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Building a deck

Depending on the scope of your project, you may not require any approvals under ACT planning and building laws to build an external deck.
There are two kinds of approvals that your project may require: development approval and building approval. Development applications are lodged with the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) for approval
Under the Planning and Development Regulation 2008, decks are classified as “non-habitable structures” that are exempt from requiring development approval by ACTPLA unless they exceed certain constraints. Depending on the deck’s location, height and dimensions it may require development approval.
According to the planning provisions, the deck includes any stairs or ramps, external landing and retaining walls attached to the deck.
Similarly, the Building (General) Regulation 2008 sets out the exemptions for requiring building approvals. Building approval is needed ensure building complies with building laws, including the Building Code of Australia. As with development approval, if building approval is required it must be approved before construction begins.
A deck that requires development approval does not necessarily require building approval, so follow this simple questionnaire to see what approval your project will require.
1.    Does the deck have a roof?
                 If yes, you may require development approval.
2.    Is the roof more than 3m above ground?
  If yes, you will also require building approval.
3.    Will any part of the deck be situated between the front boundary of the block (that is, the boundary closest to the street/footpath) and a building line?
4.    Will any part of the deck be situated within 1.5m of a side or rear boundary of the block?
  If Yes to either 3 or 4: Is the height of the finished floor more than 40cm above the natural ground level for any part that is either between a front boundary and a building line for the block?
·       If yes, you will require building development approval.
  If no to 3 and 4: Is the height of the finished floor more than 1m above natural ground level in any part?
·       If yes, you will require development and building approval.
5.    Is any part of the deck situated between a front boundary and a building line (same as question 3)?
  If yes:  Des that part of the deck have a balustrade?
·       If yes you will require development approval.
 If no: Does the deck have a balustrade more than 1.2m above the finished floor level for the deck?
·       If yes you will require development approval.
6.    Does the deck have one or more walls?
  If yes, it will require building approval, and development approval.
7.    Will the deck adversely affect any of the following:
˗        the structural integrity of any part of the house
˗        a fire-rated wall, ceiling or floor of the house
˗        a fire escape, emergency lift, stairway, exit or exit passage
˗        the natural light, the ventilation or fire protection system of the house
        If yes to any of the above, you may require building approval.
          8.   Does construction of the deck involve handling asbestos or disturbing friable asbestos?
  If yes, you will require building approval.
9.   Does the frame – if there is one – have an unsupported span of more than 4m?
  If yes, you will require building approval.
10.Does construction of the deck affect the house in a way that reduces its compliance with the Building Code of Australia to below minimum requirements?
(note: this could be confusing and would be unlikely to be an issue for most decks – if someone is building something that would make this an issue they should probably be getting some experts in, or they know what they’re doing anyway!)
 If yes, building approval may be required.
Lodging a Development Application:For more information about lodging a DA visit ACTPLA’s website
Getting building approval:If you require building approval, refer to ACTPLA’s information page here
For more information on exempt development call ACTPLA on(02) 6207 1923.

Front boundary: Any boundary of a block adjacent to a public road, public reserve or public pedestrian way.
Buildingline: A line drawn parallel to any front boundary along the front face of a building or through the point on a building closest to the front boundary.
(NB: Where a terrace, landing, porch, balcony or verandah is more than 1.5 metres above the adjoining finished ground level or is covered by a roof, it is deemed to be part of the building.)
Balustrade: A balustrade is a row of repeating balusters – small posts that support the upper rail of a railing.