Glossary

ABIC

The Australian Building Industry Contracts (ABIC) are published jointly by the Australian Institute of Architects and Master Builders Australia. There are two broad forms of ABIC: one for less and one for more complex projects. These contracts are used when you engage an architect to administer your construction contract, versus administering it yourself. They are designed to make the process more certain, more clear, and less prone to dispute or time-consuming negotiation than other kinds of construction contracts.

Architect

A person who is registered by the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV) to provide building design and contract administration services. The person must have successfully completed a university degree in architecture (five years in Victoria), served for two years full time in an architectural firm, and have passed an ARBV exam.

Builder

Any person or organisation registered with the Building Practitioners Board to undertake building construction or alteration works. The builder may or may not be a member of the Housing Industry Association or Master Builders Association of Victoria.

Building contract

A written legal document, controlled under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic), that describes the agreement between you and your builder for construction, extensions, renovations or repairs. It should include a details plan about what is to be done and should be signed by both parties.

Building inspector

A person registered with the Building Practitioners Board as a building inspector. He or she is qualified to assess design documentation and conduct on-site inspections during construction work to ensure compliance with building regulations. He or she reports results to a building surveyor.

Building lawyer

A qualified lawyer (legal practitioner who is registered by the Legal Services Board of Victoria under the Legal Profession Act 2004 (Vic)), who has experience in building matters.

Building permit

A permit issued by your building surveyor which gives you permission to build according to the approved, stamped documents.

Building Practitioners Board

A statutory authority in Victoria established by the Building Act 1993 (Vic) which registers and regulates Victorian builders and building professionals. It does not register or regulate architects, plumbers or electricians. Website here…

Building surveyor

A person registered with the Building Practitioners Board as a building surveyor. He or she is trained in building law, assesses your building plans to ensure they comply with building regulations, and is authorised to issue building permits, occupancy permits and certificates of final inspection. He or she does not ensure contract compliance (only regulations compliance), and does not supervise work.

Building regulations

A set of statutory regulations which outline the standards for buildings in Victoria. Along with the Building Act 1993 (Vic) and the Building Code of Australia, they describe siting and structural requirements as well as many other factors including the protection of public and adjoining property.

Certificate of final inspection

A certificate issued by your building surveyor after final inspection of your renovation, certifying that construction work has been completed in accordance with the building permit.  (It does not certify compliance with your building contract, only with the permit and building regulations.) It is essential for sale of your home. It does not mean that all work has been completed: there may still be minor works to be done such as some painting, paving and landscaping. Unless all works are complete you do not have to make your final payment when the certificate is issued.

Contract administration

The process of administering, for your benefit, the building contract during construction. The administrator is responsible for checking that construction is on schedule and budget, provides answers to numerous questions about detail and issues that arise during construction, maintains a constructive and productive relationship with the builder while ensuring that the contracted plans are followed, that any deviations are agreed, and advises when the builder should be properly paid for satisfactorily completed works. Not to be confused with project management.

Demolisher

A person registered with the Building Practitioners Board to partially or completely dismantle buildings and other structures using planned and controlled methods. A demolisher may be licensed in respect of two storey, five storey or unlimited height structures. Fittings, fixtures and services may be stripped prior to dismantling.

Detailed plans

Detailed drawings and documentation about the design, details and specifications of the building/s, fixtures, fittings and finishes. They are used to obtain accurate quotes and should be incorporated into the building contract. See also Scope of works.

Draftsman

A person (male or female) registered with the Building Practitioners Board to provide drafting (exterior or interior blueprints) and related services. The minimum qualification is usually a one-year TAFE Certificate or two-year TAFE Diploma, depending on the draftsman’s registration category.

Engineer

For the purposes of building, a person registered with the Building Practitioners Board as a civil (structural), mechanical (hydraulics), electrical, geological or fire safety engineer. The person is responsible for ensuring an appropriate standard of design to promote health and safety and to resolve energy and environmental issues.

Extension

A home improvement which increases the floor area of your existing house, including enlarging existing rooms or adding new rooms. An extension may be horizontal (across) or vertical (up or down).

Fitting

Items belonging to a property which can be removed without causing damage to the property, such as carpets and lampshades, curtains and rails, mirrors, free-standing kitchen benches and appliances, TV aerials and satellite dishes.

Fixture

Items attached to the property that cannot be removed without causing damage to the property, such as cook-tops, stoves, bench-tops, (built-in) cupboards, cabinets and and wardrobes, basins, baths, showers, toilets, central heating units, plugs and sockets.

