What is a ‘Building Inspector’?2018-09-03T11:47:35+00:00

‘Building Inspector’ was commonly used in the past to describe any person who carried out inspections of buildings for various reasons, including pre-purchase inspections and inspections of building works by Council to check off compliance with a building permit or a building consent. Territorial Authorities currently employ building inspectors to undertake inspections of building work for their Building Control Units, as part of the Building Consent Authority’s function to sign off on building consents.

Construction professionals who carry out inspections of buildings are now described as building surveyors who, depending upon their experience and qualifications, may perform a wide range of inspections, property assessments and reporting for residential, institutional and commercial clients. There are many more types of inspections that building surveyors carry out, such as for commercial due diligence, defects analysis, expert witness purposes, long term maintenance planning, as well as for pre-purchase and general condition purposes. NZIBS Registered Building Surveyors are trained and experienced building surveyors – see About Us and Find a Member

PPI Pre Purchase Inspection: What does an inspection include?2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

Sometimes referred to as a building survey, the inspection generally includes a visual examination of the building and its systems from top to bottom. It can also include the entire property including such items as the grounds, outbuildings and fencing. The surveyor evaluates and reports on the construction and condition of what can be seen of the structure, roof, foundation, plumbing, drainage, heating system, insulation, walls, windows, doors and such-like.

Only those parts that are visible and readily, and safely accessible are included in the report. Most surveyors use non-invasive equipment such as a capacitance meter or a thermal imaging camera. These may find problems which are hidden from the naked eye, however all such tools have limitations. The survey if so requested can also include a review of a Council file to provide historic information, in addition to what is obtained from the inspection (refer to the section headed “What is a LIM” below).

What is a LIM (Land Information Memorandum)?2016-03-14T17:11:46+00:00

Each city or district council holds a considerable amount of information about each property in its area. For a fee (which varies), they will print out some of this information from their files. If there are any problems or unusual and important features, these should show up. For instance, the LIM might reveal the property is subject to flooding, or contains a council drain which may not be built over, or a protected tree or building. It should also help you to figure out how the district plan applies to the site.

Sometimes the council will also supply pages of area plans showing the known stormwater and sewage drains, planning, zoning and other details. The LIM will also identify whether building consents have been taken out for building work and whether Code Compliance Certificates have been issued for that work. If the house has at any stage been accepted by the Weathertight Homes Tribunal as being an “eligible” claim, this should also be on the LIM.

For the surveyor doing a pre-purchase survey, it is the list of building permits and/or building consents that is often most relevant. This is because the council only has records of the building works it knows about. Frequently alterations have been done to older houses, including landscaping, without council knowledge, so nothing shows up on the LIM. This means a LIM that shows no problems could be misunderstood, if it is interpreted to mean no unconsented works have been carried out. If you choose to give the surveyor a copy of the plans on file before (s)he goes to site, the surveyor can be directed to assess any differences and report accordingly.

Why should I look at the Property File?2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

An increasing number of Councils now make most if not all their property file information available for on line viewing (for a fee) and the Councils which offer this service will also generally send a copy on CD. You can also visit the council offices and look at the property file over the counter for yourself (for a fee). The full file will provide a great deal more information than is contained in the “Land Information Memorandum” (LIM). For example, notes taken by building inspectors during inspections while the work is under construction can be informative.

If the building was completed recently, you will hopefully find records of who did the work and you may decide to contact these individual tradesmen to get their views on how the job was handled. If you want a more detailed understanding of the information in the property file, get the information to the surveyor before the survey and request a section in the report covering what you specifically want to know about. For example, if an architect or other professional observed the building work during construction.  

What is a CCC (Code (or Consent) Compliance Certificate)?2016-03-14T17:22:09+00:00

It is invariably a single A4 sized page – for each consent issued. Sometimes several consents may have been issued for the same house, for example if alterations have been carried out. For units in multi unit developments, the works may have been consented in two or more stages, each such stage should have a CCC. (It is unlikely each unit will have its own separate consent/CCC). The importance of these bits of paper is hard to overstate. Between 1992 and November 2013, it meant that the issuing authority (generally the local council or a building certifier) felt they had “reasonable grounds” at the end of the job for believing the works had been completed in accordance with the building code. It is not a warranty or guarantee, but it is very useful.

