Compass Homes > Building With Compass > Glossary

Building terms and jargon

We all know that building terms and jargon can be like another language! Here, Compass Homes has provided all the building terms that are relevant to your home build. But don’t worry, you don’t have to learn all these off by heart as there won’t be a test at the end! Rest assured, your Compass Homes team are familiar with these terms and can answer any questions you may have about them.




Acceptable solution

A design solution deemed to comply with the Building Code that is pre-approved and therefore has fewer compliance costs associated. Designers and builders are not obliged to use Acceptable Solutions, and may put forward their own alternative solution proposal.


Access for people with disabilities

The Building Act 2004 (section 118) requires access and facilities to be made available in new buildings or buildings that are to be altered, to which the public are to be admitted, for people with disabilities. Schedule 2 of the Act lists 26 types of building that must meet these provisions. Generally these are public buildings. The Building Code clause relating to access is D1 Access.



The rebuilding, re-erecting, repairing, enlarging and extending of a building.


Alternative solution

A design solution that differs totally or partially from Acceptable Solutions or Verification Methods in the Compliance Documents, yet complies with the performance requirements of the Building Code. These are ‘standalone’ solutions put forward and substantiated by the building consent applicant and considered and approved on their individual merits by a building consent authority.



A self-contained housing unit that occupies part of a multi-unit dwelling, which may be known as an apartment building, block of flats or tenement. It may also be a self-contained housing unit in a building with other occupancies.



Changes to the plans and/or specifications on which the building consent was granted require an amendment to the original consent.



A person qualified and trained to design, document, coordinate and administer aspects of building design and construction, and who is registered under the Registered Architects Act 2005



Timber moulding surrounding a door or window opening.


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Backflow restrictor

A device added to plumbing fixtures which prevents reversal of the normal direction of the flow of water caused by back pressure and siphonage.



An outside platform projecting from, or recessed into, the wall of a floor of a building, surrounded by a balustrade, railing or parapet, and accessed by an entrance from the building interior. May also be known as a deck.



A railing found around a balcony or pool area to prevent falling or access.



Load bearing cross members, usually timber, concrete or steel that support the upper structure of a building such as additional floors and/or roofs.


Bottom Plate

The lowest horizontal piece of timber framing.



An organisation providing independent services to the building and construction industry in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. BRANZ opinions or advice have no status in law but are generally held in high regard by the industry. Services include testing and research, education, product appraisal, and technical advice. BRANZ Ltd is wholly owned by Building Research , an independent association owned and directed by the building and construction industry in New Zealand. Visit BRANZ Ltd’s website to find out more about their services.



Any temporary or permanent, movable or immovable structure including a structure intended for occupation by people, animals, machinery or chattels.


Building Act 2004

An Act providing for the regulation of building work, the establishment of a licensing regime for building practitioners, and the setting of performance standards for buildings, to ensure that:


  1. people who use buildings can do so safely and without endangering their health; and

  2. buildings have attributes that contribute appropriately to the health, physical independence, and well-being of the people who use them

  3. people who use a building can escape from the building if it is on fire

  4. buildings are designed, constructed, and able to be used in ways that promote sustainable development.


The Building Act 2004 repeals the Building Act 1991, and is administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (formerly Department of Building and Housing). It is available online. Find out more about the Building Act,


Building certificate

Formal confirmation by a building certifier (see below) that plans and specifications or specific aspects of a building comply with the Building Code. Since the last active certifier finished operating in November 2005, these certificates will no longer be issued.


Building Code

The national, mandatory standards for building work. All building work in New Zealand must comply with the Building Code. The Code is performance-based and specifies how a building and its components must perform, as opposed to how the building must be designed and constructed. Details on design and construction are found in the non-mandatory Compliance Documents that MBIE produces to help people by describing one way of meeting the requirements of the Building Code.


Building Consent

Consent issued by a building consent authority for building work to begin in accordance with the approved plans and specifications. For information about when a building consent is required and how to apply, see more information on the Building consents and inspections process.


Building Consent Authority (BCA)

BCAs are Territorial Authorities, Regional Authorities or a private body that has been registered by the Department of Building and Housing. BCAs issue building consents, undertake inspections during construction and issue code compliance certificates, notices to fix and compliance schedules.


