allow more specific requirements to be defined elsewhere
in the legislation. The SA legislation doesn't require additional state
registration fees as the other states do. But SA also hasn't had much major
development: building is mostly single storey residential with no
engineering required except for slab and footings. SA's big thing is
reactive clay soils, and without such there would be little work for civil

The new framework has caused some problems for architects and engineers
where new state legislation may have precluded them from continuing to
practise in the role of building surveyor unless they have the appropriate
degree. In those cases the IEAust has sought to gain recognition for special
area of practice on the National Professional Engineers register (NPER) so
that engineers can continue to do building surveying work, without need to
become members of the institute of building surveyors or complete another

It is all a matter of the extent of involvement and the nature of the
projects. Some building work is more structural or civil engineering and
doesn't require full BCA checking, and there is little a building surveyor
could contribute to such projects.

Building surveyors may be employed on a project as a consultant to assist
with achieving compliance. In SA private certifiers are registered building
surveyors under the development act, and they cannot act as consultant and
certifier on the same project. Once appointed as private certifier for a
project they also cannot be replaced on that project. The local government
authority building surveyor or the private certifier is the authority having
jurisdiction. They issue the certificate of occupancy, which is dependent on
a licensed builder providing a statement of compliance declaring they built
to the approved documents, and certain inspections. Only the local
government authority can issue development approval and the building permit.

There is also some confusion in the community as to what development
approval means. Builders and owner/builders often complain that what they
have had approved in the past cannot be built. Their fault, they should have
paid more attention to the design: employ professional designers rather than
do it themselves.

Development approval simply checks that the proposed end-product will comply
with the building rules and other legislation. Checking whether the proposal
can exist, is practical to build, and checking errors in calculations and
drafting is design side activity. All meant to be carried out before an
application is submitted for approval. The building surveyor's principal
task is knowing that there are structural provisions to be complied with,
and obtaining the required evidence-of-suitability demonstrating compliance.

Though I have yet to figure out, how something can be assessed as stable,
when members are missing, or the proposal cannot exist off paper. As for
warped roof surfaces, if that's what the drawing shows that's obviously what
the builder proposes to build. The owner might not be too happy though.

As for quantity surveyors (QS), they do materials take-off and prepare bill
of quantities and cost estimates, and otherwise manage building and
construction contracts, measuring all materials and labour used on a
project. The QS working for the architect and client, estimates the cost of
a project, and tracks actual cost. The QS working for the building
contractor estimates the tender price, and then tracks actual costs, and
otherwise argue variations on a contract. On most projects the architects
and licensed builder perform the task, rather than have a QS. The
involvement of a QS on either side largely depends on the size of the firm.
Government contracts would normally involve a QS. QS's may also be involved
in life cycle costing and depreciation of buildings. Some QS firms also
publish estimating handbooks and data: Cordell's and Rawlinson's.

Australia and Britain both have building surveyors along with quantity

It seems like US engineers have more authority on projects than here. What
is the seal that US engineers refer to and how do engineers fit into the
scheme of things? Are building officials at city building department's
engineers, or something else?

Here I believe we need some additional legislation which enforces more
design effort before applications are submitted for approval.

Australian Institute of Building Surveyors


The Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors

Conrad Harrison
B.Tech (mfg & mech), MIIE, gradTIEAust
South Australia

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