However, if it was issued by a building certifier, rather than a Council, you need to check with the Companies Office to see if the Certifier is still around – many have gone into liquidation. If that is the case, you should take legal advice before deciding to rely on it as part of your grounds for deciding to buy the house.
After 27 November 2013 the situation changed: CCC  now stands for “Consent Completion Certificate” which is subtly but significantly different from “Code Compliance Certificate”.  It specifically applies to “low risk building work” and the meaning is hopefully self explanatory: all that is being certified is that it was built in accordance with the plans and specification which were previously consented. There is no specific reference to the building code on this type of certificate.

What is the difference between a building permit and a building consent?2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

The short answer is, on one level: “not much”. Each refers to the appropriate, official permission to build. Essentially, the difference relates to when permission was granted. Prior to the 1992 Building Act, the term “permit” was used and after it, the word became “consent”. However, there are some significant ramifications of the change and it is important to use the right word. Unfortunately, the public and even some within the industry have not all caught up, despite more than twenty years having now passed. When used properly, “permit” should only be used to refer to work which was commenced prior to 1992, as after that date, no permits were issued, only consents

What is cavity construction / what is a drained and vented cavity?1970-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

“Cavity” refers to a space, or gap between the cladding and the structure. Cavities have been standard practice between brick veneer and timber framing for many years. This is because it has always been well understood that brick cladding gets wet, so it needs to be kept away from the wooden framing.
At the end of 2004 a new Building Act was enacted, which was part of a whole raft of changes introduced by central government, largely in response to the “leaky building crisis”. The aim was to improve the Building Industry overall. One of the changes made in 2004 ensured that almost all monolithic claddings were installed over a cavity from then on.

This means the structural framing of the house is separated from the cladding, which reduces the chances of water reaching the framing. In houses built after 2004, the cavity is generally constructed with vertical battens (usually but not always timber) which space the cladding out from the framing by about 20mm. The bottom of each wall is then fitted with a perforated strip, intended to prevent vermin entering the cavity and allow air to circulate freely throughout the cavity, as well as allowing any accumulated water to drain away freely. In some systems the top of the wall has additional ventilation to increase the air circulation. Very few older monolithic clad houses have such a cavity, although some do have alternative means for providing at least some drainage and drying, for example rigid backing to solid plaster comprised of diagonal boards with gaps between

What is wrong with monolithic claddings?1970-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

The simple answer is: when they are used in low risk designs and done well, there may not necessarily be anything wrong.  Of course, these are not the cases that receive publicity.
There are a number of different cladding systems being used which produce a (visually) similar result. This effect produces an unbroken, or smooth appearance which is labelled "monolithic", and used to cover various types of cladding. The main types are Solid Plaster (stucco), Texture Coated Fibre Cement sheets and Exterior Insulation and Finish System  known as EIFS (plaster applied over a polystyrene base sheet). However, it is not just the cladding itself which is relevant to understanding the performance of the monolithic claddings.  Most so called "leaky homes" with monolithic claddings have multiple defects.

Stucco: This is the oldest "monolithic" cladding system and is usually about 20 to 25 mm of various mixes of mainly sand/cement plaster, reinforced with some form of coated steel mesh. It was installed over either a rigid backing board (timber boards, concrete or fibre cement sheets, plywood, fibreboard or polystyrene sheets) or simply directly over building paper. Up until 9/2/2004 it was not mandatory to separate the stucco from the structural framing with a “cavity”. The change to requiring a cavity was made in response to widespread failures in direct fixed installations. Unfortunately, not all the early cavities were properly constructed, so having one is no guarantee that the cladding is weathertight. Both before and after 2004, some early “cavity” systems did not include all the features which are now understood to be essential. In particular, it was quite common for the early cavity battens to be no more than spacers, with the “cavities” between battens having no drainage or ventilation.

