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Managing the government approval process for workplace fit-outs

If you are excited by the prospect of your new workplace fit-out but feeling apprehensive about government approvals, read on. Workplace design and fit-out company Evoke Projects explains how to manage the process of government approvals.

Which government approvals are needed for a commercial fit-out?

It depends on the building work that is planned, location, heritage status and current/future use of the premises. Both new and existing commercial buildings will need fit-out approvals. 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:

  • 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


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 or approved certifier for a new building / commercial 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 workplace 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
  • Office design concepts
  • Design development
  • Construction management
  • Furniture procurement including design and custom manufacture


If you need to manage the approval process yourself:

  1. 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 commercial fit-out plans.
  2. Pre-application meeting
    Try to arrange a pre-application meeting with the certifying body to discuss your commercial fit-out plans and identify any issues in advance.
  3. Submit your planning application with all the required documentation e.g., plans / architectural drawings / engineering reports / environmental impact statement / BASIX (NSW).
  4. Follow up with the council / certifying body at regular intervals.
  5. 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.
  6. Notify the relevant body once your commercial 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 workplace fit-outs and project management streamlines the government approval process, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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