Building controls

Regulation of the construction and use of buildings with the primary objective of safeguarding the health and safety of occupants. In New Zealand, these controls are largely set out in a two-part framework: the Building Act 2004 setting out the law on the construction, alteration, demolition and maintenance of buildings, and the Building Regulations containing the New Zealand Building Code and the rules about building consents and building inspections


Building envelope

The entire exterior surface of a building, including foundations, walls, doors and windows that encloses or envelops the space within.


Building paper or wrap

Paper or wrap used to cover timber framing and forms part of the backing component to external cladding.


Building Warrant of Fitness

A statement signed by the building owner (or manager) stating that the requirements of the building’s compliance schedule have been fully met in the previous 12 months. The compliance schedule lists the specified systems operating in a particular building, and the building warrant of fitness is an assurance that the specified systems have been inspected and maintained, and are continuing to operate effectively


Building work

The construction, alteration, demolition or removal of a building. Building work also includes work on an allotment that is likely to affect the extent to which an existing building on the land complies with the Building Code, and includes sitework and some design work. It is a requirement of section 40 of the Building Act 2004 that a person must not carry out any building work except in accordance with a building consent. There are limited circumstances where some building work does not need to obtain a consent.


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A person who builds or repairs wooden structures or their structural parts.



Space between external cladding and an internal wrapped timber wall.


Cavity System

A formed gap between building elements to encourage air circulation.


CCA (copper chrome arsenate)

A chemical used in treating timber to give protection from decay. Recently there have been concerns about the chemicals used in timber treatment. The Department of Labour has a number of publications dealing with this issue on its website here A factsheet on CCA treated wood is available on the New Zealand Timber Preservation Council website


Ceiling batten

A horizontal material fixed below timber trusses which the ceiling GIB is attached to.


Certificate of Acceptance

A certificate issued by a BCA to retrospectively approve unconsented work, or approve work where a BCA is unable or refuses to issue a code compliance certificate in respect of building work for which it granted a building consent. The certificate confirms that, to the extent an inspection was able to be carried out, the work complies with the Building Code.


A certificate of acceptance may be issued by a territorial authority detailing the level to which certain building work complies with the building code. A certificate of acceptance applies where:


  • work is done without a building consent where one was required,

  • urgent work is carried out under section 42 of the Building Act,

  • a building consent authority reuses to issue a code compliance certificate and,

  • in limited circumstances, in relation to section 363B of the Building Act.

A certificate of acceptance will only provide building code certification relating to the work that the territorial authority can inspect.


Certificate of Title

Document which shows the ownership of a piece of land, held in Lands and Deeds Registry Offices. It can include the owner's details, type of ownership, area, legal description, mortgages, covenants and consent conditions.



Exterior weather-resistant surface of a building. The cladding is a key element of weathertightness as it helps deflect water from buildings.


Code of Compliance Cert (CCC).

A certificate provided by the local authority or council notifying the building work has been completed in accordance with the building consent and in compliance with the building code.



Occurs when building performance, according to the standards in the Building Code, has been achieved.



A legally binding agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing. Under the Building Amendment Act 2013 a building company and a client are required to enter into a written building contract. More information on the act is available from the MBIE website


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An open platform projecting from an exterior wall of a building and supported by framing. A deck may be over enclosed internal spaces, or may be open underneath. May also be known as a balcony. Building Code clauses relating to decks include E2 External Moisture and B2 Durability.


Department of Building and Housing

Established in November 2004, the Department of Building and Housing took responsibility for regulation and dispute resolution in New Zealand’s building and housing sector. In 2012 the Department merged with three other government agencies (Ministry of Science and Innovation, Ministry of Economic Development, Department of Labour). Find out more about the former Department of Building and Housing or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.



A broad term to describe people who design buildings. It may include engineers, architects, architectural designers, design technicians and draughts people. A designer is usually (but not always) qualified and trained to design and document building design. They may also be capable of coordinating and administering all aspects of building design and construction.



Any person who builds or arranges to build a building for the purpose of selling it. This could include developers of large commercial buildings, or builders or individuals building homes on ‘spec’


Disabled (person with a disability)

Any person who suffers from physical or mental disablement to such a degree that they are seriously limited in the extent to which they can engage in the activities, pursuits and processes of everyday life. There are a number of Building Code clauses relating to access and facilities for people with disabilities, including: C Fire Safety; D1 Access Routes; F8 Artificial Light; G1 Personal Hygiene; G2 Laundering; G3 Food Preparation and Prevention of Contamination; G5 Interior Environment; G9 Electricity; G12 Water Supplies


Door, hollow core

A flush door which is made with a hollow core.