Texture coated fibre cement sheet: There are a number of cladding systems that involve fixing fibre-cement base sheets (usually 1.2 meters by 2.4 meters) over the framing. The finish required flush-stopping the joints between the base sheets and then applying textured coating and/or a waterproofing paint. Around 2003, it started to become common to install this system over cavity battens and as with the stucco described above, cavity installation behind fibrecement sheet was not always installed properly in the early years.

Modified plaster over polystyrene (EIFS): The house framing is covered in sheets of polystyrene (the thickness varies according to the desired level of insulation but is typically 40 mm). A form of reinforced modified plaster coating is then applied over the polystyrene, the plaster may be as thin as 3 mm, and is generally applied in several coats..

Further to the above broad categories, there are various sub-groups and variations depending on the substrate, for example plaster over brickwork or plaster over blockwork and various manufacturers offered specific modified plaster coatings for these substrates.

To the unskilled eye from the outside there may initially be little or no difference between any of these. The smooth, unbroken finish on the walls is what is most obvious

Control / expansion joints2016-03-14T17:32:28+00:00

Because cement plaster is a rigid material and wooden framing can move with temperature and moisture changes, monolithic claddings usually need to have some form of movement control joints. To stop rain water getting in at these joints and where the plastered cladding system abuts other elements (eg windows and doors), there need to be in place carefully designed and executed water deflection systems (“flashings” and “seals”). It is these areas that, when neglected or skimped over, lead to leaking problems

What is a NTF (Notice to Fix)?1970-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

This is an official document, generally issued by the Building Control department of a local council. It most commonly is produced following an inspection by a Council Building Official (building inspector), when that inspector has found serious failures to comply with the Building Code. This is frequently set in motion when someone applies for a Code Compliance Certificate. It can also occur during construction, if there are concerns regarding the (in)adequacy of the building work.

Receiving a Notice to Fix can be quite traumatic for home owners as it frequently quotes sections of the Building Act which refer to large fines for failing to comply, while at the same time offering only vague and unhelpful suggestions when it comes to telling the owner what to do to avoid such hefty fines. As such, it can be rather unnerving. It is also relatively inflexible and Councils are now increasingly considering other alternatives, one of which is discussed next:

What is a Section 95A letter? (Building Act 2004)1970-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

This comes from the 2004 Building Act, specifically:

"95A Refusal to issue code compliance certificate
If a building consent authority refuses to issue a code compliance certificate, the building consent authority must give the applicant written notice of –
(a) the refusal; and
(b) the reasons for the refusal."

You will see this is a lot less frightening than a Notice to Fix. If it is you who is applying for a CCC, you might consider including a letter specifically requesting that IF Council decide not to issue the CCC, they give you a section 95A response and NOT a Notice to Fix. If successful, that may help you to understand what is wrong. The obvious advantage of the section 95A letter is that it does not require you to do anything.

But if that doesn't work, and you get a Notice to Fix, you do not have many options. One is to apply for a Determination under the Building Act, discussed next:

What is a Determination?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

A determination is a binding decision made by an official of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MoBIE) under Part 3, Subpart 1 of the Building Act 2004.. It provides a way of solving disputes or questions about the rules that apply to buildings, how buildings are used, building accessibility, health and safety.

Most determinations are needed because the person applying for the determination disagrees with the council about decisions the council has made about works it considers non-compliant with the building code. However, a determination can be applied for by the council itself or a neighbour who is affected by building work. The Ministry undertakes a detailed look at the matter and makes a legally binding decision.

View the Government’s pages on Determinations

What is a "Safe & Sanitary" and how does this compare to a Certificate of Acceptance?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

The term “Safe and Sanitary” came into existence after the first Building Act was introduced in 1992. There were specific sections in that Act which made it clear that:
·    Almost all building work required a building consent (there were exceptions, but they were seldom relevant to domestic housing)
·    A building consent could not be issued retrospectively.

Although Territorial Authorities (Councils) could not “legitimise” works which had been undertaken without a building permit or consent, even if the work had been done well, the Act did allow them to declare buildings unsafe or insanitary, if the work had been done badly enough. Based on this provision, it became acceptable to declare the opposite: if the unauthorised works had been reasonably well done, you could get a report which stated they were “safe and sanitary” (i.e. not dangerous or insanitary).

