Update to Clients – April 2021

by | Apr 13, 2021 | What trends we’re seeing

NSW Design & Building Practitioners (DBP) Act & Regulation

Couvaras Architects update to clients – April 2021

The NSW Government enacted the DBP Act in June 2020. The Act will come into effect on 1 July 2021, along with the accompanying Regulation (final version due this month).

The Act & Regulations apply to Class 2 buildings. These are predominantly multi-unit residential flat buildings (apartments) and mixed-use type buildings. However, Class 2 also applies to any dwellings above or below each other (eg duplex) or attached residential with a common space below (eg townhouses above basement carpark).

It is important to note that the Regulations apply to Developers, Builders, Architects, Engineers, etc – everybody involved in the process. It is imperative that we all familiarise ourselves with the implications of these new regulations.

What we know so far:

1 – Registration

Designers, Engineers and Builders – with 5yrs relevant experience and necessary qualifications – all need to be registered. Registration will be done online through Service NSW or NSW Fair Trading – but won’t be available until 1 July 2021.

There will be multiple classes of registration.

  • Design Practitioners (up to 15 different classes for Architects, Building Designers, Structural Engineers, etc)
  • Principle Design Practitioner (1 class which allows certain classes of Design Practitioner to collate and co-ordinate certifications from other Design Practitioners – see Regulated Designs below)
  • Building Practitioner (1 class for builders – subcontractors will not be registered, and the registered Building Practitioner will take full responsibility for their work).

As registered Architects, experienced with the design & documentation of Residential Flat Buildings, we will qualify for the highest class of Building Design Practitioner (Architect). This will also allow us to register as Principal Design Practitioner.

It is important to note that only “Design Practitioner – Architect” will be allowed to certify construction documentation for Class 2 buildings of Type A construction. Some unexpected smaller building types will be captured by this, resulting in issues for developers who have engaged building designers for DA, only to find later that the building is Type A, Class 2.

2 – Regulated Designs

The legislation has been built around the idea of “Regulated Designs” and the requirement for these to be “Declared”. Designs which are Regulated trigger obligations for Design Practitioners to provide a Compliance Declaration and Building Practitioners to lodge all the documents onto the NSW Planning Portal. All Class 2 buildings will be “regulated” designs and eventually this requirement will extend to other classes, beginning with buildings where people sleep.

It is important to note that Construction will only be able to commence once everything has been uploaded to the NSW Planning Portal (which is still under construction, regularly has meltdowns and is very very very time consuming to use). Any variations to any part of the design (including product substitutions) will need to be approved and uploaded also. After completion, the documents will be become available to the future Strata Plan. Below is a diagram from the NSW Building Commissioner.

3 – Key focus areas

There are 5 key items that are being focused on to improve the quality of Apartment Buildings in particular. Based on the draft regulations, it is anticipated that particular focus will be placed on the documentation and detailing of these 5 areas.



3.Fire Systems (Active & Passive)

4.Building Envelope/Skin

5.Performance Services (incl. lift)

What does this mean for you:

As builders & developers, you will now be responsible for obtaining a Declared Design. In other words, you will have to obtain a full set of construction documents, prepared and signed off by registered professionals (with the right experience and level of registration). No more “basic CC” or minimal documentation. Even for D&C contracts, the full documentation will have to be Declared and uploaded before construction can commence.

The complete list of documents required will become available when the regulations are finalised this month. We will be updating our fee agreements and consultant fee request letters as soon as the regulations are available. And we will be registering as Design Practitioner – Architect, so that we can continue to serve our clients who care about their reputation, brand and bottom line.

In Summary:

  • Documentation is going to cost more (a whole lot more) and it is going to take longer.
  • A full team of consultants (with the necessary registration) will need to be engaged.
  • No changes to the DA approved design can happen without a S4.55. Amended CC and certification from all consultants will need to be uploaded to the portal.

Useful links


The Design and Building Practitioner (DBP) Act:


The Residential Apartment Building (Compliance and Enforcement ) (RAB) Act:


Kind Regards

Peter Couvaras


- Peter Couvaras
Peter started the Couvaras Architects from the dining table in 2005, and has built a reputation for delivering buildings that not only function well, but deliver an element of delight. He is responsible for client engagement and managing the team.

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