Door, solid core

A flush door which is made with a solid core.


Double glazing

Glazing with two glass panels separated by a sealed air space providing insulation and sound protection.



Durability is covered by Clause B2 of the Building Code. For durability requirements as they relate to timber and weathertightness, refer to the Weathertightness section on the Building Performance website.



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E2 External moisture is a clause within the Building Code requiring the prevention of water that could cause undue dampness and damage to building elements. Earthquake prone buildings


In terms of the Building Act 2004 (section 122) a building is earthquake-prone if the building is likely to collapse in a moderate earthquake (taking into account its condition, the ground on which it is built, and its construction) causing injury or death to people in the building and nearby, and damage to other property. The provisions do not apply to single-storey residential buildings or household units of two or less units. Building owners requiring more information should refer to the guidance on earthquake-prone buildings. See also the guidance to assist territorial authorities to develop policies on earthquake-prone buildings. Another useful resource is the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineers’ publication Assessment and Improvement of the Structural Performance of Buildings in Earthquake



The end section of a roof which projects past the horizontal wall of the structure.


Electrical Mains

The supply of electricity to the structure, usually dug in up and driveway or easement.


Energy efficiency

Using products, systems, design or building methods that use less energy to do the same or better job than conventional products or systems. The Building Code clause dealing with energy efficiency is Clause H1. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has developed a website on how to save energy at home and work.


Energy work certificate

A certificate given by a licensed electrician or gasfitter when they have completed a job to certify the work has been done in accordance with either the Electricity Act 1992 or the Gas Act 1992. You will need the energy work certificates to get a code compliance certificate where energy works were part of the building consent (section 19 of the Building Act 2004).



The profession of, or work performed by, an engineer. Engineering involves applying scientific knowledge to the design and construction of buildings (including dams and bridges), machinery, etc. It is divided into branches including structural, civil, fire, electrical, mechanical and chemical. The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) is the professional body representing professional engineers in New Zealand. Engineers have certain functions under the Building Act 2004 specifically related to dam safety and fire.


Exempt building work

Building work not requiring building consent as defined in section 41 and Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004. Exempt building work must still comply with the Building Code.


Expansion joint

Joint between sections of concrete floors, plaster cladding etc. to allow them to expand and contract with temperature changes.


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A timber or metal board fixed to the edges of the front gable or lower edges of the roof where guttering is attached.


Finished Ground Level

The level of ground around the structure after all landscaping, paving, paths or decks have been completed.



A space formed by the chimney back, the chimney jambs and the chimney breast in which solid fuel is burned for the purpose of heating the room into which it opens. The relevant performance criteria for fireplaces and chimneys are covered in Building Code clauses B1 Structure, B2 Durability and C1 Outbreak of Fire.


Fire safety

The Building Act 2004 has specific requirements relating to fire safety. The relevant clause of the Building Code is Clause C Fire Safety. See also the International Fire Engineering Guidelines.


Fire separation

Any building element that separates firecells, or firecells and safe paths, and provides a specific fire resistance rating. Fire separations are included on the list of specified systems in the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005.



A building element used on a joint between two materials designed to catch and drain rainwater to prevent it penetrating the interior. Inadequate flashings have been linked to problems with Weathertightness.



A floor is generally the lower horizontal surface of a room and concrete is generally the building material used in laying floors. Clauses of the Building Code relating to floors and flooring include B1 Structure, B2 Durability, E3 Internal Moisture, D1 Access and F2 Hazardous Building Materials.



Aluminium panel designed to retain and shape concrete in the pouring process



The bottom part of the foundation which is made of concrete and reinforced with steel. The footing forms the base of the foundation and spreads the vertical loads from building.



Those parts of a building or structure such as piles, piers or footings which transmit and distribute loads to the ground.



The skeletal framework of a building to which roofs, floors and cladding are attached. Usually constructed of wood or steel, the components of the frame include studs, beams, joists and rafters. Building Code clauses relating to framing include B1 Structure, B2 Durability, E2 External Moisture, and E3 Internal Moisture. Inadequate treatment of wooden framing has been linked to problems with weathertightness.



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The part of a wall that encloses the end of a pitched roof showing triangular open ended roof edges finished with a fascia.


GIB Cove

A shaped plaster mould installed at the join of walls and ceilings.


GIB Stopping

To fill the surface that is to be painted providing a flat surface such as nail holes, GIB joins and crack. Note: there are differing levels of finish in this work.


