In this article, we look at exactly what a building surveyor does, when you need one, and more. 

A building surveyor plays a critical role in the construction industry. They ensure structures meet regulatory standards, advise on property design, and oversee safety protocols. Without a building surveyor, projects could face serious compliance issues, potentially leading to costly legal disputes and even unsafe living or working conditions once the building is complete. 

Their expertise is instrumental in understanding relevant building codes, regulations, and industry standards, ensuring each project not only aligns with legal requirements but also achieves the highest levels of safety and quality. Without their oversight, the integrity and longevity of buildings could be compromised.

So, What Is a Building Surveyor?

A building surveyor is someone that holds a tertiary qualification in building surveying and is tasked with overseeing the building control process. In Queensland, they must also have an official Accreditation Certificate from either:

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS); or,

The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS).

Their key responsibilities are to evaluate building plans and ensure these plans adhere strictly to the Building Code of Australia, the Australian Standards incorporated within it (as outlined by the Australian Building Codes Board), and any other relevant acts, legislation, or local requirements applicable to the building’s location. 

The work performed by a building surveyor extends beyond compliance. Their insights influence the design, planning, and overall functionality of structures. A core part of their duty is to guarantee that buildings are not only safe and compliant but also accessible and energy-efficient.

Building surveyors are involved in a project from start to finish. Throughout this duration, they conduct systematic inspections, providing necessary approvals for each phase of construction. It’s worth noting that a building project can only have one designated building surveyor. Once the construction process is complete, the building surveyor issues either the occupancy permit or the certificate of final inspection, based on the project’s compliance and safety standards.
The role of a building surveyor isn’t limited to new constructions. They also carry out inspections for other purposes such as compliance audits for insurance coverage or creating dilapidation reports, ensuring that structures maintain their safety and integrity over time. While building surveyors are not engineers, there can be some overlap in work performed when looking at second-hand properties.

What Do Building Surveyors Do?

Now let’s look at this in a bit more depth. The work done by building surveyors can be broadly categorised into statutory work and consulting work. Here is how it’s defined by the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors

Statutory Work

Statutory building surveyors are imbued with the legislative authority to:

1. Evaluate building plans: They assess and evaluate designs for proposed constructions, ensuring they meet relevant building standards and statutory regulatory requirements.

2. Ensure safe construction: They ascertain that buildings are built per approved plans and in line with the National Construction Code and Australian Standards, guaranteeing safety and compliance.

3. Oversee building compliance: Their goal is to make sure the final building structure is safe, compliant, and fit for occupation. This ensures owners or occupiers face fewer risks of injury, avoid unexpected repair costs, and maintain the building’s value.

4. Regulatory role: Their work is distinct and independent from other construction professionals, as they uniquely exercise regulatory functions.

Specifically, statutory building surveyors:

a. Assess compliance of application documents with technical building requirements.

b. Issue necessary approvals, consents, or building permits.

c. Conduct audits to ensure building work aligns with laws.

d. Inspect existing buildings’ health and safety standards.

e. Take action to ensure compliance with building regulations.

f. Certify that inspected works adhere to regulations and/or approved documents.

g. Approve the occupation of buildings as per relevant laws.

Consulting Work

Consulting building surveyors, while still focused on building safety and compliance, operate in a broader scope, working alongside industry professionals without the legislative constraints faced by their statutory counterparts.

Building surveyors in consulting roles are involved in:

a. Giving design advice to ensure compliant proposal documentation.

b. Advising builders and building owners on achieving compliance during building progress.

c. Inspecting building work to verify compliance with laws and contractual obligations.

d. Investigating and reporting on building defects or failures.

e. Advising on the ongoing compliance needs of buildings, considering health, safety, and other legislative requirements.

f. Guiding owners and builders on remediation for non-compliant building work.

g. Offering expert testimony in legal settings.

h. Assessing products for certification accreditation bodies.

i. Evaluating the adequacy of work by other building surveying practitioners during audit processes.

Additionally, some building surveyors may engage in building policy development, working for Federal & State Territory Governments.

When Do You Need a Building Surveyor and Why?

Here’s when and why you might need a building surveyor:

  1. Building approval and inspection: If you’re undergoing any form of construction, a building certifier ensures that all aspects of the work align with the Building Act 1975.
  2. Determining approval needs: Before starting a project, it’s essential to know whether you need building approval. Some minor tasks might not require it, termed as accepted development. A building certifier can provide guidance on this.
  3. Local government planning schemes: For specific building characteristics—like maximum height or the overall character—a planning permit might be needed from the local government. This is where a building certifier’s knowledge becomes invaluable.

Why is Choosing the Right Building Certifier Important?

  1. Professional limitations: Building certifiers are strictly tasked with oversight. They shouldn’t be involved in the actual design or execution of the building work, ensuring an unbiased perspective.
  2. Licensing: It’s crucial to engage a licensed building certifier. In Queensland, they must be registered with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). Checking their accreditation history can give insight into their credibility.
  3. Transparent agreements: When engaging a private certifier, a written agreement outlining the certification fee is mandatory. Many have standard engagement contracts, which simplifies the process.
  4. Adherence to professional standards: Building surveyors are bound by a stringent code of conduct and must always prioritise public interest. There are severe repercussions for those who don’t uphold these standards.
  5. Assistance in inspections: In some situations, a building certifier might rely on a ‘competent person’ for specific design or inspection stages. They can also delegate certain responsibilities to cadets, ensuring that the certification process is thorough.

If you’re embarking on a construction project or need clarity about building regulations, a building surveyor is essential. As experts in the field with over 20 years of experience, Porter Consulting offers commercial and residential building certification and consulting services on the Gold Coast and Brisbane. 
By choosing Porter Consulting, you’re opting for a proactive, solution-focused partner who prioritises the highest standards and client satisfaction in every project. Contact us today to enquire.