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26 October 2021

Streamlined Process for Product Substitution in Auckland Builds

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As recently communicated in the media, Auckland Council has issued further powers to deal with substitutions as a result of supply chain issues. It is encouraging to see Council react to issues their customers are experiencing. The changes are not only important for builders to understand, but architects and suppliers also need to be prepared to deal with a number of implications resulting in wide use of this development.

Here is a copy of the message from Auckland Council emailed recently to builders:

"The council's key role to play in assisting with supply issues is making allowances for product substitution. We have already expanded our normal scope for approving minor variations on-site so inspectors can approve suitable product substitutions without holding up the job.

The key to ensuring no hold-ups on site is to communicate with us — the earlier the better. If builders engage with us early regarding any proposed changes, it ensures the inspector has time to carry out the necessary research or have the conversations needed in order to make an informed decision.

Approving like for like products can be straightforward, however, builders also need to do their research first in order to ensure the product is appropriate for the intended use.

Examples of substitutions we have expanded scope to include are:

  • Timber framing to steel framing
  • Metal roofing to concrete tiles or vice versa (engineering design required)
  • Some cladding changes

Some changes do trigger the need for further assessment in which case the inspector can pass the proposal to one of our technical processors who can advise.

Where we find substitutions, which fall outside the ability for the inspector to assess onsite, a formal amendment is required. Examples include complex design changes or fire design changes where third-party reports may be required or where other council departments must assess such as planning or development engineering. In these cases, we have staff assigned to prioritise these amendments and provide quick turnaround.

We are also actively looking at the amendments as they come in to assess which can be fast tracked as minor variations. In these cases, we will contact the applicant to advise the process."

In summary: 

  • Builders have the ability to consider "like for like" substituting of products based on supply issues
  • Key categories mentioned (but not exclusively) are cladding, structure and roofing
  • Process requires builder to have "all" relevant technical documentation on site for inspector to assess during inspection
  • Work can not have started prior to inspection/sign-off of substitution
  • Inspector may not make a decision on the spot. They can refer back to internal technical team

Auckland Council should be acknowledged for this. We as an industry need to make sure that we are supporting builders with supporting documentation to assist the inspection process.

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