Green building

The practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials, to reduce building impacts on human health and the environment. This includes aspects of siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal.



The glass panes installed in, for example, the sash of a window or door. The Building Code clauses relating to glazing include B1 Structure, B2 Durability, G7 Natural Light and F2 Hazardous Building Materials. For information about energy efficiency and glazing see the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website


Gully trap

Stop sewerage smells escaping from the drainage system and collects the waste water from the structure.



Plastic or metal channel affixed to the fascia for collecting water run-off from the roof area.



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Household unit

A building or group of buildings intended for residential purposes to be occupied by one household. It does not include a hostel or boarding house.



Where two roof surfaces meet externally. The opposite of valley.



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  1. Section 90 of the Building Act 2004 provides for inspections of building work by an authorised agent of a building consent authority (BCA) to ensure the work complies with the building consent. A code compliance certificate (CCC) is issued after the final inspection of the finished building project confirming that the BCA is satisfied the completed project has been carried out in accordance with the building consent. For further information see Building consents and inspections process on the MBIE website.

  2. Section 222 of the Building Act 2004 provides for inspections of land, buildings and building work by an authorised officer of a territorial authority. These inspections could be carried out to determine whether building work is being carried out without, or in accordance with, a building consent, whether a notice to fix has been complied with, and to ensure the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures stated in a building compliance schedule are being complied with.



A material that resists the transfer of heat, rated in terms of resistance to heat flow called R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. See the ConsumerBuild website for more information. Compliance Documents relating to insulation include Clauses E3 Internal Moisture and H1 Energy Efficiency. For further information about types of insulation, visit the ConsumerBuild website. See also the BRANZ Ltd website for the House Insulation Guide (2nd edition 2005) and other information about insulation.


Isolating valve

A valve installed to isolate the water system in a structure.



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Side of a door or window frame usually made from timber.



Parallel beams of timber, concrete or steel for supporting floors or ceilings, etc.


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Land information memorandum (LIM)

A report issued by a territorial authority, usually to a potential purchaser. It lists information the authority has about the property, including what building consents and code compliance certificates have been issued. For more information about LIMs as they relate to a specific property inquire with your local territorial authority - see the Council finder on the Local Government NZ website.


Leaky buildings

Housing/other buildings that are leaking and causing decay to the cladding, structure and interior. For information about building to achieve weathertightness, or dealing with a leaky building, see the weathertightness section of the Building Performance website – which includes information about the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service.



An amount of money paid by producers to a national or provincial organisation to support their operations.

  1. Section 53 of the Building Act 2004 provides that an applicant for a building consent is liable to pay a levy to fund the Ministry’s functions. The rate of the levy is set by the Building Levy Order 2005. For further information about the levy and what it is used for, see Building Controls Update No.7

  2. The Building Research Levy is authorised under the Building Research Levy Act 1969 . Under this Act, Building Research receives a percentage of the contract value of every construction project put forward for building consent in New Zealand. The funding is used for research into improved techniques and materials for use in the building industry. This is a different levy from the levy collected under section 53 of the Building Act 2004.



A licensing system for the building industry was introduced by the Building Act 2004 to improve control of and encourage better practices in building design and construction. Also, from March 2012 certain critical building work will need to be carried out or supervised by a licensed building practitioner. Find out more Licensing Building Practitioners (LBPs)


A licensing system for the building industry covering designers and trades. From March 2012 certain critical building work will need to be carried out or supervised by a licensed building practitioner. Find out more about the LBP system from the MBIE website


Long run roofing

Metal sheets overlapped which run the full length of the pitch of a roof.


LOSP (light organic solvent preservatives)

A white spirits-based wood preservative involving the impregnation of preservative into wood using controlled vacuum processes. Recently there have been concerns about the chemicals used in timber treatment. The Ministry has a number of publications dealing with this issue on the Work Safe website. Factsheets on LOSP treated wood are available on the New Zealand Timber Preservation Council website


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Bricks made from clay or other material laid joined together with mortar.


Moderate earthquake

An earthquake of the same duration but only one-third as strong as an earthquake that must be provided for in the design of a new building (clause 7 of the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005). Earthquake shaking is determined by normal measures of acceleration, velocity and displacement.