Geotechnical report

See Soil tests.

Interior design

The creative, imaginative and artistic creation of commercial and residential interior spaces for aesthetic pleasure, comfort, traffic flow, function and safety. More than just “finishing and decoration”, it can encompass the specification of partitions and walls, flooring and ceilings, lighting, furniture, colours, fabrics and graphics to enact an integrated design idea.

Land surveyor

A person licensed by the Surveyors Registration Board of Victoria in cadastral (extent, ownership and value of land) surveying. He or she is responsible for confirming and advising on property boundary locations, the status of land ownership and on the rights, restrictions and interests in property for use in plans and on maps.

Occupancy permit

A permit issued by your building surveyor after final inspection of your newly-constructed home, approving that the building is appropriate and safe for occupation. It does not certify that the construction meets your contract specifications, only that is satisfies planning and building regulations. It is essential for sale of your home. It does not mean that all work has been completed: there may still be minor works to be done such as some painting, paving and landscaping. Unless all works are complete you do not have to make your final payment when the occupancy permit is issued.

Permit

See Planning permit, Building permit, Occupancy permit.

Planning permit

A permit issued by your local council in respect of your site development plans, taking into account the zoning and permitted uses of the land. A planning permit is not always required, but if it is, you must obtain it before you can be issued a building permit.

Plan

See Sketch plan, Detailed plans.

Professional indemnity insurance

Insurance held by your architect, builder, building lawyer or other professional service provider, whose purpose is to protect you from loss as a result of acts or omissions of the professional acting on your behalf.

Project management

The discipline and process of managing the actual construction project to ensure timeliness of work, the efficient and effective use of resources, and compliance with building contract design and materials specifications as well as building regulations. Normally the builder is responsible for project management. Not to be confused with contract administration.

Quantity surveyor

A person registered with the Building Practitioners Board as a quantity surveyor. He or she estimates (and may assist to manage) the cost of construction projects from the initial planning phase. They interpret plans to calculate and advise anticipated project costs.

Renovation

Any improvement to your property which doesn‘t create additional, new floor space. It may take the form of painting, redecorating, replacing floor coverings, kitchen and bathroom remodelling, roof restoration, window or cladding replacement, or addition of improvements such as solar hot water, water tanks, photovoltaic (solar) cells or roller shutters.

Scope of works

A set of documents including plans and specifications which specify what is to be built. They can be used to obtain a planning permit, building permit, pricing estimates from a quantity surveyor, quotes from builders, and should form part of the building contract.

Sketch plan

Concept drawings showing the general scope and intent of your building, which have been prepared by an architect, draftsman or builder as a preliminary study. These may be used to further develop and refine ideas with you, and to obtain reports, information and advocacy from engineers, building surveyors, town planners and quantity surveyors.

Soil tests

Also known as a “geotechnical report”. These are carried out on site by a qualified professional (civil, geotechnical or geology engineer) to determine the type of soil present on site and the depth required for stable and solid footings for buildings.

Surveyor

See Building surveyor, Land surveyor, Quantity surveyor.

Tendering

The process of obtaining building construction quotes from multiple builders—on the basis of at least a building permit and preferably with detailed plans included—and assessing the quotes for monetary cost, consistency with the permit and detailed plans, and likelihood of meeting the construction objectives including time-frame, milestones and ultimate deliverables.

Tender documents

See Detailed Plans

Town planner

A person who holds a tertiary qualification in town planning (e.g. urban, regional, rural or environmental planning) who can provide advice and support to establish the nett developable area of your land, respond to council objections, and help prepare for and attend as an expert witness at VCAT appeals.

Town planning

The technical and socio-political process of making decisions about the development and use of land and the design of the built environment including structures, spaces (like parks), transport networks, delivery of utilities (e.g. water, power, gas) and removal of waste. Overarching standards are controlled by national and State acts and regulations, which are sometimes quite specific but often are general ‘guidelines’ requiring interpretation. In terms of private residential projects, town planning is especially concerned with amenity, overlooking, overshadowing and neighbourhood character.

VCAT

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. A statutory authority which deals with domestic building plan approval (and many other types of) disputes. If your council refuses a planning permit you can apply to VCAT to consider overrulling or amending the refusal. VCAT decisions are authoritative and may only be appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Zone

A defined area within a local council jurisdiction which is granted specific types of permissible uses and with a defined set of requirements for planning permits.