Many members of the public who owned buildings which had work done (including the construction of the complete building) without a building permit or building consent believed that they could get such “illegal” or “unauthorised” works legitimized by obtaining a “Safe and Sanitary Report”. This was wishful thinking and simply not true. All any “safe and sanitary” report could do was to put on file a letter or report which acknowledged the works were not dangerous or insanitary. The acceptance and filing of such reports was at the discretion of the Council.

Councils have never liked illegal work and generally did not preclude the possibility of taking enforcement steps at some stage, but they would accept a report from a suitably experienced person, (often an NZIBS member) and issue in reply a “letter of comfort”, which came to be called a “Safe and Sanitary Certificate”, despite the fact that it is:  not a “certificate” at all (it is usually just a letter);  limited to the conditions at the time of issue; non-statutory (doesn’t appear in any law) and is not a consent or guarantee.

Certificate of Acceptance2016-03-14T17:40:36+00:00

When the new Building Act came into existence in 2004, this addressed the omission in the previous (1991) Act by providing a mechanism for legitimising work which had been done without first obtaining a building consent. However, it did not provide any mechanism for legitimising works which had been done without a building permit (i.e. work prior to July 1992). So if there is proof the unauthorised works were completed prior to 1992, a “safe and sanitary” report is still an option to at least get something on to the Council property file describing the works as existing.

However, if the unauthorised works were undertaken after July 1992, most Councils now consider there are only two options: remove the offending work (which are, after all, essentially illegal); or apply for a Certificate of Acceptance to legitimise them retrospectively. It is not easy to get a comprehensive Certificate of Acceptance as the opportunity to observe the works at critical stages during the construction has been lost, so how can anyone be sure each stage was completed properly? An NZIBS Registered Building Surveyor can advise you further.

Levels of Investigation – visual, non invasive, thermal imaging, invasive, destructive2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

Essentially, each level of investigation provides more knowledge and therefore increased levels of certainty.
Even the first level – purely visual – can be helpful. At this level, it is the surveyor’s experience which is the only tool being utilised. Extensive experience can be enough to identify a broad array of potential risks and problems, however it is unlikely to be able to do much more. To obtain more definitive information regarding the performance of the building, some physical tools are required.

The next level utilises non-invasive tools. In the not too distance future we can expect more sophisticated instruments to arrive, but at present the ones commonly available are still relatively crude. These include capacitance meters and thermal imaging cameras (which detect heat). In the hands of skilled and experienced operators, both can indicate problematic areas which probably would not be found by eye alone, but again they are not determinative. At best the operator will say something along the lines of “high readings were obtained in this area and further investigation is recommended” or “the thermal image shows the following anomalies which require further investigation.” Unfortunately, it is only too common for more than this to be “deduced” from such tools, which can be very misleading.

The next level involves actual, physical investigation of areas which have been identified as high risk by the use of non-invasive tools. This can be quite subtle, for example a small hole drilled from inside right through the internal lining and into the suspect framing to obtain limited evidence of the condition of the framing at that point. This level of investigation may include a large number of such internal holes, combined with various tools for measuring the condition of the hidden structure at those points. It may also include internal and controlled external air sampling for fungal spores, the monitoring of humidity levels and the taking of moisture content readings in absorbent materials (usually framing) as well as laboratory analysis of minute timber samples for decay and any preservative treatments. Before any such physical investigation is undertaken, written authority from the owner needs to be obtained.

The last level is generally known as “destructive” investigation and refers to the removal of sections of external cladding in particular, to expose the underlying structure in areas considered by the surveyors to be defective. This provides the most extensive evidence of what may have failed and why, and therefore the most reliable basis for formulating a remedial plan. However, such cut outs can be difficult to repair permanently and can be viewed as disfiguring so this needs to be well understood by all parties before destructive investigation is undertaken. In addition, there are potential hazards which need to be considered prior to starting, such as asbestos fibres, electrical wires and so on. Sometimes it is more efficient to combine these last two levels of investigation and your NZIBS Registered Building Surveyor can help guide you as to what might be most appropriate and cost effective.