Water in the liquid or vapour phase. Controlling the amount of moisture entering or circulating in buildings is an issue for the weathertightness of buildings, and health and safety of occupants. Building Code clauses relating to controlling moisture in and around buildings include E1 Surface Water, E2 External Moisture, E3 Internal Moisture and G4 Ventilation. For further information about protecting buildings from external moisture, see the weathertightness section at the MBIE website. Monolithic cladding – A cladding of sheet material forming a continuous mass, with an applied coating to give the appearance of a seamless cladding. This type of cladding has sometimes been implicated in issues of weathertightness.


Moulds and Fungi

Moulds are fungi. Fungi are simple, microscopic organisms that grow in damp conditions, and reproduce and release countless tiny, lightweight spores, which travel through the air and can be inhaled and cause health problems for some people. Excessive internal moisture due to lack of ventilation or leaking of the building can create the right environment for moulds and fungi to grow.


Moving a house

Transportation of a house or building from one site to another. There are a number of matters to consider including choosing a suitable site, obtaining building consents, having the building transported and placed on new foundations, and carrying out any renovations. This information is available on ConsumerBuild



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Notice to fix

A notice issued under section 164 of the Building Act 2004 by a building consent authority, a territorial authority, or regional authority to remedy breaches of the Building Act or Building Regulations (for example, where building work does not comply with the Building Code; to correct the building warrant of fitness; or properly comply with the inspection maintenance; or reporting procedures in the compliance schedule.) It specifies what remedial work must be done, and by when. It is an offence to fail to comply with a notice to fix. Find out more at the MBIE website.


NZS 3602

New Zealand Standard NZS 3602: 2003 Timber and Wood-based Products for Use in Building. This is a key New Zealand Standard used by the building industry. It gives the requirements for timber and wood-based products for particular uses in building to give acceptable performance during the life of the building. NZS 3602 covers the materials, and aspects of design and construction. The publication Timber Treatment Requirements: Notes for Builders has further information about NZS 3602. NZS 3602 can be purchased from Standards New Zealand


NZS 3604

New Zealand Standard NZS 3604: 1999 Timber Framed Buildings is a key New Zealand Standard used by the building industry. It provides suitable methods and details for the design and construction of timber-framed buildings up to three storeys high. It applies to domestic dwellings, most residential and some commercial and other buildings. It is referred to in a number of Building Code Compliance Documents and can be purchased from Standards New Zealand



A small block of wood inserted into a timber frame for hanging objects once the internal walls are lined.



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The person who is entitled to the rent from the land, should the land be let (section 7 of the Building Act 2004). This includes the owner of the fee simple of the land, or the person who has a binding written agreement (whether conditionally or unconditionally) to purchase the land, leasehold estate or interest in the land, or take a lease of the land. ‘Building’ owners (as distinct from ‘house’ owners) have a number of duties under the Building Act regarding building warrant of fitness processes. For more information about the duties of building owners see information for building owners, managers and developers on the MBIE website.



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A low protective wall at the edge of a balcony, roof, bridge, or the like


PC Sum

See Provisional Cost Sum below



A block or a column which penetrates the ground, used to transmit loads from the structure into the ground for additional stability on unfavourable soil conditions.


Plans and specifications

The drawings, specifications and other documents (e.g. calculations, appraisals) according to which a proposed building project will be carried out. They are used to tender for quotes, to gain building consent, and as the blueprint for the actual construction work. They include proposed procedures for inspection during the building work. For further information see the MBIE website at Building consent and inspections process



Materials used which when mixed with water will set and harden after application to a surface such as a plaster cladding.



Being level vertically.



Utility consisting of the pipes and fixtures for the distribution of water or gas in a building, and for the disposal of sewage. Most plumbing/drainage work requires a building consent. There are a number of Building Code clauses dealing with plumbing, sanitation and ‘piping’ including: B2 Durability, E1 Surface water, and several sections of Clause G (Services and facilities). Other legislation relating to plumbing includes the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act 2006, the Local Government Act 1974, and the Resource Management Act 1991, which you can access at For further information about plumbing see Master Plumbers, Gasfitters & Drainlayers NZ Inc website.



The finishing of masonry or concrete roof tiles with mortar to seal them in place and provide weathertightness.


Potable water

Suitable for human consumption.


Producer statement

A statement expressing the author’s view that plans, specifications, or completed works comply with the technical requirements to satisfy some or all requirements of the Building Code – A producer statement will usually be issued by a recognised specialist, for example, an engineer, architect or competent contractor. It is up to the Building Consent Authority (BCA) to decide whether to rely on such a statement. These documents have no specific status in law, but they can still be accepted and considered by a BCA as part of the plans and specifications.


