Existing exits - General Commercial and Industrial Code

BPB practice advice 11-004 August 2011

Note to readers: practice advice relates to the legislation in force at the time, which may since have been amended. Also, names of organisations and weblinks were correct at time of writing and may have since changed.

The Board has been asked to clarify how the requirement of clause 5.3(b)(i) of State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (the Codes SEPP) should be applied when an existing exit is not located within the part of a building which will be the subject of an internal alteration and whether a complying development certificate (CDC) can be issued in these circumstances with a condition requiring existing exits to be upgraded.

Clause 5.3(b)(i) requires certain internal alterations to comply with the requirements of DP2-DP5 of Volume 1 of the Building Code of Australia (BCA). These BCA provisions relate to safe movement within buildings, the provision of barriers to prevent people falling, the provision of exits and the fire isolation of exits.

Clause 5.3(b) draws a distinction between large internal alterations (alterations of greater than 500m2 to bulky goods premises or commercial premises, or greater than 1000m2 to light industry, warehouse or distribution centres) and small internal alterations (internal alterations of less than those areas).

The Board's advice relates to the two areas, as referred to above (large internal alterations and small internal alterations).

Large internal alterations

While the Codes SEPP provisions do not require an upgrade of exits for large internal alterations, it is the Board's view that the Codes SEPP and the BCA require existing exists that will service the area being altered to meet the performance requirements of the BCA.

If the existing exits will not meet the BCA performance requirements in the context of the proposed alterations, a CDC cannot be issued.

As an example, consider a bulky goods building with a floor area of 2000m2 and a proposal to carry out internal alterations to an area of 750m2 where the existing exit is outside the 750m2 area.

To assess the application for the CDC, the certifying authority should assess whether the existing exit servicing the entire floor would comply with DP4 of the BCA by considering factors such as changes to the number of people who will now use the altered area.

If the exit does not comply with DP4, the CDC must not be issued. However, it may be possible for the applicant to amend the CDC application to show that the exits can be upgraded to comply with DP4 as part of the CDC works – provided the upgrading can be done as complying development.

Small internal applications

If the area of the proposed development is under the threshold areas of 500m2 or 1000m2, the requirements of DP2-DP5 of the BCA (and FP2.1, FP2.5, FP2.6 and FP4.1-FP4.5 - see clause 5. 3(b)(ii) & (iii) of the Codes SEPP) do not have to be met.