Borer/two tooth/ termites/ants2016-03-14T17:44:46+00:00

Insects can cause extensive damage to the structural framing of the building, especially if the wood is untreated. There are a number of species, two of the most common are briefly mentioned:

Borer” is probably the most common.( Anobium punctatum) Scion  is a  leading authority in New Zealand and they say: “This borer is responsible for most of the insect damage found in structural and decorative timber in New Zealand. Infestations may occur in untreated timber used for almost any purpose including structural timbers, exterior cladding, joinery, furniture, and flooring.”

“Two-tooth” is possibly the next most common: the two-toothed longhorn, (Ambeodontus tristis) Scion says of this species: “Untreated rimu timbers in buildings are often severely damaged, especially when used for sub-flooring, bearers, joists, and jack-studs in damp and poorly ventilated places.

Early in 2014 native Termites made the headlines in New Zealand. These are less common, but can be extremely destructive. Scion says of these: “Drywood termites (Kalotermes brouni ). This termite will utilise dead, dry wood of a wide range of indigenous and exotic hardwoods and softwoods, and no timber species grown in New Zealand is known to be specifically resistant to  damage. Drywood termite damage in old buildings is unlikely to be detected until timbers are seriously weakened, so a full survey of the extent of the damage should be made before attempting to eradicate the insects. If timbers are only slightly damaged remedial treatments such as fumigation or injection of insecticides may be appropriate, but weakened timbers should be replaced.

Is there a New Zealand Standard for pre purchase inspections?2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

In 2004 New Zealand Standards assembled a sector group to write a New Zealand Standard for pre-purchase inspections. This was published in early 2005 as “NZS 4306:2005 Residential Property Inspection.” This is a voluntary Standard and the pre-purchase inspection industry in New Zealand is essentially unregulated so no surveyor is obliged to undertake surveys in accordance with this Standard. However anyone who does claim to be working to this Standard can be judged against it as the Standard lists what should be covered by anyone working to it. The Standard is one of many which needs revising and updating.

What houses are most at risk of being “Leaky”?2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

Houses built between 1994 and 2004 could have two characteristics which may make them more  at risk of being defective than other houses built outside this time frame.  Around this time, two particular construction methods were very common. These were:

1)    The structural framing is likely to have been either untreated or only treated to resist attack by insects, without any significant protection against fungal decay initiated by moisture and

2)    The cladding is likely to have been attached (over building wrap) directly to this framing, without the benefit of a drained and vented cavity to separate it from that framing.

If these two construction methods exist, the risks are that any moisture which gets past the cladding and comes into contact with the framing cannot either drain away freely or dry out quickly, which means the framing may stay wet for extended periods. Unfortunately, untreated Pine framing can develop fungal decay rapidly under those conditions.

Of course, there may be design features which make it unlikely water is getting past the cladding. These include things like wide projecting roofs or eaves (at least half a meter), a sheltered site, a simple shape and pitched roofing, only one story high and no decks or balconies. With all those features, the framing may indeed have remained dry. However, as you start to add risky details such as a deck over a room, an exposed site, two stories high rather than one, no eaves to deflect rain; then the chances of the framing having remained dry diminish.

FAP (Financial Assistance Package)2016-03-14T17:48:30+00:00

If you do have a leaky home which is less than 10 years old, you may be able to obtain at least some assistance from the Government and possibly from your local Council. There are specific criteria that determine eligibility under the FAP. This website explains the process, starting here

What is a Repair Plan?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

This has a particular meaning under the FAP scheme. This link will load an example.  The repair plan must:

1)    Describe the works required to both:
2)    Resolve all the weathertightness issues and
3)    Address the scope of the repair proposal identified in the WHRS Assessor’s report

This need not be as detailed as the documentation required for a building consent, but there has to be enough detail for both Council and the Ministry to be able to be sure the proposed work will satisfy  2) and 3) above. Their review can take two or three months. It is not a good idea to apply for a building consent until your repair plan is approved, as they may want to amend it. The repair will almost inevitably include “betterment” and this is discussed next.