Product certification

Certification by a product certification body that a specific building product, system or method meets nominated provisions of the Building Code, if used in accordance with conditions on the product certificate.


Project information memorandum (PIM)

A report issued by a territorial authority before a building consent is issued that lists any requirements under Acts other than the Building Act 2004 e.g., the Resource Management Act 1991, the Fire Service Act 1975 or the Historic Places Act 1993. (You can view these Acts at A PIM includes information likely to be relevant to the proposed work, such as potential erosion, subsidence, slippage and flooding. Building Act 2004 requirements for PIMs are found in sections 31-39. Find out more general information, or enquire with your local territorial authority in regard to a specific project - see the Council finder on the Local Government NZ website


Project manager

The person who organises and oversees a building project. A project manager may be involved in some or all of the following tasks - arranging finance, organising the designer, builder and sometimes subcontractors, organising the building consent and, where necessary, resource consent, dealing with suppliers and delivery of materials, monitoring progress to make sure the work complies with the contract and consent documentation, arranging for inspections, arranging for progress payments, managing variations and amendments to the building consent where necessary, and arranging the final inspection for the Code of Compliance Certificate (CCC).


Property inspection

An examination of the exterior and interior of a property to determine its condition, usually commissioned by a prospective purchaser. The property inspector will provide a report detailing the scope of the inspection, a conclusion as to the overall condition of the property, taking into account its age, type and general expectations of similar properties, and a list of significant faults or defects. The property report is, however, not a guarantee that the house meets all the requirements of the Building Act or complies with the Building Code. (Information about the property may also be found in the land information memorandum (LIM) and territorial authority files.)

There is a New Zealand Property Inspection Standard (NZS 4306) that can be purchased to help guide property inspections. Note: ‘Property inspection’ is not to be confused with inspections undertaken by building consent authorities and territorial authorities for the purposes of verifying compliance with the Building Act and Regulations.


Provisional Cost Sums

A provisional cost sum (or PC “provisional cost” sum) is an amount of money that is recorded in your Building Agreement where the final cost isn’t known. For example, if the design of the kitchen or bathrooms has not been finalised, then we will allow a PC sum to cover these.

Provisional cost sums are specified as adjustable sums allowed for in sections of the build contract which are not able to be selected until later in the build process.



longitudinal member in a roof frame, usually for supporting common rafters or the like, between the plate and the ridge


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Quantity surveyor

A person trained in construction measurement and costs. They usually work closely with the architect/designer, engineer and builder to itemise the quantities of materials and labour needed to build a house or other building, using the design drawings, and to give an estimate of how much the project should cost. For further information, visit and the New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors website.



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To restore to a previous or better condition.


Residential property developer

Any person who, in trade, builds or arranges to build a household unit for the purpose of selling it. This could include large developers, or builders or individuals building homes on ‘spec’. It also includes a person who, in trade, buys a household unit from a builder or developer with the intention of selling it on. Section 364 of the Building Act 2004 provides consumer protection measures covering the sale of household units by residential property developers.


Resource consent

A consent issued by a Territorial Authority to use the land in a way that is not a permitted activity under a council or district plan. Under the Resource Management Act 1991, territorial authorities are required to prepare plans detailing how they will manage the environment in their area. Resource consent will be needed when a building project will contravene a permitted activity, for example, wishing to locate a building closer to the boundary than permitted on the District Plan.


Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA)

The Resource Management Act, often called the RMA, is the main piece of legislation that sets out how New Zealand’s environment should be managed. The Act’s purpose is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. The Act is based on the idea of the sustainable management of resources, which is mainly achieved by the requirement for territorial authorities to prepare plans to help them manage the environment in their area. It is these plans that tell people what they can or cannot do with land on which they are building. For more information about the RMA, see the website for the Ministry for the Environment. You can read the RMA at


Restricted building work

Building work that requires a building consent and relates to an element of a building that is critical to the integrity of the building and the health and safety of its occupants and includes, without limitation, work on the building envelope and the structural support of a building. Restricted building work must be carried out, or supervised by, a licensed building practitioner.


Retaining wall

A wall that is constructed to hold earth in place. It is usually used to prevent ground loss or slumping, or to support an earth embankment. It usually requires substantial footing to redistribute pressure to ground and weep holes to relieve build-up of ground water pressure. Retaining walls are generally made of concrete, steel sheet piles, or timber.



