In the building industry, normal practice is that drawings are submitted and approved by the local authority, even though the drawings do not fully specify every element of building work that is required under the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The local authority’s building department usually assumes that items that are not detailed will conform to the “deemed to satisfy solution” of the code.
But it is quite a common practice during the design or construction stages of a project for a builder to depart from the original drawings on the basis of an engineer’s report that the building work complies with the performance requirements of the BCA as an “alternative solution”.
Where a builder uses an “alternative solution”, rather than the deemed to satisfy solution, this should be detailed in the original drawings that are submitted for approval.
The Department of Housing and Works has declared that if a building licence has already been granted, any proposed “alternative solution” needs to be submitted to local government for approval before that work commences.
Where a dispute arises over this alternative solution building work, the builder cannot use the engineer’s certification as a defence without the local government being advised. The Local Government Act prohibits a builder from departing from the approved plans without prior written approval of the council.
For many builders this is a major practical difficulty. Construction processes cannot stand still while local authorities take weeks or months to approve any amendment.