What is “betterment”?2016-03-14T17:52:58+00:00

Betterment also has a precise meaning under the FAP scheme. You can download a short document that explains it fully here. Anything that is beyond “like for like” replacement is betterment. A common example is a change in design to eliminate a high risk feature such as removing parapets and extending the roof to create protecting eaves. If this costs more than repairing the original design, the difference is betterment. More controversially, if the house suffered from a lack of structural bracing, but this did not cause any weathertightness issues and there is no damage caused by weathertightness defects in that area, fixing those structural problems may be classed as betterment.

How likely is it my house contains asbestos?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

Up until the mid-eighties, there were two well publicised building products commonly used in New Zealand which contained asbestos: Fibre cement cladding of various sorts, and spray-on ceiling coatings. In addition there are many other more hidden building elements which may contain asbestos, such as pipe lagging (insulation) and the coverings to some thicker electrical cables.

Fibre Cement Cladding:
These include corrugated roofing and flat sheet and profiled sheet wall claddings. These have frequently been painted over and may have the appearance of being more modern products, so caution is advisable, to prevent disturbing the fibres.

Spray-on Ceiling Coatings:
This was a popular way of redecorating during the eighties; especially where surface imperfections in a ceiling needed covering up. The effect is a sparkly, rough surface. This product commonly contained  chrysotile (or white asbestos) Chrysotile is curly white to grey fibre which is difficult to separate into individual fibres. When sprayed onto ceilings the individual fibres are bound into the plaster matrix which encapsulates the chrysotile fibres and reduces the risk to health. The danger is that the surface may become damaged, friable or lose adhesion, releasing the fibres into the surrounding environment. In such cases, the options are either:

  1. Complete removal of the material (it is advisable that this work be carried out only by persons holding an Asbestos Certificate of Competency by the Department of Labour.) or
  2. Effectively sealing the surface so the fibres cannot escape into the air to re-encapsulate the fibres. This option should only be chosen after taking advise from specialists, especially where there is significant deterioration of the substrate or coating.

This means, in the case of older exterior wall cladding, sanding or waterblasting the paint right off has the potential to release fibres into the air, something that OSH will not permit. The cleaning and treatment or painting or sealing of raw fibre-cement claddings should only be undertaken by experienced and qualified persons. However, if the finish is sound and so long as the preparation / cleaning is done only within the outer layers of existing paint, there should be no problem.

So far as the spray-on ceilings are concerned, if the material is “dripping” or flaking off, you are advised to get professionals to fully remove it – do not attempt to do this yourself.
For further information you can read the WorkSafe document here.

If you are unsure what needs to be done, choose “asbestos” from the expertise drop down menu on the “Find a member” page to locate Registered Building Surveyors in your area who are knowledgeable in asbestos.

How likely is it my house has Lead paint?2016-03-14T18:15:12+00:00

What’s the problem with lead paint? It is not easy to work on or remove lead paint without absorbing some through your skin, or from the atmosphere if you sand it. It can contaminate clothing, furnishings and even the ground beneath. It is dangerous and can result in stomach pains, loss of appetite, weakness and ultimately, death.

You can test your paint by using sodium sulphite solution (5%) which you can get from some paint shops. If you have a house which what built before 1980, it is safest to assume any original paint contains lead. This means that while the surface layers may not, it is quite possible these have been applied over the original paint. See the Consumer website for specific instructions on how to deal with lead paint.

What are HRV, ERV, HVAC systems?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

Heat recovery and energy recovery ventilation systems remove stale and/or moist air from inside and replace it with air that has been warmed from heat recovered from the exhaust air.
They have three basic ingredients:
1) An air supply ducting system
2) An exhaust air ducting systems and
3) A heat exchange unit.

It is the heat exchanger which is the key to the system. Outdoor air is drawn into the ducts and passed through the heat exchanger, where heat from the outgoing air airstream is transferred to the incoming air. So long as there is a difference in temperature, heat from the warmer air will transfer to the colder air.

Note that some systems which operate in the ceiling space move warmer air from up there down into the house below. If these do not incorporate a heat exchanger, they should be more properly described as “forced air” or “positive pressure” ventilation systems, rather than “heat (or energy) recovery” systems.