Apex or very top horizontal join of a roof.


Risk matrix

A table in the Clause E2 Compliance Document (Acceptable Solution E2/AS1) that enables the calculation of a ‘risk score’ by the allocation and summing of scores for a range of design and location factors applying to a specific building design. Once this score is known, the range of allowable claddings can then be determined.


Rough sawn

Timber commonly used for fencing of retaining walls which have been left in the condition the saw left them - not sanded or planed.




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Safety from falling

One of the objectives of the Building Code is to safeguard people from injury caused by falling. Buildings are to be constructed in a way that will reduce the likelihood of accidental fall. Clause F4 Safety from Falling is the relevant Building Code clause.



The opening aluminium surrounded pane of a window which either has hinges at the side or bottom. Sliding doors or windows are called panels.



A shaped timber mould installed at the join of walls and ceilings.



A parcel of land. In New Zealand the size, location and ownership of a section is defined by the certificate of title.


Septic tank

Tank used to dispose of sewage when structure cannot be connected to a sewerage system.


Setting out

Using pegs to show the position of a structure on a site ensuring to clear site boundaries or noted areas of concern.



Movement of a structure after construction, usually caused by timber expansion and contraction due to temperature variables.



Timber trim fixed on a wall at its base where it joins the floor.


Smoke alarm

A safety device that detects airborne smoke and issues an audible alarm, thereby alerting nearby people to the danger of fire. The Building Code clause concerning smoke alarms is F7 Warning Systems.



Pit of large stones such a scoria used to disperse surface water by gradual soakage into the soil.



The lower face or underside of a structure's roof eaves.


Solar heating

Use of the sun’s energy to heat buildings and water. Solar energy can be collected in photovoltaic cells and used to produce electricity or the energy can be used directly to heat water and homes. The Building Code clause relating to energy efficiency is Clause H1. For information about uses of solar energy for heating, visit the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) website .



Detailed written instructions containing details of work to be done and materials to be used in the construction of a building.


Specified systems

A system or feature in a building that contributes to the proper functioning of the building, for example, an automatic sprinkler system. It includes a cable car servicing a building (see full definition in section 7 of the Building Act 2004). The specified systems that must be inspected for building warrant of fitness purposes are listed in the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005.



A series of steps or stairs with or without landings giving access between two different levels. There are a number of Building Code clauses relevant to the construction and placement of stairs and stairways, including B2 Durability; C1-4 Fire Safety; D1 Access Routes; F4 Safety from Falling.


Standards New Zealand

The trading arm of the Standards Council, a Crown entity operating under the Standards Act 1988. Standards New Zealand specialises in developing and marketing national, regional and international Standards covering a wide variety of subjects and industries, including building and the environment. New Zealand Standards are commonly cited by the Ministry in its Compliance Documents. Find out more from the MBIE website. For further information visit the Standards New Zealand website



A very hard and strong alloy of iron and carbon. Steel is used mainly in the structural framework and in the roofing and flashings of buildings. Building Code clauses relevant to the use of steel include B1 Structure, B2 Durability and E2 External Moisture. The Department of Building and Housing (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has produced a Wallchart guide to reinforcing steel in New Zealand .



Vertical timber, forming part of a wall where cladding of lining will be fixed to.



A tradesperson hired to do specific work such as roofing, plumbing, wiring or painting. The subcontractor takes instructions from, is paid by, and is responsible to the main contractor.


Surface water

All naturally occurring water other than sub-surface water that results from rainfall. It is usually channelled into drain systems in urban areas to prevent damage or nuisance to neighbouring property, and flooding within housing. The Building Code clause relevant to surface water is E1 Surface Water. Swimming pool fences A fence that complies with the requirements of the Building Code for swimming pools subject to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 (section 2). 

It includes any part of a building and any gates or doors that form part of the fence. The Building Code clause relating to fencing of swimming pools is F4 Safety from Falling. You have to get building consent to put in a pool or spa pool and its fencing. The building consent authority will approve the plans and specifications at consent stage, and inspect the building work including the fence before issuing a code compliance certificate.




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A continuous waterproof membrane applied to a surface to prevent water penetration from either side.


Territorial authority (TA)

City or district council (as named in Schedule 2, Part 2 of the Local Government Act 2002) responsible for community wellbeing and development, environmental health and safety (including building control, civil defence, and environmental health matters), infrastructure (roading and transport, sewerage, water/storm water), recreation and culture, and resource management including land use planning and development control. To find a local council see the Council finder on the Local Government NZ website



The wood of trees cut and prepared for use as building material.


