Access Requirements for Building Alterations


This is specifically aimed at those building Owners who may be considering undertaking any works to their communal residential, communal non-residential, commercial or industrial buildings, including (but not limited to) any earthquake strengthening.

A great deal of hard work is being undertaken by building Owners, Engineers, and Council to review and establish if some buildings within Grey District may be earthquake-prone, and consequently, whether to either demolish or strengthen them.

In considering these options, one particular issue building Owners and Council need to consider is if, as a result of undertaking any building works (e.g. earthquake strengthening), they may be required to install an accessible lift (one that is appropriate for use by persons with disabilities).

Where alterations to an existing building are proposed, Section 112 of the Building Act 2004 needs to be considered, which includes complying, as nearly as is reasonably practicable, with the provisions in the NZ Building Code (NZBC) that relate to means of escape from fire, and access and facilities for persons with disabilities.

Access routes shall include stairs to allow access to the upper floors of buildings irrespective of whether a lift or escalator is provided.

However, an accessible route (e.g. to upper floors of buildings) shall include a lift complying with NZBC Clause D2. Any such requirement is determined using the performance standard NZBC Clause D1.3.4 (c).

In simple terms, whether a lift to upper floors is required or not, is based on the number of storeys (floors) AND the total design occupancy (i.e. number of persons who could occupy the space). A lift shall be provided where any of the following criteria is met:

  1. Buildings are four or more storeys high;
  2. Buildings are three storeys high and have a total design occupancy of 50 or more persons on the two upper floors;
  3. Building are two storeys high and have a total design occupancy of 40 or more persons on the upper floor; or
  4. An upper floor, irrespective of the design occupancy, which is to be used for the purposes of a public reception area for banks, central, regional and local government offices and facilities, hospitals, medical and dental surgeries, and medical, paramedical and other primary health care centres.

The design occupancy is calculated based on floor area (m²) multiplied by a factor given for specific activities (this is derived from figures taken from NZBC Clause C, Table 2.2).

Example only:

  • A first floor office has an area of 50m².
  • The occupant density is 0.1 users/m²; this equates to a design occupancy of 50 x 0.1 = 5 persons.
  • The same building also contains a storage room of 100m² at first floor level; the occupant density is 0.02 users/m²; this equates to a design occupancy of 100 x 0.02 = 2 persons.
  • The total design occupancy is 5 + 2 = 7 persons.
  • Overall this means an accessible lift is NOT required.
  • Note: When calculating the design occupancy you do NOT include exitways, enclosed corridors, lifts, and toilet facilities.

It's the building Owner/s responsibility to determine if a lift is required, and we would strongly recommend they seek the advice of a suitably qualified person to assist them with this. Once finalised, this information may be passed to Council for review.

Note: If at any time in the future the building Owner or occupier alters the internal arrangements (e.g. changes a storage room at first floor level into an office), then the design occupancy will need to be re-calculated, and if Section 112 of the Building Act applies, then a lift may be required.

If clarification is required on any of the points raised above, please don't hesitate to contact the Building Control section of Council and every effort will be made to assist and clarify the situation.​


Building Department
Phone 03 769 8607

Page reviewed: 25 Jun 2014 4:28pm