HRV provides improved climate control, while also saving energy by reducing heating (and cooling) requirements. However, these units are primarily ventilation, not heating systems as no addition heating is added, beyond what can be recovered by the heat exchanger.

ERV stands for Energy Recovery ventilation. ERV units transfer both temperature and moisture.  ERV strictly means using the energy contained in the air coming out of a building to “precondition” the air going in, which is why the term is sometimes used interchangeably with HRV. However there is an important distinction:

HRV systems recovers and transfers heat only, there is no direct transfer of moisture whereas

ERV systems recover and transfer both heat and moisture.
Somewhat confusingly, HRV systems are usually better at removing moisture, and ERV systems better at controlling humidity levels. Because here in New Zealand we have such naturally occurring high levels of humidity, ERV systems are less likely to be appropriate: they work well when the natural humidity levels are lower than is comfortable, by increasing it.

Designing an appropriate system requires a reasonable level of understanding, and is usually done by the supplier. If you would like to understand the principles in more detail and perhaps design your own, BRANZ has a Bulletin available: No 508 “Heat/Energy recovery ventilation systems” (link ) All such systems do require regular maintenance.

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. HVAC system design is a subdiscipline of mechanical engineering, based on the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. Generally only used in medium to large industrial and office buildings.

Why do I have Condensation?2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

The word ‘water” is used to describe the same thing in two forms: liquid and vapour.  In New Zealand, all our air contains water vapour – in varying amounts.  The amount of water vapour which air can contain, or hold, depends on temperature: hot air can hold a lot more water vapour than cold air. So when the night outside gets cold and the glass in your windows is only single layer (not double glazed), the air right next to the glass inside soon gets a lot colder than the air further inside the room – so water appears on the glass. That’s condensation. It also commonly forms on plasterboard linings where these are cold, and mould grows in the damp conditions. This is sometimes seen as patterns of mould on ceilings that show the uninsulated parts in a grid.

What is the Dew point?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

This is the point at which water starts literally ‘falling out” of the air. It introduces a third concept, based on the temperature and pressure of the air and the amount of water in the air. The ratio of water vapour in the air to the maximum amount of water vapour the air can hold at a particular temperature/pressure is expressed as relative humidity (RH). For example, a RH of 30% means that the air contains 30% of the moisture it can possibly hold at that particular temperature/pressure. When air can hold no more moisture at a given temperature/pressure (i.e. the RH is 100%), the air is said to be saturated.

This means dew point (condensation) will occur at different temperatures, depending on how much water there is in the air – even if the air starts at the same temperature.  So if the air temperature starts at 320 C (hot!) and that air is really wet (say 65% relative humidity) then the dew point will be when that air is only slightly cooled, down to 260.

Whereas, if we start off again with our air at 320 C, but containing much less water (say 31% RH) then we have to cool it all the way down to 100 C before it reaches dew point!. This is why it is important to keep the relative humidity (the amount of water in the air) down in bedrooms – and the reason this is not easy is that our bodies “give off” a great deal of water vapour as we sleep/occupy a room, which increases the relative humidity in the air, which in turn means the temperature does not need to drop very far before water starts condensing on cold surfaces such as window glass and wall/ceiling linings. Humans are generally comfortable when the amount of water in the air (relative humidity) is in the range of 30% – 40% – yet Otago University studies say that our average RH is close to 80% (really wet air!)

Leasehold liability – Approaching the End of a Lease or taking a new lease?2017-01-25T12:02:31+00:00

When a tenant leaves leased premises, they must normally pay for, or deal with any defects or disrepair. The remediation of any such defects and disrepairs is what is meant by reinstatement (sometimes called Make Good or Dilapidations).  A surveyor can help by establishing the condition of the premises and can report on what work is needed to bring things up to the required level.  Before a tenant starts the lease, they should consider budgeting for the cost of any dilapidations and a “schedule of the condition of the premises at the lease commencement” is a useful tool for this. What should a schedule of condition contain?  That is discussed next.

What is a Schedule of Condition?2016-03-14T19:41:15+00:00

A schedule of condition can be attached to a lease or form part of a record of the condition of land or buildings for other purposes.  The parties to a new lease should be advised to agree on the condition of the premises before the lease is entered into and a “schedule of condition” will be the record. The schedule of condition could also be used to record the landlord’s fixtures and fittings. The schedule of condition should be attached to the lease and signed by the contracted parties to the lease.