Timber treatment

The treatment of timber to give protection from decay. The Building Code clause relevant to the durability of timber used in a building is B2 Durability. For more information about timber treatment requirements see Selecting and using timber. See also CCA (copper chrome arsenate) and LOSP (light organic solvent preservatives).



A plumbing fixture for the disposal of human waste usually connected to running water and a drainage system. The Building Code clause relevant to the location and number of toilets required is G1 Personal Hygiene. The Building Code clause relating to ventilation around toilets is G4 Ventilation. See also an article on the number of doors needed between toilets and other rooms. Tolerance schedule A schedule issued showing the tolerable allowances in building practises such as GIB finish, concrete / plaster cracking etc.


Top Plate

The highest horizontal piece of timber framing forming a wall or opening.



A skilled manual worker who has typically been formally trained through an apprenticeship programme, for example a carpenter, plumber, roofer, painter or plasterer.


Trap, P

A toilet pan or fixture in which the outlet discharges horizontally (out through the wall of the structure).


Trap, S

A toilet pan or fixture in which the outlet discharges vertically downward (out through the floor of the structure).




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Where two roof surfaces meet internally. The opposite of a hip.



A change to the approved plans and specifications for a building project, occurring during construction. A variation requires an amendment to the building consent and needs to be formally advised and justified to the building consent authority, and then checked, approved and recorded by the building consent authority.



The process of supplying or removing air by natural or mechanical means to or from any space. The objective of ensuring good ventilation in buildings is to safeguard people from illness or loss of amenity due to lack of fresh air. The Building Code clauses relevant to ventilation include G4 Ventilation, C Fire safety and G13 Foul water (ventilation as part of a plumbing system). Under the Building Act 2004, all buildings other than single residential buildings will require a compliance schedule and annual building warrant of fitness if they contain mechanical ventilation or air-conditioning systems.


Verification Method

A prescriptive design solution comprising a calculation or test procedure, which provides an approved way of complying with the Building Code. Verification Methods (along with Acceptable Solutions) are contained in the Ministry's Compliance Documents, and often quote other documents such as New Zealand Standards. Designers are not obliged to use the Verification Methods, and may put forward their own alternative solution proposal.



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Walls (height)

A panel or partition used to divide or enclose an area or to support another structure panel or partition. Building Code clause D1 Access Routes has height restrictions for egress areas that may impact on wall heights. Other height restrictions may apply for specifically designed walls and for walls that are subject to a non-specific design. See for example the requirements relating to height in New Zealand Standard 3604



A promise, either written or implied, that the materials and workmanship of a building are without defect or will meet a specified level of performance over a specified period of time. The Building Act 2004 (sections 397–399) provides that building work on household units is automatically covered by warranties as to the manner in which the work is undertaken and the suitability of materials used. The warranties apply whether written into the contract or not.



The process of rendering a building element or building totally resistant to the ingress of any moisture. The Building Code clause relating to protecting buildings from external moisture is E2 External Moisture.



The resistance of a building to the weather. Weathertightness is not necessarily waterproofing (see above). A building is weathertight when water is prevented from entering and accumulating behind the cladding in amounts that can cause undue dampness or damage to the building elements, i.e. moisture may occasionally enter a weathertight building but is able to harmlessly escape or evaporate. The Building Code clause relating to protecting buildings from moisture is E2 External Moisture. Failure to design and build effectively for weathertightness has resulted in ‘leaky buildings’ causing rot. For more information, see the Weathertightness section of the MBIE website (which includes information about Weathertight Services).


Weathertight Homes Resolution Service

A service established through the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2006 to help owners of buildings who have suffered damage to their properties due to water ingress. The Service provides free assessments to determine the extent of the water damage and to provide mediation or adjudication services to help resolve the issues. Learn more about the service at the MBIE website.


Wall bracing element

A section of wall which performs a bracing function.



Small holes installed in masonry and other external cladding which allows drainage from the cavity.



A framework, usually of wood, metal or hard plastic, that contains a glass windowpane and is built into a wall or roof to admit light or air. Building Code clauses referring to windows include C Fire safety, E2 External Moisture, E3 Internal Moisture (relating to condensation), F4 Safety from Falling, G4 Ventilation and G7 Natural Light.