Healthcare fit-outs and the management of government approvals
Compared to a general commercial fit-out, healthcare fit-outs have extra red tape attached! If you are concerned about government approvals for your medical fit-out, read on. Medical design and fit-out company Evoke Projects explains how to manage the process of government approvals.
Which government approvals are needed for a medical fit-out?
Both new and existing buildings will need medical fit-out approvals, with the type of approvals dependent on the scope of the building work and the location. Nationally, the Building Code of Australia and Australia Standards set out the technical requirements for buildings, plumbing and drainage. Beyond that, each state and territory has different regulations and council requirements.
For example, for all building projects (not just medical fit-outs):
- NSW – There are nine different planning approval pathways in NSW. Small building projects may be Exempt Developments and not require any planning or building approval. Some projects may be eligible to be fast-tracked as Complying Developments (CDC process), while others will require a full Development Application (DA process).1
- South Australia – Categories for developments are Exempt Development, Accepted Development, Code Assessed Development and Impact Assessed Development.2
- Queensland – The main categories are Assessable Development (building work, plumbing or drainage work, operational work, reconfiguring a lot, material change of use of premises, clearing native vegetation, demolition of existing building) and Accepted Development (does not need to comply with any code or other requirements of the regional or local planning scheme but may still require a Building Approval).3
- Victoria – Each council has different regulations and contacting your local council is the best first step.4
- VicSmart is a streamlined assessment process for straightforward planning permit applications.5
Change of use and licensed health facilities
If your building was not previously a medical centre, it may need a change of use permit. This will depend on the zone regulations. Car parking, waste management, accessibility and signage will need consideration under the planning permit for a medical centre fit-out.
Each state and territory has its own rules around medical fit-outs. For example:
- NSW – the Secretary of the NSW Ministry of Health can impose conditions relating to the design and construction of any building to be built, altered or extended for the purposes of operating a licensed private health facility. Before any building work is commenced, an applicant for a licence for a new facility, or the licensee of an existing licensed facility, must apply to and receive written approval, from NSW Ministry of Health for the plans and specifications for the facility.6
- Queensland – as part of the licensing process, approval must be sought to make alterations or to renovate a facility when the proposed changes impact:
- the delivery of clinical services
- bed numbers
- change to the purpose or use of patient areas.7
The process for obtaining government approvals
While each state/territory may use different terminology, broadly there are three stages for obtaining government approvals:
- Planning application to council / approved certifier for a new building / healthcare fit-out / change of use. At this stage, you submit plans / architectural drawings / engineering reports / environmental impact statement / BASIX (NSW). Heritage buildings have additional requirements.
- Building permit. This is issued upon approval of the planning application; work commences with regular inspections to ensure compliance with building codes and regulations.
- Occupancy certificate. This is granted once the building meets all the regulations and is ready for occupancy.
In addition to government approval, you will also need landlord approval. Your lease agreement will stipulate the process for obtaining this approval.
Managing the government approval process
If you work with a medical design and fit-out company, it is highly recommended that you partner with a firm that offers you a project manager to take care of the landlord and government approvals. For example, at Evoke Projects, our team manages the whole fit-out process, including:
- Property evaluation
- Space fit reviews
- Council and statutory approvals
- Medical design concepts
- Design development
- Construction management
- Furniture procurement including design and custom manufacture
If you need to manage the approval process yourself:
- Start with your local council website
This should enable you to research building codes, standards, local regulations and planning requirements for your area. You can also determine which type of approval process is relevant for your medical fit-out plans.
- Pre-application meeting
Try to arrange a pre-application meeting with the certifying body to discuss your healthcare fit-out plans and identify any issues in advance.
- Submit your planning application with all the required documentation e.g., plans / architectural drawings / engineering reports / environmental impact statement / BASIX (NSW).
- Follow up with the council / certifying body at regular intervals.
- Once you have your building permit, be prepared for regular inspections by the certifying body. Ensure that your work is being carried out according to the plans and requirements of your permit.
- Notify the relevant body once your medical fit-out is complete. They will conduct a final inspection before issuing an occupation certificate (assuming everything is compliant).
Evoke Projects employs our own team of architectural designers, engineers and builders at all our Australian locations. This gives us total in-house control. It gives you a single point of contact, shorter time frames and reduced costs by eliminating multiple profits. To find out how our expertise in medical fit-outs and project management streamlines the government approval process, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.