The schedule of condition is a document that has text and photographs, which can be referred back to at the end of a lease.  The schedule will allow assessment of what standards of repair and maintenance were present at lease commencement and thus what could be required to be achieved in settling the tenants repair liability or “wants of repair and maintenance” at the lease termination.

A schedule of condition is a useful reference document in other situations where a record is required of the condition of parts or all of a building, its fabric and finishes, which can be referred back to in the event some damage or change takes place over time due to some occurrence. For instance when undertaking a development on a site adjacent to existing buildings, there is risk that construction activities originating from the development could affected the surrounding buildings. This could be caused by vibration, dust/debris spill over and accidental mechanical damage from plant and machinery. A way of mitigating that risk is to prepare a schedule of condition of the neighbouring land and buildings and seek agreement from the adjoining owners that the schedule represents the condition prior to work commencing. The schedule can then be reviewed in the event of some damage occurring or where there is a dispute over what damage or deterioration (if any) of the surrounding land and buildings has occurred.

The same approach can be taken when only part of an existing building is being repaired, say in the case of a remedial contract.  The schedule of condition can be the source document used to manage any claims that the contracted works caused damage to parts that were to be untouched.  In this instance the schedule of condition is prepared for the parts meant to be untouched, being outside the areas of building work.

Tenants & Tenancy2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

The central document within a leasing transaction is the lease itself. It is essential therefore that the framework of a lease at day one provides clarity with regard to the level of repair, frequency of decoration, standard of maintenance and reinstatement obligations placed upon the parties, and principally that will mean what the tenant will be required in contract to perform. Clarity in all documents that form the lease will reduce the likelihood of protracted and costly disputes when the lease ends.

Maintenance and Long Term Maintenance Plans2016-02-29T22:44:36+00:00

Effective maintenance of buildings not only improves the quality of the living environment but is also a vital means to uphold or even raise the value of properties.

Maintenance in general can be classified into servicing, repair, replacement and upgrading. There is also a marked difference in terms of methods, management and the result of "breakdown maintenance" versus "planned or preventive maintenance".

Planned maintenance gives the owners and the property managers more time to prepare for the works and, more importantly, to secure the necessary funding. It usually starts out by a thorough condition survey to assess the current situations, identify the maintenance works required and lay down the level of expectation.

Considerations include implementation programs, standards of performance and reliability, as well as maintenance strategy, budget, and life cycles of specific elements and facilities.
Daily maintenance of essential features such as cleaning of surface water channels to avoid blockage of drains, servicing of small components of equipment or easily wearable items such floor finishes, kitchen fittings and other regularly used equipment are essential to ensure safe and smooth operation. A detailed plan for maintenance to be carried out should be drawn up as per the equipment supplier's recommendations, needs and expectations of the owners, plus priority in allocation of resources.

The Unit Titles Act 2010 (UTA2010) was passed into law in April 2010 and came into effect on 20 June 2011, replacing the Unit Titles Act 1972. Under the UTA2010 bodies corporate are required to maintain and repair the common property and also any building elements and infrastructure which are shared by, or affect, 2 units or more. This will need to be properly budgeted for and assessed, requiring knowledge and awareness of the property, the building structure, claddings, finishes and services. The UTA2010 requires that bodies corporate have a Long Term Maintenance Plan (LTMP). This is mandatory. The regulations require LTMPs to cover the common property, building elements and infrastructure of the development as well as any additional items that the body corporate decides by ordinary resolution to include.  Our members can help in the preparation of your LTMP.


Valuations are an integral element in our significant financial decision making, from home mortgages and investments to corporate finance transactions. Any person or organisation that occupies, owns, develops or trades assets in today’s local and global markets relies on a valuer’s expertise, quality standards and ethics.

In NZ a registered valuer aims to ensure the quality of valuations, raise the credibility of valuers and provide clients with a identifiable designation of standards, quality and the consistency.  Some of our members can provide valuation advice as an addition to building surveying skill set.